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Pace punch for West Indies

Pace punch for West Indies

Shannon Gabriel (4/62) struck early in the morning and captain Jason Holder (6/42) then followed it up with an excellent spell of accurate bowling as the West Indies restricted England to a modest 204 on Day II of the first Test at the Ageas Bowl.

In reply, the Windies were placed at 57/1 with bad light once again forcing an early end to the day’s play.

James Anderson finally had the DRS verdict in his favour when he trapped John Campbell lbw. But that happened only after the left-handed opener twice made the right call to review, which helped overturn two lbw decisions. At stumps, the other opener, Kraigg Brathwaite was batting on 20 with Shai Hope on three.

West Indies have the upper hand and the onus now is on their batsmen to put the game beyond England’s reach. The stars of the day were certainly Gabriel and captain Holder, who registered his best bowling figures in Test cricket.

While Gabriel focused more on targeting the stumps, Holder brought the ball into the batsmen as well as moving it away, making full use of the conditions.

Besides his bowling, Holder was spot-on in terms of taking reviews, with the Windies benefiting from almost each of them so far.

England’s first-innings total could have been even lower had it not been for the 30-run stand between the last pair of Dom Bess and James Anderson.

Interim captain Ben Stokes (43) was England’s top scorer, followed by Jos Buttler (35).

But Stokes too would have departed early had he not been dropped twice.

England began the day on 35 for one after only 17.4 overs were bowled on Day I, but their top order crumbled.

Gabriel had bowled Dom Sibley on Wednesday and produced a similar 90mph delivery that nipped back in to splatter Joe Denly’s off stump in the sixth over of the day.

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CAG requests role recast in BCCI

CAG requests role recast in BCCI

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has urged the Supreme Court to divest it of the “auditing” and “oversight” role in BCCI and IPL panels, as its induction into the world’s richest cricketing body has not served the stated objective.

Far from meeting the objective, the CAG has expressed concern that its supervisory role would come into question as its present nominees on the board are party to the majority decisions with which it may or may not agree.

Further, it has pleaded that there may arise peculiar situations when decisions of the BCCI to which the present CAG nominee is a party, may be subject to financial audit by private auditors/chartered accountants who, otherwise, are under the supervisory jurisdiction of the CAG.

“At present BCCI is audited by chartered accountants/private auditors chosen by it and in case there is a dispute as regards the quality or other aspects of the audit, the CAG as the auditor of the last resort may be called upon to undertake a special audit of BCCI or review the audit conducted by the chartered accountants/private auditors.

“However, being a party to decisions taken by Apex council of BCCI/IPL governing council…would effectively preclude the CAG from undertaking any subsequent audit, or discharge any supervisory role over the quality of audit done by the CAs/private auditors.

“In fact, ironically the CAs/private auditors would sit in judgment over the managerial decisions to which the CAG nominee is a party,” the application filed through advocate Gaurav Sharma stated.

The issue is likely to come up for hearing next week.

The Justice R.M. Lodha committee had earlier recommended that out of the nine members in the apex council of the BCCI, five shall be elected office-bearers, and one of the remaining four shall be a nominee of the CAG in order to bring “transparency and financial oversight” into the affairs of the various state cricket associations and BCCI.

The recommendations were converted into an order by the apex court by its order date July 18, 2016.

Referring to the July 18 order, the CAG has stated that out of the 35 state cricket associations, till date only 18 have requested nomination of auditors from the CAG’s office and these 18 nominations have been made by the CAG. The remaining 17 state cricket associations are yet to approach the CAG for nominating auditors to their respective councils.

The CAG filed its petition on July 3, a day before Alka Rehani Bharadwaj, its representative on the apex council, in an email asked Board president Sourav Ganguly to ensure that only “eligible” office-bearers would attend its meeting on July 17.

The BCCI’s application for extension of the terms of its office-bearers who have to go into compulsory cooling off following the end of their tenure is pending before the Supreme Court.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah’s term expired last month while Sourav’s will end on July 27.

According to the CAG, from December 4, 2019, till date it has attended two apex council meetings and three IPL governing council meetings and was party to decisions with which it may or may not agree, but being in minority, its views had no real relevance.

“It is relevant to note that the CAG’s nominee in the apex council is just one of the members and one of the seven members in the IPL governing council and is therefore party to decision whether or not she/he is in agreement with those decisions,” the application said.

According to the CAG, the majority strength in the various councils of the BCCI is that of their elected representatives, as such the inclusion of a member of the CAG in the apex council or IPL governing council is not serving the objectives of the Justice Lodha committee as well as the Supreme Court.

Further, it said, “…the volume of additional work generated is huge and so far in CAG’s office, we have received over 120 complaints of various alleged violations by BCCI and state cricket associations. These complaints frequently contain within them several individual complaints and often run into dozens of pages. These are generally in the nature of conflicts of opinion and may or may not flag specific issues of commission and omissions.

“Thus it is not possible for a officer who is the CAG’s nominee, to fully do justice either to his original work emanating from her/his substantive posting or to the mountain of complaints or even to meaningful participation in the meetings of the BCCI’s apex council or IPL governing council,” the CAG said.

Hence, it sought a modification of the July 18, 2016, order to the extent that the CAG if required is allowed to carry out only annual or biennial audit of the BCCI instead of being part of its every day decision making process.

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Cricket back, in fits & starts

Cricket back, in fits & starts

Cricket resumed after a 117-day absence despite the pandemic threat still on. But Day I of the England-West Indies Test at the Ageas Bowl turned out to be a stop-and-start affair.

The toss, won by England who opted to bat first, too got delayed with the game beginning not before 2pm local time, in a bio-secure environment.

Only 17.4 overs could be bowled with England cautiously placed at 35 for the loss of one wicket under overcast conditions. Tea was taken at that point as players had to leave the field due to insufficient light. The light remained murkier as stumps were called for the day.

Dom Sibley was the only man dismissed, offering no shot to a Shannon Gabriel delivery that held its line and hit the top of off stump. England were yet to get off the mark then.

The other opener, Rory Burns, and Joe Denly, though, looked steady since then.

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Series could show the way: Sourav

Series could show the way: Sourav

Sourav Ganguly had a busy schedule on his birthday but did make some time to speak to The dstv Darjjling on Wednesday evening.

Excerpts:

The Telegraph: You turned 48 on Wednesday. Any birthday wish?

Sourav Ganguly: Nothing special. Actually I am too old for wishes… And this is also not the time for such things. We need things to return to normality.

How did you celebrate?

It was obviously a lot different. Not much to celebrate too.

You faced a lot of challenges during your playing days. As BCCI president too things haven’t been smooth. The lockdown, the Supreme Court impasse on the cooling off period…

This is not in my control. The rule applies to everyone. You can’t do anything about it. No point worrying when things are not in your hand.

You took charge as BCCI president in October. Do you think you have been able to fulfil promises?

It’s hard to say. How can you judge when four months have been lost due to lockdown? Everything is closed since end of March. We’ve been left with no work and there’s been no progress.

Will the BCCI move the Supreme Court with an urgent application?

No. We’ve already submitted an application and it’s up to the apex court to now consider the case.

There’s already talk about BCCI recommending your name for the ICC chairman’s post. Your views…

We’ve not decided anything. It’s too early to say. We will think about it when the time comes.

Would you consider Colin Graves as the favourite?

No idea… The ICC election is an entirely different thing. You can’t say someone is the favourite in advance. It all depends on what the board members decide on the given day. Let the ICC first come out with the election procedure.

Shashank Manohar has resigned as ICC chairman. Several BCCI members have been vocal in his criticism. Your thoughts?

No comments. No controversies please.

When is the IPL likely to take place?

We obviously want to have it. We want it to happen because life needs to be back to normal but we have to wait for a decision from the ICC regarding the T20 World Cup.

You have been part of ICC meetings. Isn’t the postponement of the T20 World Cup a formality?

It’s the ICC’s call. They still want to host it and a lot of talk is still on. There’s a lot at stake. Unless the ICC announces postponement, it will be difficult to find a slot.

What about the Asia Cup?

That is not happening this year. It will be held in 2021.

The England-West Indies Test series is finally on…

Good to see some live action. Everyone is eagerly awaiting its success because that could turn out to be the yardstick for all.

Test cricket is happening in a bio-secure environment in England with teams kept in a hotel adjacent to the stadium. Can we have such facilities in India?

A home series is quite sometime away. Yes, we don’t have such arrangements in India but alternatives can always be worked upon.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni not just a lethal finisher

Mahendra Singh Dhoni not just a lethal finisher

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has reiterated that he felt Mahendra Singh Dhoni, while a lethal finisher, ought to have batted higher up the order given his ability to demolish bowling attacks.

Ganguly, now president of the BCCI, led a plethora of wishes on Captain Cool’s 39th birthday on Tuesday.

“He’s one of the great players of world cricket, not just a finisher. Everyone talks about the way he finishes lower down the order. I always believed that he should bat up the order because he was so destructive,” Ganguly said during a chat show hosted by India opener Mayank Agarwal.

Ganguly, who was the captain when Dhoni made his international debut against Bangladesh on December 23, 2004, recalled how he rose to fame with his 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam, batting at No.3.

“It was fantastic. If you look over a period of time in the history of one-day cricket, the best players can find the fence under pressure consistently. MS Dhoni was one of them and that’s why he was special,” said Ganguly.

Asked whether it was him who picked Dhoni in the team, Ganguly said: “Yeah that’s true, but that’s my job isn’t it? That’s every captain’s job to pick the best and make the best team possible.

“You go by your instincts, you go by the faith in that player that he’ll deliver for you. And, you know, I’m happy that Indian cricket got a Mahendra Singh Dhoni, because he’s unbelievable.”

Dhoni was last seen in action about a year ago in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.

Team India captain Virat Kohli, who shares a special bonding with Dhoni, said: “He just enjoys every minute of being on field and our understanding has been brilliant over the years… He is always going to be my captain in my head,” Virat said in a video posted by the ICC.

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Test of cricket’s new grammar as England host West Indies

Test of cricket’s new grammar as England host West Indies

Cricket will not just be a battle between the bat and the ball when action resumes on Wednesday, it will be a fight to thwart the pandemic bouncers on a newly laid pitch of drastic rules and regulations.

So when England take on the West Indies in the first of three Tests, at the Ageas Bowl, the world will watch not just the swings and drives, the spotlight will also firmly be on the changes in playing conditions formulated by the ICC to ensure safety of players and officials.

The most important of all is the bio-secure environment that has been created to facilitate the resumption of the game. The matches will be held behind closed doors; both players and officials will live at on-site hotels at the venues.

The grounds have been divided into designated zones to separate the two teams, match officials, ground staff and the media.

To make up for the absence of fans and the buzz that they add to the environment of a cricket match, broadcasters will play the hum of the Lord’s crowd during play for the television audience. There will also be an on-ground announcer, as is the usual practice.

Players and officials are being screened daily for symptoms and will regularly be tested for Covid-19 even during the match.

If any player shows signs of Covid-19 during a Test match, the team concerned will be able to substitute that player. It will of course have to be a like-for-like swap, like it is for concussion replacements.

Players are no longer allowed to apply saliva on the ball to shine it. While there will be some leniency to it initially to allow the players to adjust, umpires will be giving official warnings to the teams if they fail to adhere to the new regulation.

Each team can receive two warnings per innings before incurring a five-run penalty to the batting side.

With both England and the West Indies being pace-heavy sides, it will be interesting to see how the James Andersons and Shannon Gabriels put a leash on their habit of years and shun the saliva.

Each team will also have an extra DRS review per innings, meaning a total of three unsuccessful DRS reviews per Test innings now.

There will be no “neutral” umpires owing to “logistical challenges with international travel”. So Englishmen Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough will be the on-field umpires for the first Test.

Former England opener Chris Broad will be the Match Referee for the series. With Stuart Broad being there in the England squad, imagine father Chris having to take action against his own son should there be any such incident! The new normal, they say.

As far as the game proper is concerned, England start as outright favourites with many experts questioning if the West Indies can last the five-day duration of the Test.

Stand-in England captain Ben Stokes says regular skipper Joe Root has given him a simple piece of advice ahead of Wednesday’s first Test — do it your way. With Root opting out because of the birth of his second child, Stokes will get to pit himself against West Indies counterpart Jason Holder.

“The best message I’ve received was when I got my photos done yesterday, with the blazer. Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said, ‘Do it your way’,” said Stokes.

But the all-rounder says he knows that he will be able to turn to Root for advice at any stage during the match.

“Because of Joe’s personal situation, we’ve been letting him deal with that and I haven’t been on him too much. But I know he’ll be at home watching and his phone will always be available if I need him,” he added.

Simmons’ stand

West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes the opening Test will be a battle between two all-rounder captains. “Hopefully Jason can do what’s necessary to get on top of Ben in this first Test,” Simmons said.

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Posers on Ranji Trophy format

Posers on Ranji Trophy format

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), while still being busy scratching its head to somehow accommodate the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year, may also have to think about revamping the Ranji Trophy for the 2020-21 season.

The prevailing situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the reasons why the Board may actually agree to alter the structure and format of the country’s premier domestic tournament.

Some state associations, including reigning champions Saurashtra, have suggested that the BCCI should go back to the zonal system for the league phase of the Ranji Trophy, as that would mean lesser travel for the teams.

“The Saurashtra Cricket Association and a few others have suggested that the zonal system be brought back for the league phase as then the teams will have to travel less. Excess travel could be risky under the circumstances. Besides, if matches are held within specific zones, even bus journeys would be possible.

“Apart from the travel issues, teams would be better aware of the places they would be playing in if it is within their zone and will thus know how to deal with the challenges during this pandemic times,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.

Last season, the teams were divided into four groups. The top five teams from Group A and B combined, top two from Group C and one from the Plate group progressed to the quarter finals last season.

There is another proposal regarding the format. “There could also be a format having five (elite) groups with six teams in each of them. The top teams of each of these five groups get direct entry into the quarter finals. The second-placed sides of the groups and three from the Plate group would then play among themselves for the reaming quarter final places,” the source added.

Some state associations also contemplate raising the point of having the semi-finals and the final staged in neutral venues so as to ensure that the home team gets no extra advantage.

During the final last season, Bengal had serious objections about the nature of the pitch in Rajkot that suited home team Saurashtra to a large extent. Jaydev Unadkat and his teammates utilised the conditions to a nicety and won the final by virtue of a first-innings lead.

“It’s important to raise this point so that the team that hosts a semi-final or a final gets no extra privilege,” said a senior office-bearer of a state association.

The domestic season in India generally starts latest by October. But owing to the current situation, and of course the BCCI’s desperation to stage the IPL despite all odds, it won’t be too surprising if the domestic tournaments get truncated or one of them even scrapped this season.

 

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Bid to widen ambit of ICC boss poll

Bid to widen ambit of ICC boss poll

A concerted effort is on within the International Cricket Council (ICC) to include all 104 member-nations to elect its “independent” chairman. The governing body’s all-powerful board is considering the issue but whether it will come into effect while naming Shashank Manohar’s successor is still unclear.

According to ICC’s memorandum and articles of association, “the board of directors shall elect the chairperson in accordance with a process that is agreed by the board of directors and a secret ballot overseen and adjudicated by an appropriate independent third party duly appointed by the board of directors.”

The board of directors comprises the chairman (Manohar), the chief executive (Manu Sawhney), 12 Test playing full members, three associate members (Malaysia, Scotland and Singapore) and the independent director (Indra Nooyi).

The chief executive is an ex-officio member and does not have voting rights.

According to the proposal mooted by several associate members, the candidates for the chairman’s post can be from within the board of directors but his selection should involve all 104 member-countries.

“This proposal was discussed during the 2019 annual conference. If implemented, it will mean more power and voting rights to all member-nations,” a source told The Telegraph.

The ICC is yet to come out with the nomination and electoral process for its next chairman. Manohar, despite being eligible for another two years, has decided against seeking a third term. An announcement is expected shortly.

That hasn’t stopped behind-the-scenes activities and hectic lobbying in certain quarters. While England and Wales Cricket Board’s outgoing chairman Colin Graves, who enjoys the backing of both the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia, is being considered as the favourite, not all among the nine remaining countries favour his candidature.

“If BCCI president Sourav Ganguly offers himself as a candidate, he could be an unanimous choice but Graves won’t be accepted that way. A lot depends on what Manohar does,” the source said.

Interestingly, former president of the Singapore Cricket Association Imran Khawaja’s name has been doing the rounds. Khawaja is considered to be close to Manohar and, if elected, will be the first to come from an associate nation.

Till not long ago, Pakistan Cricket Board’s chairman Ehs an Mani’s name had been discussed but he has withdrawn himself from the race.

Khawaja, the ICC’s deputy chairman, is also the chairman of the ICC’s associate member committee and is believed to have persuaded Manohar to complete his second term in office.

“There is a growing fear among the associate members that the Big Three model by virtue of which India, England and Australia share bulk of the revenue will be back in place after Manohar’s tenure. The outgoing chairman ensured that all members got an even distribution of revenue.

“Most cricket associations are in dire straits following the pandemic. We want to be financially secure even after Manohar’s exit. There should also be some continuity ,” the source said.

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ICC still mum on World T20

ICC still mum on World T20

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to come out with the nomination process for its next chairman within a week.

The world body’s all-powerful board met via videoconference on Thursday for more than an hour and hammered out details of the election process. However, there was no announcement since they are awaiting clarification on a few points from the members.

“The date and timeline for the election has almost been decided after an amicable discussion today. An announcement is expected next week,” a source told The Telegraph.

Current chairman Shashank Manohar, despite being eligible for another two years, has announced that he will not seek a third term. England and Wales Cricket Board outgoing chairman Colin Graves is the favourite to take charge.

Manohar’s successor was supposed to be elected ahead of the proposed July 24-27 ICC annual conference in Cape Town. However, in the post-pandemic situation, the process will have to be completed online.

Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly’s name has been doing the rounds but it is unlikely that he will throw his hat in the ring.

The ICC board comprises its chairman, representatives of 12 Test playing nations, three associate members (Malaysia, Scotland and Singapore), independent female director Indra Nooyi and chief executive Manu Sawhney. The chief executive doesn’t have a vote.

There was, however, no discussion on the T20 World Cup apart from the board taking stock of the situation in Australia and other participating countries.

“It was decided at the last meeting on June 10 that the fate of the tournament would be decided next month,” the source said.

The delay on taking a decision on the T20 World Cup wouldn’t please the BCCI as they are waiting to plan their course of action for the IPL.

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IPL angst over sponsor relook

IPL angst over sponsor relook

Three days after announcing via a tweet that it “has convened a meeting” to review its various sponsorship deals, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is yet to come out with a date for the teleconference among its governing council members.

The tweet late on Friday evening had in fact left many of the members bewildered since they had no clue as to who decided on reviewing the deals involving various Chinese companies following “border skirmish that resulted in the martyrdom of our brave jawans”.

The governing council members The Telegraph spoke to said they weren’t taken into confidence. Even IPL chairman Brijesh Patel was learnt to have been kept in the dark. There’s widespread speculation that the Sourav Ganguly-headed BCCI may have acted under pressure from “above”.

“I don’t know if the BCCI top brass decided on such a move. Most of the members learnt about it the next day.

“Are we going by common public sentiment or has there been any government/political pressure to do away with Chinese brands? When the government itself is not imposing any ban on Chinese products why is the BCCI suddenly jumping the gun,” asked a source.

India Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara at nets at his academy on the outskirts of Rajkot on Monday. “Back at it...felt like a long time away but just as i took the stance felt as if it was yesterday,” he wrote on Instagram. Instrumental in Saurashtra’s maiden Ranji triumph earlier in the year, Pujara trained alongside the team’s skipper Jaydev Unadkat as well as other players. Pujara’s next international stint would most likely be the Australia tour in December.
India Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara at nets at his academy on the outskirts of Rajkot on Monday. “Back at it…felt like a long time away but just as i took the stance felt as if it was yesterday,” he wrote on Instagram. Instrumental in Saurashtra’s maiden Ranji triumph earlier in the year, Pujara trained alongside the team’s skipper Jaydev Unadkat as well as other players. Pujara’s next international stint would most likely be the Australia tour in December.(Instagram/ @cheteshwar_pujara)

IPL’s title sponsors Vivo, a Chinese cell phone company, has a five-year deal for Rs 2,199 crore, almost Rs 440 crore a year, from 2018. Similarly, Paytm and online fantasy game Dream11 also have Chinese investments.

The source said BCCI would have to shell out a substantial amount of money if it is to terminate its contract with title sponsors Vivo.

“BCCI will enforce the force majeure clause if it is to discontinue its contract with the title sponsors citing unexpected circumstances. The point is the amount of money the body will have to shell out,” the source said. “The damages Vivo can claim could go up to Rs 900 crore.”

But whether the title sponsors would be willing to go into litigation remains the big question. “Both parties may settle for an exit through negotiations. Any sponsor knows well that once it gets into litigation, it might be tough for them to bag another contract in future,” said the source.

A former BCCI official who has been party to various such deals said this was not the right time to bring about a change in sponsorship. “The economy is headed for a recession following the pandemic. If any of the sponsors is dumped, it will have a negative effect.

“IPL’s brand value will be severely dented. We will struggle to rope in similar sponsorship money at this moment,” feared the former official.

Under the circumstances, it is widely believed that for now the BCCI would maintain status quo. Well-versed with the ground reality, BCCI is unlikely to go for a change in sponsors unless forced to.

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