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MARCH 2017
THE MONTH’S HEADLINES
TOTAL OF 30 EDITIONS PUBLISHED
(Story numbers 10442-10592)


Click below to access each individual edition listed below
 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,062

 Wednesday, 1 March 2017

 

• Pune Test pitch officially rated as ‘poor' [2062-10442].

• Broadcaster withdraws from Lahore PSL final [2062-10443].

• Will Australian cricketers risk their lives for $A65,000 in Pakistan? [2062-10444].

• Pay fight could mean series-by-series contracts for Aussie players [2062-10445].

Pune Test pitch officially rated as ‘poor'.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

PTG 2062-10442.

The pitch provided at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune for the first Test between India and Australia, has been officially rated as “poor” by match referee Chris Broad.  He expressed concern over the quality of the pitch in the report he is required to submit to the International Cricket Council (ICC) as part of its 'Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process’.  

The Test, which was the first ever to be played at the ground, lasted just nine sessions.  The pitch was criticised by many knowledgable observers before play began on day one.  It was very dry and spinners took 31 of the 40 wickets that fell in the game.  Under the ICC's pitch and outfield monitoring process, a pitch can be assessed as poor if it "offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match".

That report has been forwarded to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which now has 14 days to provide its response.  The BCCI’s response will be reviewed by Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s General Manager Cricket, and Ranjan Madugalle its senior match referee.  Panel of ICC Match Referees who will make a judgement on the matter.  Last year, Queens Park in Port of Spain and Durban’s Kingsmead grounds were both handed official warnings by the ICC over the state of their outfields (PTG 1920-9644, 9 September 2016). 

 

Under the regulations, pitches and outfields rated as “poor” will attract in the first instance, “a warning and/or a fine not exceeding $US15,000 ($A19,545, £UK12,060) given together with a directive for appropriate corrective action”.  A second and further instance within a period of five years of the previous finding attracts a fine "not exceeding $US30,000 ($A39,100, £UK24,120) given together with a directive for appropriate corrective action".

Broadcaster withdraws from Lahore PSL final.

Umar Farooq.

Cricinfo.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

PTG 2062-10443.

Sunset and Vine, the UK-based production house that handles the broadcast of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), has withdrawn its services for the league's final which is scheduled to be played in Lahore on Sunday.  The decision to go ahead with the final in Pakistan was made on Monday despite a number of serious terrorist attacks, one which saw 13 people killed, in Lahore over the last few weeks (PTG 2061-10437, 28 February 2017).

It is understood  Dubai-based company, Innovative Production Group (IPG), will now handle production of the Lahore match. The PSL is also seeking to replace its overseas commentators: Danny Morrison, Alan Wilkins, Mel Jones are reluctant to travel to Lahore, while Ian Bishop, whose contract was until the play-offs, will leave to cover West Indies' home One Day InternationaIs against England. 

Companies that handle the ‘HawkEye' technology and 'Spider-cam' have also pulled out from the final, which will be televised without the supporting components, although a drone camera is likely to replace the spider-cam.

Sunset and Vine, which had also handled the broadvast for the PSL in its inaugural edition last year, informed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) via email last week about its reluctance to travel to Lahore. IPG was part of the PCB's contingency plan. 

To ensure the final features foreign players, the PSL management has asked the four franchises who have made it to the play-offs to work on a contingency plan. The franchises have been asked to nominate a pool of foreign players from a list of over 60 said to be willing to travel to Pakistan, in the event - as seems likely - some of their own foreign players don't go. 

Will Australian cricketers risk their lives for $A65,000 in Pakistan?

Jon Pierik.

Fairfax Media.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

PTG 2062-10444.

Australian cricketers and support staff in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will have to make a call within days as to whether they are prepared to risk their safety and play in the competition’s final in Lahore on Sunday.  Dean Jones, the coach of Islamabad United, and players Shane Watson and Brad Haddin are among those who could make the trip from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates - where the PSL has been staged - to the trouble spot that is Pakistan, where terrorist attacks have claimed more than 100 lives in recent weeks. 

It's understood the Islamabad players and staff have yet to discuss the possible trip with security experts, and won't do so until after Wednesday's semi-final against the Karachi Kings. However, it's understood Haddin and Watson are unlikely to participate in the final should United make it.  Officials are tempting foreign players with special one-off payments of up to $A65,000  (£UK40,130) to participate in the final.

Pakistan Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has reportedly said "fool-proof" security would be provided in Lahore.  Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who heads the main opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, told local media it was "madness" to stage the final in Lahore.  He took to Twitter on Tuesday and added: "No one wants int[ernational] cricket to return to Pak more than me. But staging the PSL final in Lahore carries huge risks with no benefit at all.  And God forbid if any mishap happens we can say goodbye to int cricket in Pak for the next decade.  A match played under a tight security ring around the stadium will exaggerate Pak's security issue”.

Travel advice from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australian nationals "to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan due to the unpredictable security situation, including the high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping and sectarian violence".

Pay fight could mean series-by-series contracts for Aussie players.

Jon Pierik .

Fairfax Media.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

PTG 2062-10445.

Australia's top cricketers may have to contemplate signing temporary series-by-series contracts should they decide to spurn a new revenue model Cricket Australia (CA) remains determined to introduce. CA and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) remain at loggerheads during discussions over an updated Memorandum of Understanding, with the players still frustrated by CA's refusal to hand over figures detailing the sport's revenue platforms.

It's understood CA is set to officially table their MoU offer within weeks, meaning the elite players will need to take a firm stand on whether they really do oppose their Sheffield Shield brethren being locked out of a proposed new revenue sharing model.

As it stands, the international players remain opposed to CA's plan to have only CA-contracted players share in the percentage revenue model used since 1998. But what is dangling before them is the lucrative opportunity, according to CA's initial submission, to "earn a higher share of financial returns instead of a lower share of revenue, as they earn in the current MoU".

The average international retainer during the current austral summer was $A703,000 (£UK434,020), but skipper Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc pocket more than $A2 million (£UK1.23 m) when their heightened retainers, tour and match fees and prizemoney are included.

The current MoU expires on 30 June, just weeks after the revamped Champions Trophy is held in England.  Australia's next series after that is the yet-to-be confirmed tour of Bangladesh from early August, where two Tests and three One Day Internationals have been slated, pending safety and security clearance.

Should that tour be given the go ahead, one player source raised the question whether players would be prepared to boycott the trip should a pay offer be unacceptable. Such a move would hurt CA in terms of broadcast rights.

Another option would be for CA and the ACA to at least have an in-principle agreement on the fundamental planks of the new MOU, although this time the core plank – the set percentage model for players of all levels – is what is at stake.   In an opinion piece published on Monday, ACA president Greg Dyer wrote that all players were unified in ensuring domestic male players be included in the revenue-sharing model (PTG 2060-10431, 27 February 2017).    .

CA did not wish to respond publicly to Dyer's comments. In its initial submission, CA said state men's retainers have grown by more than 50 per cent in the past four years, averaging $A234,000 (£UK144,470) this season.  "Maintaining a revenue share model that provides additional income beyond domestic men's payments would compromise resource allocation to other areas of Australian cricket”, said CA.

Under CA's plan, state-based players would be paid from a lump sum, with any major increase to be "driven" by Big Bash League payments.  CA will also need to deliver a satisfactory deal for women, with Dyer adamant they be included in a revenue-sharing model. CA says the pay and benefits for the Southern Stars players would "significantly increase" under its plan but has so far excluded them from sharing in a percentage model.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,063

 Thursday, 2 March 2017

 

• Former England international umpire dies [2063-10446].

• ODI debut for Windies umpire [2063-10447].

• 'Poor' pitch for the first Test against India? Depends how you spin it [2063-10448].

• County split deepens over new ECB T20 tournament [2063-10449].

• Queensland competition lacks an even playing field, claim some [2063-10450].

• MCC refusing to stump up for tea? It’s just not cricket [2063-10451].

Former England international umpire dies.

PTG Editor

Media reports.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017.

PTG 2063-10446.

John Hampshire, who was on-field in 926 first class matches over the 44 years from 1961-2005, 349 as an umpire, died on Wednesday after a long illness aged 76. Hampshire played 8 Tests for England and, in the period from 1989-2002, stood in another 21 in Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, 12 of them as a neutral. 

After retiring as a player at the end of the 1984 season following a first class career with England, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Tasmania, Hampshire was back on field to start his first class umpiring career just eight months later.  By July 1989 he had been selected to stand in his first Test, an Ashes fixture, and continued at that level until January 2002.  His record also includes 20 One Day Internationals, plus other 345 List A fixtures.  

After standing in his first Test in 1989, he and John Holder were invited by Pakistan's captain, Imran Khan, to stand as neutral umpires during Pakistan's home series against India, a move that helped pave the way for that to become the standard across all international matches.

Hampshire also served as a member of the MCC’s Cricket Committee and its Laws, Spirit and Ethos sub-committee.  He was president of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) when he died, having taken over from ‘Dickie’ Bird another English international umpire in March last year.  YCCC chairman Steve Denison said in a statement: “Brave, talented and with a heart of gold he captained Yorkshire, scored a century at Lord’s on his Test debut and became a highly respected umpire after hanging up his playing whites".

ODI debut for Windies umpire.

PTG Editor.

WICB appointments.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017.

PTG 2063-10447.

Nigel Duguid of Guyana is to make his One Day International (ODI) debut in the second match of the West Indies-England ODI series in Antigua on Sunday.  Duguid, 47, and fellow West Indian Gregory Braithwaite, are to work with neutral officials Jeff Crowe, Chris Gaffney and Ruchira Palliyaguruge (PTG 2058-10421, 24 February 2017), the newcomer standing with Gaffaney in match two, and Braithwaite with Palliyaguruge in games one and three.   

Duguid, who made his senior international debut in a Twenty20 International in 2014 (PTG 1300-6272, 27 February 2014), made his first class debut in November 2010 and has to date stood in 44 such matches, three of them whilst on exchange in Bangladesh in late 2012.  The Guyanan stood in this year’s Caribbean ‘domestic’ first class final, as well as those of 2012 and 2014.   His other overseas exchange visit was to England in May 2012 but none of the games he stood in in that period were at first class level. 

'Poor' pitch for the first Test against India? Depends how you spin it.

Greg Baum.

Fairfax Media.

Thursday, 2 March 2017.

PTG 2063-10448.

Mumble it after me: it was a crap pitch. Louder? OK, IT WAS A CRAP PITCH. Australia went one-nil up with a huge win on a crap pitch.  Happy?  Match referee Chris Broad judged it as poor (PTG 2062-10442, 1 March 2017), but that does not mean that this was yet more in his family's long tradition of taunts, slights and provocations of Australia: you won, but really, it wasn't a proper Test match.

Was pitch in Pune so bad?  To look at, yes, but there's more than meets the eye here. The Test match lasted almost three days. Plenty of recent Test matches were shorter in terms of overs bowled. There were at least two last year. One was at Headingley, where England beat Sri Lanka on a pitch some thought would not have passed formal muster if it was for a county game. The other was in Hobart last November, where South Africa crushed Australia. But we don't talk about that.

The year before, mutter, mutter, mutter, there was Trent Bridge. Talk about not proper Test matches. No one wanted to play on that pitch, if it meant batting first on it. But Australia had to, and you know the rest, and since therapy hopefully have learnt to cope with it. That match lasted 80 fewer overs than Pune, a full new ball's worth. For that matter, the preceding Test at swinging, seaming, swaying Edgbaston was also done in fewer overs than Pune.

Arguably, those all were bad pitches, but they were bad English and Australian pitches, and so they don't count. Pune was a crap Indian pitch.  Think I'm talking crap?

From ‘Cricinfo', we learn that since pitch monitoring became a formal thing in 2006, seven pitches have been reported as unfit or worse. Four were in India, three because of excessive spin from the start, one because it was simply unplayable. No pitch has been reported as poor because of excessive seam movement, though this is one of the criteria to be considered. But two were judged to be poor because they were too flat, including – perversely – Trent Bridge, the year before (picking that scab again, sorry) Australia's Ashes turned to dust there.

But within these stats, there is more intrigue. Of the four pitches damned for their surfeit of spin, two were for matches against Australia – and Australia won them both, against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2011, and now against India in Pune.  Evidently, these were such crap pitches that they were crap even for the crappers.

Pitch preparation is a fine and finicky and sometimes sinister business, but there has to be limits, and there are, and they are exhaustive and exacting about what is acceptable in terms of seam, spin, bounce, carry, deterioration and danger, pages of them. If match referee Broad wasn't in a bad mood about the pitch at the end of the Test, he would have been by the time he finished the paperwork.

But the rules are preceded, in capital letters, by an injunction that "ALL PITCHES WILL BE JUDGED SOLELY ON HOW THEY PLAY", with addenda about balanced contest between bat and ball, allowing all the skills to be displayed, etc.

So how did "poor" Pune compare with, say, passable Trent Bridge? "Balanced contest"? Both matches were dominated by bowlers, but in each, the best batsman in the world found a way to make a hundred. "All the individual skills"? In Pune, much was made of the fact that spinners opened the bowling for both sides, and seamers were marginalised. But seamers did bowl 59 overs, and take nine wickets. At Trent Bridge, spinners bowled a total of 16 overs, for not one wicket.

Danger? Getting out always hurts, but Trent Bridge was more dangerous to health and wellbeing by far.  Not assessed by the International Cricket Council, but important surely: was it entertaining? To us, Pune was. So, in a macabre way, was (ahem) Trent Bridge. We can admit that now.

The fact is that Australia expected spinning pitches in India, because that was all anyone talked about beforehand, and what they trained for in Dubai before the current Test series began.  And if Pune spun more and sooner and more erratically even than India anticipated, at least Australia was ready with a well-formulated and executed policy about playing as if every ball was straight or coming in, and it worked. A crap spinning pitch allows you to do that. A crap seaming, swinging pitch simply doesn't give you the time and therefore luxury to make the adjustment.

Pune was far from a model pitch, and nothing like it will be seen again in the series. But crap?  (No need to mumble now) Scoreboard!

County split deepens over new ECB T20 tournament.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

PTG 2063-10449.

The split over the future of county cricket in England was laid bare on Monday as Essex revealed they would vote against a new Twenty20 competition while Ian Botham, on his first day as Durham chairman, said he would back the plans.  John Faragher, the chairman of Essex, launched the most vocal criticism of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) proposal to introduce an eight-team Twenty20 competition from the summer of 2020 (PTG 2009-10159, 21 December 2016).

The plans will be put to a vote after a meeting of the county chairmen on the last Monday of March. The following day the ECB’s executive board will recommend changing its constitution, which states that any competition must be open to all 18 counties. That proposal will go to a vote of the ECB’s 41 members, comprising the counties, the non first-class county boards, the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Minor Counties Cricket Association.

“I think it’s going to happen but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit here and roll over and accept it”, said Faragher. “I’d not be doing my job as chairman of this club if I just sat and said yes because it’s a foregone conclusion. Colin Graves and the ECB will know where we are coming from".

“I think that by creating this split you are going to devalue championship cricket, our own domestic ‘Blast' T20 and the 50-over competition (PTG 2061-10440, 28 February 2017). By creating a fourth competition, it’s really a breakaway. This is a competition that will, for the first time, not involve all of the 18 first-class counties. That goes against everything we believe”.

The counties have been promised around £UK1.2 million ($A1.9 m) each per year from the new competition (PTG 2030-10274, 25 January 2017), which will be played at eight regional centres yet to be decided with a player draft along the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL).  

“They [the counties] have all seen this as Christmas come early,” said Faragher. “I believe they’re voting purely on the financial gain and not for the longer, best interests of cricket. We are not a wealthy county but we are financially stable and because we operate within our budgets. Sure, an extra £1 million a year is very appealing. But what happens when this competition means you suddenly become a minor county? You’re going to lose sponsors, you’re going to lose advertising, you’re going to lose members to this other competition.

“The ECB have decided this [new T20] is the competition they want. If there is another option like a divisional T20, it should get fully costed, shouldn’t it? Let’s face it, nobody knows if this tournament will take off. I want to look at the plus sides but I can’t actually see any”.

The county opposition to the plans will be diluted by the fact the ECB will allow the 21 non first-class county boards the same equal vote on changing the constitution. Those boards will be promised a big cheque from the new tournament and have nothing to lose, unlike some of the first-class counties.

The ECB will start the next tender process for its television rights in April once the constitutional vote is out of the way and hopes to bring in a massive uplift in its broadcast income on the back of the new competition.  

Botham said: “I think it’s exciting. There’s still debate about how it’s going to be done. I don’t think it’s going to be cities, I think it’s going to be areas. And we in the north-east expect to be part of it in one way or another. How that all develops we’ll have to wait and see.  We’ve got to be realistic, it’s financially very sensible to do it. If we do it properly, we do it for a hit in the summer, look at the success of the Big Bash, we want to take a little bit from that, a bit from the IPL, come up with the right formula. I cannot believe that any chairman of any club cannot see the benefits of it, I really don’t”.

The ECB appears to have won the battle over introducing the new competition but its next big challenge lies with allocating venues. The Test grounds have been told the new teams will be wholly independent and will only rent grounds on match days. The Test-match counties are expected to resist this once the initial battle over introducing the competition has been resolved.

Queensland competition lacks an even playing field, claims coach.

David Lems.

The Queensland Times.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017.

PTG 2063-10450.

It's one of the most talked about matters in cricket in Ipswich, Queensland, that frustrates the players and coaches, especially when vital bonus batting points are lost because of it.  The issue is how some playing fields like Limestone Park and Keith Sternberg Oval (KSO) have longer grass, making it harder for the batsmen to hit boundaries.

The situation was highlighted in the latest first division match between top two challengers Northsiders and Centrals at KSO.  Scoring over 200 has been a difficult assignment at the North Ipswich venue because of the outfield.  Northsiders batted well to make 223 before Centrals scored one of the highest totals there making 232.  On other fields like those at the Ivor Marsden Sporting Complex, those scores could have been over 300.

Teams have faced similar plights at Mark Marsh Oval, which is shared by Centrals during the cricket season and the Ipswich Eagles Aussie rules team for their footy season.  "The outfield (at KSO) is not quite as thick as Limestone Park but it certainly doesn't run the best”, Centrals coach Scott Barrett said.

According to him: "Most of the outfields aren't mowed to what I believe they should be mowed to.  We go out and play at Baxter [Oval] now and the outfield is probably 15 mil [15 mm] and we're struggling on outfields that are 30 mm plus.   You just don't get the benefits of your shots.  From my point of view, you're teaching stroke players to play along the ground and they're not getting the benefits for that at some grounds”.'

The Centrals coach said the outfield grass at Limestone Park has been way too long since before Christmas.  "It's been 60 mm in some games and we're struggling on that”, he said.  His assessment is that mowing the outfield to the best level required the right equipment.  "We don't have a big mower so we can't mow again”,' he said. "We can only mow the infield a little bit.  You need the big mower on it”.

Barrett said although the situation was the same for both teams, it could have an impact on which sides play in the finals.  "Throughout the year, I think that would probably cost us five or six batting points because we're not getting the benefits of hitting boundaries”, he said.  "You hit something like that when we played Swifts at Marsden [Amberley). Anything that was hit through the infield was a boundary. At Limestone Park, you're only getting one or two”.'

When the Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association top three battle is so close as it is this season as the summer comes to an end, that can make a difference.

MCC refusing to stump up for tea? It’s just not cricket.

Ivo Tennant.

The Times.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017.

PTG 2063-10451.

In the annual fixture between the amateur Hampshire Hogs side and the mighty Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), one might expect the world’s most famous cricket club to cover the cost of the tea.  Not so. A request for the MCC to help foot the bill for refreshments has been batted away, and the smaller club has complained that it is just not cricket.

The fixture between the two historic clubs was established in the early 1970s at the Hogs’ picturesque cricket ground at Warnford in Hampshire’s Meon Valley.  The MCC XI has traditionally been provided with a full sit-down lunch and tea, as well as a groundsman to prepare the pitch, a home umpire and a scorer.

For years the Hogs were prepared to foot the bill but the mounting cost of staging fixtures meant that this winter a request was made to the MCC to cover the costs of its own players. The charge would be £UK275 ($A440), which every other visiting side willingly pays each summer.  To the surprise of the Hogs, founded in 1887, the more senior cricketing institution, which dates back to 1787, refused to pay up.

The MCC already provides two cricket balls for each fixture it plays away from Lord’s and believes that this is quite sufficient. “It was agreed in 2008 that none of MCC’s opponents would be offered funding. Any opponent requesting additional funding to the match balls would be removed from the fixture list”, said John Stephenson, the MCC’s cricket secretary.  “The only exception was when a state school had to use a club ground in order to play a fixture against MCC. The view of the subcommittee has not changed since then”.

In years gone by, some MCC captains or match managers have contributed to the costs of the match, sometimes out of their own pocket, but the Hogs were often left short-changed. Hence their request to MCC to cover the mounting expenses on a more formal basis.

The Hogs took a dim view of the MCC attitude at their annual meeting. All but one member voted not to invite MCC or any other club who were not prepared to pay match fees. Representations were made to Matthew Fleming, the MCC president, but he sided with the club’s fixtures subcommittee.  An MCC spokesman added: “Our fixtures are prestigious. We do not expect the red carpet to be rolled out but we prioritise our state school fixtures”.

The MCC does not wish to subsidise match fees out of annual subscriptions, even though it has 18,000 members. Funds are required for the redevelopment of Lord’s at a time when the staging of a second Test match each summer in future is in doubt.

Not everyone involved with Hampshire Hogs was disappointed that this summer’s fixture will not go ahead. Jonathan Grant, chairman of the Hogs cricket subcommittee, said: “There was another theme at the annual meeting — that the game between our clubs had not been enjoyable for many years. I have rarely played in it but for those that had there was clearly an atmosphere between the MCC players and ours which would seem to stem from a different approach to the concept of the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ [which is promoted by MCC] and the manner in which the game is played”.

The Hogs found that few members of the MCC side knew each other and some players seemed to be using the fixture merely as a method of qualification for MCC membership.  The Hogs will have to make do this summer with fixtures against opponents who include Wine Trade, Flashmen, I Zinger (which is Italian for ‘Gypsies’) and Jack Frost XI.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,064

 Friday, 3 March 2017

 

• Fears for Gabba pitch over Adele concert [2064-10452].

• Bangladesh to reach 100 Test mark [2064-10453].

• Sri Lankan Army promotes two soldiers for ‘exploits on pitch' [2064-10454].

• Sussex makes £1,000 profit in 2016 [2064-10455].

Fears for Gabba pitch over Adele concert.

Robert Craddock.

The Courier-Mail.

Thursday, 2 March 2017.

PTG 2064-10452.

Rumour has it that English singer-songwriter Adele’s Brisbane two concerts at the Gabba on Saturday and Sunday are making cricket officials very nervous.  In fact it is more than a rumour, for senior cricket officials are known to be crossing their fingers that having the square under cover for 11 days with a massive metal stage built on top does not ruin the wicket block for the late November Ashes Test against England.

No one will be more interested in what lies beneath than Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell.  He said: “It is too early to know what will happen.  We will just have to wait until they lift the stuff up next week”.  The worst case scenario is that the entire square will have to be returfed in the wake of the Adele takeover.  Cherry pickers and cranes have been in action at the Gabba this week in preparation for Adele’s highly publicised concerts.

The last time that happened was 17 years ago around the time of the Sydney Olympics when the venue was reconfigured for Olympic football.  On that occasion the returfing completely changed the character of the wicket block and it took 15 years for the famously bouncy deck to recapture its full character.

The concern for local officials is that they are fighting a relentless battle to stop the Gabba using drop-in cricket wickets which are grown off-site and dropped in after the football season.  If the wicket suffers as a consequence of the Adele concerts there are sure to be renewed calls to use a drop-in pitch.

Cricket has given way to Adele already though for Queensland’s final Sheffield Shield match of the season in a fortnight has been shifted from the Gabba to Allan Border Field.

Bangladesh to reach 100 Test mark.

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 2 March 2017.

PTG 2064-10453.

The second Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Colombo which is due to start on Wednesday week, will be the visitors 100th since they achieved Test status in 2000.  Bangladesh is the last of the current ten Full Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to complete the century, having taken little over 16 years to reach the mark.  Lack of interest in playing Bangladesh in Tests is said to be the chief reason behind the side reaching the milestone in such a slow manner.  

Sri Lanka have though shown the most interest and will have been Bangladesh's opponents in 18 of the 100 Tests, then comes Zimbabwe with 14, New Zealand 13, the West Indies 12, England, Pakistan and South Africa all 10, India 9 and Australia just 4.  Bangladesh is ranked number nine in the ICC Test rankings, having won only eight out of their current 98 Tests. It has lost 75 games and drawn 15 matches. Of the eight wins, Bangladesh won the most, five, against tenth ranked Zimbabwe. 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is reported to again be trying to convince the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to send its national team to Pakistan in December for a Test series.  

As it currently stands, Pakistan is actually due to tour Bangladesh in December but the PCB have suggested the reverse apply. What several media reports are claiming are “reliable sources” were quoted as saying on Thursday the PCB has suggested to the BCB it send a team of "security and vigilance experts” to observe Sunday's final of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore (PTG 2062-10444, 1 March 2017), an invitation is also said to have extended to “seven other ICC Full Members".  

It is not the first time the PCB has engaged in a dialogue with the BCB regarding such a tour but so far to no avail (PTG 931-4530, 22 April 2012).  When those plans were mooted, the ICC made it clear it was not prepared to send its match officials to oversee such a series (PTG 928-4513, 16 April 2012 ).

Sri Lankan Army promotes two soldiers for ‘exploits on pitch'.

Agence France-Presse.

Thursday, 2 March 2017.

PTG 2064-10454.

Sekkuge Prasanna and Asela Gunaratne, who are both members of the Sri Lankan Army, have been promoted "for their exploits on the pitch" with the national team during recent series against South Africa and Australia.  All-rounder Prasanna rose a rank to Warrant Officer Grade One on the back of his "strong showing" in South Africa, while batsman Gunaratne, previously a sergeant, was promoted to Warrant Officer Grade Two in recognition of his performances against Australia.  The pair, both aged 31, began their cricketing careers in the Army with whom they continued to serve despite their professional sporting commitments.

Sussex makes £UK1,000 profit in 2016.

BBC Radio.

Thursday, 2 March 2017.

PTG 2064-10455.

Sussex made a small operating profit of £UK1,000 ($A1,620) in 2016, their first year as an integrated body combining professional, recreational and community cricket.  The figures for the year to the end of October 2016, include the Sussex Cricket Foundation charitable subsidiary.  An operating loss of £139,000 ($A225,235) was recorded for the same period in 2015.

Sussex chairman Jim May said balancing the finances remained a "constant challenge but these were satisfactory figures for the new organisation”.  A combined turnover figure of £6.5 m ($A10.5 m) showed a decline in match income, but the club said there had been a strong performance in commercial income.   Since the County Ground in Hove was redeveloped in 2011, net revenues for catering, events and rental income had increased by around £500,000 ($A810,200) a year.  However, after making full allowance for depreciation, Sussex said it recorded a deficit after tax of £488,000 ($A790,755).

The club's report added that the balance sheet was strong with total equity of £10.3 m ($A16.7 m) and no external debt.  "I believe that Sussex is in good shape for the coming [2017] season”, added May.  The club finished the 2016 season in fourth place in Championship Division Two and failed to progress beyond the group stage in the T20 ‘Blast' and county one-day cup.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,065

 Sunday, 5 March 2017

 

• Lankan match officials travel to Lahore for PSL final [2065-10456].

• Neutral officials for NZ-South Africa Tests named [2065-10457].

• Complete implementation of Lodha reforms 'in 4-5 months' [2065-10458].

• Current T20’s high rating a blow for ECB city-based plans [2065-10459].

Lankan match officials travel to Lahore for PSL final.

PTG Editor.

Sunday, 5 March 2017.

PTG 2065-10456.

Sri Lankan match officials Roshan Mahanama and Ranmore Martinesz have travelled to Lahore to work in Sunday’s final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).  Mahanama, a former International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, will oversee the game, while Martinesz will be on-field with Pakistani Shozab Raza, the latter’s countryman Ahsan Raza and Ahmed Shahab being the third and fourth umpires respectively (PTG 2031-10285, 26 January 2017).  

Mahanama and Ahsan Raza filled the same roles in the inaugural PSL final last year, which was played in Dubai.  While the four umpires are working in the PSL under contracts with its organisers, they are also members of the their respective country’s national and ICC second-tier International Umpires Panel.  

Media reports say “thousands” of troops and police have deployed in the vicinity of the Gaddafi Stadium for the sold out final as a result of a recent wave of militant attacks prompted a host of foreign players to pull out of the match (PTG 2062-10444, 1 March 2017), although others have been drafted in in their place.  Bullet-proof buses are to be used to get players and match officials to and from the ground (PTG 1877-9407, 16 July 2016).  

All hospitals in Lahore have been put on high-alert and two additional makeshift hospitals have been set up, one with five-beds at the hotel where the teams will be staying, and the other a 20-bed unit at the city's main hockey ground some distance from the stadium.

Designated parking areas for cars have been set up some 4 km away from the stadium and buses will shuttle spectators from there to the ground.  Once there those with tickets will be thoroughly searched prior to entry. The stadium is near where the deadly 2009 assault on Sri Lanka’s team bus and match officials van occurred, a tragedy that killed six and led to the halting of regular on-going international cricket tours to Pakistan (PTG 380-2021, 4 March 2009).

Since then teams from Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe have made brief visits during which most of their matches were played at the Gaddafi Stadium.  The majority of those games involved have been managed by match officials from Pakistan, the exceptions being umpires Ahmed Shahpakteen from Afghanistan, Mohammad Asif of the United Arab Emirates, and Russell Tiffin from Zimbabwe (PTG 1557-7843, 29 May 2015).

For the Zimbabwean tour in 2015, the ICC said Mahanama, who was then on its referee’s panel, had been assigned to "remotely deal with matters relating to the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Players Support Personnel", while Pakistan’s Azhar Khan performed “all other match referee duties (PTG 1554-7464, 22 May 2015).

Neutral officials for NZ-South Africa Tests named.

ICC appointments.

Sunday, 5 March 2017.

PTG 2065-10457.

Three Australians, David Boon, Bruce Oxenford and Rod Tucker, plus Sri Lankan Kumar Dharmasena, have been appointed as the neutral officials to manage the Test series between New Zealand and South Africa over the next three weeks (PTG 2060-10426, 27 February 2017).  

Dharmasena and Oxenford will be on-field in the first match in Dunedin this week with Tucker the television umpire, then it will be Dharmasena-Tucker and Oxenford on replays in Wellington, and finally in Hamilton Oxenford-Tucker and Dharmasena, Boon overseeing all three games as the match referee.

The series will take Boon’s record as a match referee in Tests to 41, Tucker as an umpire in Tests to 53 on-field and 20 as the television umpire (53/20), Dhrmasena to 45/11 and Oxenford to 39/17.

Complete implementation of Lodha reforms 'in 4-5 months'.

Press Trust of India.

Sunday, 5 March 2017.

PTG 2065-10458.

Implementation of Lodha Committee recommendations at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will be complete in the next four-five months, says Vinod Rai, head of the panel of administrators appointed by the Indian Supreme Court to manage the cricket board's affairs.  The Court appointed the four-member panel, headed by Rai a former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, in January (PTG 2035-10307, 31 January 2017).

Rai said in Singapore on Saturday: "As far as BCCI is concerned, we will create a structure, we will create an accounting format, and we will ensure that certain systems are put in place by which governance of the BCCI in the future becomes smooth and as per the diktats of the Lodha committee report.  It should not be a long process and [take] about four to five months at the most”.

"We are there to ensure the Lodha Committee reforms are implemented in full”, said Rai, adding that the court appointed committee will be there till the next BCCI management committee is democratically elected after the implementation of reforms.  The parameters involved have already been made available to the state cricket associations and other associates at district club levels.  In saying that he gave assurances that cricket will continue to be played as scheduled in the BCCI’s current calendar.

"We are in the process of examining to what extent the state associations have fulfilled the reform parameters and what is the undertaking they have given”, continued Rai.  Some of the associations have filed affidavits on the state of implementation this week.

Rai leads the BCCI’s management and supervision committee, three other members of which are historian Ramachandra Guha, Vikram Limaye, managing director and chief executive of IDFC Limited and former captain of Indian women cricket team, Diana Eduljee.

Current T20’s high rating a blow for ECB city-based plans.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Sunday, 5 March 2017.

PTG 2065-10459.

County cricket’s Twenty20 competition was rated more popular with the public than the FA Cup last year, according to a report that will make very uncomfortable reading for officials at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).  The ‘YouGov' 2016 Sport Index annual report placed the current 18 county T20 ‘Blast' seventh in the list of most popular sports in the UK last year, ahead of both international cricket and the FA Cup, at a time when the ECB is looking to sideline the competition in favour of a city-based tournament featuring eight teams.

Opponents of those plans will be boosted by the report, which described the ‘Blast' as “English cricket’s 2016 success story”. But the competition will be eclipsed by a Big Bash League-style tournament that the ECB aims to launch in 2020.  The Sport Index report measures performance through public awareness and positive/negative publicity, and claims to interview 100 people per day asking them which sports they have heard something good or negative about. This is then reproduced into what’s called a “buzz” score that determines a sport’s ranking.

“Twenty20 Cricket is English cricket’s 2016 success story, with efforts to reposition and market the game as an all-round entertainment spectacle seriously paying off”, states the report. “The positioning of the event as a highly entertaining spectacle – with music and dancers, low-cost tickets and Friday-night games – has helped push its ‘buzz’ rating up by 6.6 per cent in 2016, building on an increase of 1.5 per cent in 2015”. 

The ECB is in the process of putting the final touches to its plans for the new competition, which will be presented to the 18 county chairmen and the Marylebone Cricket Club late this month.

But this week John Faragher, the Essex chairman, became the most vocal public voice to make his opposition clear when he claimed other counties are “voting purely on the financial gain and not for the longer, best interests of cricket” (PTG 2063-10449, 2 March 2017).   He also accused the ECB of not doing enough research on introducing a two-divisional tournament featuring the 18 counties. “The ECB have decided this [city-based T20] is the competition they want. If there is another option like a divisional T20, it should get fully costed, shouldn’t it?”

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,066

 Monday, 6 March 2017

 

• Plunket Shield goes day-night for test round [2066-10460].

• CA stays firm on players’ revenue percentage issue [2066-10461].

Plunket Shield goes day-night for test round.

David Leggat.

New Zealand Herald.

Monday, 6 March 2017.

PTG 2066-10460.

New Zealand’s Plunket Shield first class competition goes under lights, and with a pink ball, for the first time on Monday (PTG 1911-9592, 30 August 2016).  The series’ seventh-round matches are going day-night to check the facilities with the latest version of the pink ball - black stitching, not green - with the strategic aim being the suitability of the grounds for England's tour next austral summer.

The likelihood is Eden Park will host one of the Tests, so Auckland will play shield leaders Canterbury there over the next four days; second-placed Northern Districts face bottom side Central Districts at Seddon Park in Hamilton; while Wellington meet Otago in the first-ever first class game at the Wellington Regional Stadium, which has lights, something the historic Basin Reserve does not.  Each game will get underway at 2.30 p.m. local time with play being scheduled to finish at 9.30 p.m.

There are plenty of boxes to be ticked before a Test can be signed off at a New Zealand ground. The quality of the lighting is one aspect. Assessing visibility for the players is another, while in Eden Park's case, a dispensation would be required to allow the ground to be used on a Sunday night.  

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) plans to hold a significant debrief with its six major associations, and players, after the round to soak up the feedback.  Take out the international players and it will be a new experience for the majority of domestic cricketers.

There's no question NZC are keen to dip their toes into the day-night Test game. Australia have hosted three - the first against New Zealand at Adelaide last season - and then against Pakistan and South Africa at Brisbane and Adelaide respectively - while Pakistan have host the West Indies for one in the United Arab Emirates.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson supports the trial this week. He said on Sunday: "The odd day-night Test is exciting.  It brings in a different skill set ... there are certainly nuances to pick up and if our first-class guys get some experience in it before Test cricket then great”.

Just who is match officials for the three games will be is not known as NZC have not updated their on-line umpire, referee and scorer appointments page since November last year, something that prior to the current season occurred regularly.

CA stays firm on players’ revenue percentage issue.

Daniel Brettig.

Cricinfo.

Sunday, 5 March 2017.

PTG 2066-10461.

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s (CA) chief executive, emphasised on Sunday that his board remains intent upon breaking up the fixed revenue-percentage model that sits at the core of disagreements with the players' union during the current round of pay Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) negotiations, and will again take its case to the players when submitting a formal offer in the next few weeks (PTG 2062-10445, 1 March 2017).

While saying CA was "absolutely committed to a partnership" with the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), Sutherland said this did not mean a continuation of the revenue percentage agreement that has stood in various forms since the ACA was founded in 1997. He paralleled the players with other partners in the game, such as the long-time Australian international television rights holders Channel Nine. 

"A partnership by definition isn't necessarily a share of revenue agreement”, Sutherland said on ABC Radio in Bengaluru. "We have lots of different agreements that are partnerships - for example with Channel Nine. We've been in partnership with them for 40 years, but it's not a share of revenue arrangement". 

Rather, "it's an understanding about what's good for Nine, good for cricket, and we work together on that basis. Similarly at a moment in time, our views are that perhaps that share of revenue arrangement is not so appropriate for the future. We'll go into some detail around that with the players".

"We've certainly had discussions and the next stage is for us to put a proposal on the table. We'll do that in the next little while and we'll formulate the basis for the next stage of discussions. We're absolutely committed to a partnership with the ACA, and our players”.

Last month it was revealed that Australia's Test captains Steven Smith and Meg Lanning had co-signed a letter to Sutherland asking that CA respect the ACA as the players' chosen collective-bargaining agent, and encouraged the two parties to get back to the negotiating table after talks broke down last December (PTG 2005-10138, 15 December 2016). Up to that point, CA had sought to take its case directly to the players, inviting Smith and his deputy David Warner to dinner in Melbourne while also sending email communications to all contracted players (PTG 2000-10106, 9 December 2016) .

In the midst of Australia's bid to unseat India in a home Test series, Sutherland said the ongoing talks were not going to be allowed to become a distraction for the touring team. "We don't think so. We're in the flow with the discussions that are going on back home”," he said. 

"I think from the players' point of view, it's the furthest thing from their mind, they're absolutely ingrained in this contest here. And I think for them it seems a long, long way away. Things will bubble away back home, we will, I'm sure, make progress over the next little while. Bits and pieces will be written in the newspapers and they'll pick up snippets from there, but it won't be any sort of distraction for them”.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,067

 Tuesday, 7 March 2017

 

• MCC outlines Laws changes included in new Code [2067-10462].

• Womens’ day-night Ashes Test scheduled for Sydney [2067-10463].

MCC outlines Laws changes included in new Code.

PTG Editor.

MCC media release.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2067-10462.

The Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) new Laws Code, which will come into effect in October, includes increased player sanctions, reduces the number of modes of dismissal, further limits on bat sizes, redefines ‘Mankading’, allows ‘bouncing bats’ in run out situations, and introduces gender neutral language for the first time.  The MCC released general details of what the new Code will contain, the first since the year 2000, this morning Australian time.

Under the changes, umpires will be equipped with a number of sanctions to tackle poor player behaviour.  The severity of offences will range from Levels 1-4, with umpires administering the in-game punishment they deem appropriate for the offence, which can range from showing dissent at an umpire’s decision to committing any act of violence.  Sanctions will include warnings, the award of five penalty runs to the opposition and, for more serious offences, temporary or permanent removal from the field (PTG 1998-10082, 8 December 2016).

The number of ways a batsman can be given out will reduce from ten to nine, with ‘Handled the ball’ being subsumed into ‘Obstructing the field’.  That modification though will have no effect on whether or not a batsman is dismissed.

Specific limitations on the size of bats have been set, the maximum dimensions being 108 mm in width, 67 mm in depth with 40 mm edges. The MCC says the move comes "after consultations with bat manufacturers, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, International Cricket Council (ICC), MCC World Cricket Committee, umpires’ associations and other global governing bodies on the balance between bat and ball” (PTG 1998-10084, 8 December 2016).

A bat gauge will ensure that the new limits are adhered to in the professional game, whilst a moratorium period, allowing players to use their existing bats which may be in breach of the Law, will be allowed in the amateur game. The length of the moratorium will be determined by local governing bodies and may vary for different levels of cricket.

The Law regarding running out the non-striker, an act often referred to as ‘Mankading’, has also been altered (PTG 1877-9404, 16 July 2016). It will state that if the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out. This will keep non-strikers in their ground for slightly longer than the current Law and mirrors ICC’s Playing Regulations.

Batsmen will be protected from ‘bouncing bat’ run out incidents under the new Code. If the bat (held by the hand) or another part of the batsman’s person is grounded beyond the popping crease and this contact with the ground is subsequently lost when the wicket is put down, the batsman will be protected from being run out if they are running or diving and has continued forward momentum towards the stumps and beyond.

The new Code of Laws will also be written in language that is neutral to both sexes for the first time (PTG 2056-10410, 22 February 2017). As it stands, the Laws currently make all references to the male gender, with a disclaimer stating all such references apply equally to women and girls.  The new Code will include an increased use of generic nouns like ‘fielder’ and ‘bowler’ and use ‘he/she’ when required. The term ‘batsman’ will remain, however, as it is seen as a term of the game that is equally applicable to females.

John Stephenson, MCC Head of Cricket, said: “The game of cricket has evolved a great deal since the last Code of Laws was written in 2000, so much so that MCC made changes to that Code on five separate occasions in the last 14 years. We felt the time was right for a new Code to tidy up many of the piecemeal changes made since 2000.  The process has taken nearly three years and has involved significant consultation. The MCC Laws Drafting Group has worked tirelessly on the project and I would like to thank them for all their hard work. We are very pleased with the outcome, which we believe reflects the continuing evolution of cricket".

“We felt the time had come to introduce sanctions for poor player behaviour and research told us that a growing number of umpires at grass roots level were leaving the game because of it. Hopefully these sanctions will give them more confidence to handle disciplinary issues efficiently, whilst providing a deterrent to the players. The bat size issue has been heavily scrutinised and discussed in recent years. We believe the maximum dimensions we have set will help redress the balance between bat and ball, while still allowing the explosive, big hitting we all enjoy”. 

The redrafting process has taken nearly three years and has been led by a Laws Drafting Group comprising John Stephenson, Fraser Stewart, Mark Williams, Stan Bennett, John Jameson, Deborah Burns and Alan Fordham. The MCC says former Australian umpire Simon Taufel "has provided valuable input via email and occasionally at meetings".

Womens’ day-night Ashes Test scheduled for Sydney

Ronny Lerner.

Fairfax Media.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2067-10463.

Australia and England will make women's cricket history later this year when they face each other in the first ever day-night Test match.  The four-day contest will take place at North Sydney Oval is scheduled for early November.  That match will serve as the centrepiece of the women's Ashes series, which will also feature three One Day Internationals (ODI) and three Twenty20 internationals (T20I).

Under the women's format, a Test victory is worth four points while ODI and T20I wins are each worth two points. The team with the most points at the end of the series is crowned the winner.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland was excited by the historic day-night Test.  "A number of players have taken part in testing of both the pink ball and North Sydney as a venue and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive”, he said.  “The venues that have been confirmed are a result of a strategic decision to give this series the opportunity to gain as much exposure as possible and continue to build women’s cricket as a mainstream sport as we look toward the World T20 in Australia in 2020, of which the final is just three years away"

Importantly, all seven women's Ashes fixtures will be stand-alone affairs.  "The decision to put the number one ranked team in the world in front of the Australian public across seven stand-alone fixtures was an easy one, ensuring they remain as accessible as possible to fans and the ongoing support from Channel Nine and our other broadcast partners plays a pivotal role in making this happen”, Sutherland said.

The women's Ashes series is due to get underway in late October when the two sides meet in the first ODI at Allan Border Field in Brisbane and concludes in late November 21 in Canberra for the third T20I. After that the second and third ODIs will be played in Coffs Harbour, then comes the Test and the first T20I, before the final T20I in Canberra.  The womens’ series coincides with the men's Ashes series, which commences in late November at the Gabba and also features a day-night Test at Adelaide Oval.

Clare Connor, the England Cricket Board director of women's cricket said: "We are proud to see our sport continue to develop and break new ground.  We will ensure that the England women's team is fully prepared for the unparalleled challenge of an Ashes series down under, with the sole intention of bringing the trophy back home”.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,068

 Wednesday, 8 March 2017


 

• New Code puts onus on captains to remove ‘carded’ players [2068-10464].

• Repeat Level 1, and Level 2, offences to attract penalty runs [2068-10465].

• Gender-neutral Laws ahead, but ‘batsman’ keeps its place [2068-10466].

• Captain takes team from field ‘in protest’ at umpire decision [2068-10467].

• Review denied as a result of ‘dressing room’ look [2068-10468].

• Out twice, but ‘bowled' takes precedence [2068-10469].

• Security advisors reported 'satisfied' with Lahore PSL arrangements [2068-10470].

New Code puts onus on captains to remove ‘carded’ players.

PTG Editor.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10464.

While umpires will be able to 'send off’ players under the Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) under the new Laws Code when it is introduced in October (PTG 2067-10462, 7 March 2017), it will be the responsibility of captains to ensure anyone so identified, including captains themselves if applicable, actually leaves the field of play.  Should a captain, or if he or she is the offender their “vice-captain or senior player", clearly choose not to carry out such an instruction, it would be deemed to be a ‘refusal to play’ and umpires would be required to award the match to the opposing team. 

Disciplinary sanctions in the updated Laws Code break offences down into four groups, Levels 1-4, descriptions of each which correspond closely to disciplinary offence categories used by many national boards around the world.  If two umpires are standing in a match, then both will be required to agree that a breach, and at what Level, has occurred whilst the game is in progress, before together taking, via the captain, the actions stipulated by the new Law 42.  

Send offs that apply to the remainder of a match include the Level 4 offences of: ’threatening an umpire’, ‘physical assault of another player, umpire, team official or spectator’; or 'any act of violence on the field of play’.

In addition to the departure of the player concerned in such circumstances, and the non-availability of a substitute for their side for the rest of the game, five penalty runs will be awarded to the opposing side.  Should the player sent off be batting, they will be ‘Retired Out’, and if nine wickets are down at the time of the offence, their team’s innings will be completed.

Measures that require a player be sent from the field for part of the match are the Level 3 offences of: ‘intimidating an umpire by language or gesture’, or ‘threatening to assault another player, team official or spectator’.

In ‘timed’ matches the player deemed to have committed a Level 3 offence will have to leave the field of play for ten overs, and in limited over games for one-fifth of the number of overs available to each side “at the start” of a match, penalty runs to the opposing side also applying in such cases.  Any overs lost due to an unscheduled break in play will not count as the disciplined player must be absent from overs that are "actually completed" in the field.  

Should a bowler be suspended mid over, then that over must be completed by a different bowler.  For example, if a the bowler or fielder commits a Level 3 offence off say the fourth legal delivery of the third over of a 40 over match, an eight over suspension would apply.  As such the offender would not be able to return until the first delivery of the twelfth over; for where fractions of an over apply the number is to be ‘rounded up’.  Despite in that situation being off field for close to half an hour at normal over-rates, a suspended player will be able to bowl the next over immediately they return.

On the other hand if the batsman offends in such a manner, they can return to bat when a wicket falls after the period of suspension ends, or “at any time” after the suspension ends.  In the latter case the person at the crease who is replaced will be deemed ‘Retired out’.  If nine wickets are down when a batting suspension occurs, or during the period of suspension, the batting team’s innings will be  deemed to have been completed.  When a period of batting suspension has not been completely served at the end of an innings, the penance overs left will continue into the team’s second innings, when the batsman can return at the fall of a wicket or, as before, in place of another batsman at the crease.

While the new Code includes 'send off' sanctions for the first time it will, as is already the case with all of the MCC’s exisiting Laws, be up to international and national boards as well as the organisers of individual competitions, to decide to what degree the new arrangements will apply to their fixtures. 

An spokesperson for the International Cricket Council (ICC) was quoted in an Australian Associated Press report on Tuesday as saying: "To date, there has been no push from the international game to give the umpires send-off powers, as the Code of Conduct has been an effective tool for regulating player behaviour”.  According to the spokesperson: "The implementation of the new changes to the laws of cricket within ICC Playing Conditions will be discussed by the ICC Cricket Committee in May”. 

Repeat Level 1, and Level 2, offences to attract penalty runs.

PTG Editor.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10465.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) believes that players knowing that ramped up disciplinary sanctions will exist “within the game” under its new Laws Code “will hopefully reduce the incidents of such misconduct” it has noted around the world in recent years (PTG 1998-10082, 8 December 2016).  It says the inclusion of specific sanctions in the Code are “intended as deterrents” in order to “prevent extremes of player indiscipline”, and says that the use of such measures by umpires will hopefully "be used rarely”.  

An additional driver for the MCC’s decision was “the evidence of umpires not wishing to continue as umpires, as a result of declining standards of behaviour” (PTG 1970-9924, 7 November 2016).  The MCC’s "global consultation" in 2015 saw "a strong response from umpires’ associations that the Laws needed to give the umpires more power to deal with indiscipline".  With umpires being so crucial for everyone’s enjoyment of the game, says the MCC, "it was felt that the Laws could do more to assist umpires, which might help to arrest the decline in those wishing to stand”.

The club trailed the use of send off systems in a number of competitions during the last northern summer (PTG 1759-8772, 10 February 2016).

Under the new arrangements, while those who umpires judge to have been engaged in Level 3 and 4 disciplinary offences can be sent from the field of play for either a fixed period or the remainder of the match (PTG 2068-10464 above), repeated Level 1 and also Level 2 offences will mean the imposition of penalty runs to the opposing team.

The Level 1 offences of: 'abuse of ground, implements of the game, equipment or fixtures/fittings’; 'showing dissent of an umpire’s decision by word of action'; 'use language that in the circumstances is obscene, offensive or insulting'; ‘making an obscene gesture’; appealing excessively; and 'charging or advancing towards an umpire in an excessive manner when appealing’, will in the first instance see the captain issued with a first and final warning which applies to the team as a whole for the remainder of the match.  

However, if a side has previously committed a Level 2, 3 or 4 offence in a match prior to the Level 1, umpires are required to award five penalty runs to their opponents straight away.  Otherwise, if the team has a clean disciplinary sheet so far in a game, after the final warning if a second or subsequent occasion a Level 1 breach occurs, penalty runs sanctions are to be applied immediately.

Level 2 offences cover: ‘showing serious dissent at an umpire’s decision by word or action’; ‘making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with another player in the course of play’; ‘throwing the ball at or near a player, umpire or official in an inappropriate and dangerous manner’; 'using language or gesture to another player, umpire team official or spectator that, in the circumstances, is obscene or of a serious insulting nature’; or ‘any other misconduct, the nature of which is, in the umpire’s opinion, a more serious Level 1 offence or equivalent to a Level 2 offence.

Five penalty runs will immediately be applied when it is judged any such Level 2 offence has occurred, and in addition the captain has to be warned that any future Level 1 breach in the game will also result in another penalty run sanction being applied.

Gender-neutral Laws ahead, but ‘batsman’ keeps its place.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10466.

Cricket players will no longer be termed as “he” in the redrafted Laws of the game which will be presented for the first time later this year with gender neutral terms. However, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has pulled up short of banning phrases such as “batsman” and “third man” because they are seen as a cricketing terms that apply to both males and females. 

The new Laws Code, which will come into effect in October, is the first such consolidated update since 2000 and gender neutralising the language reflects the rise of women’s cricket since the last rewrite.   But the changes may not please all. Christina Matthews, the chief executive of the Western Australia Cricket Association, recently said words such as "batsman, third man and 12th man", "disrespect half the population” and “in my view, there’s no common sense reason why [the terms can’t be changed]. I think it’s just something people have held on to” (PTG 2056-10410, 22 February 2017).

However, Clare Connor, the head of women’s cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board, was consulted on the language change and felt words such as nightwatchman and batsman are an intrinsic part of cricket and are accepted without any problem in the women’s game. Currently the Laws make all references to the male gender with a disclaimer that they "apply equally to women and girls". 

“The new Code will include an increased use of generic nouns like ‘fielder’ and ‘bowler’ and use ‘he/she’ when required”, said the MCC.  "The term ‘batsman’ will remain, however, as it is seen as a term of the game that is equally applicable to females”.

Captain takes team from field ‘in protest’ at umpire decision.

Media reports.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10467.

Chhattisgarh captain Mohammad Kaif led his team from the field in a Board of Control for Cricket in India Vijay Hazare Trophy List A series match against Karnataka in Kolkata on Monday after an appeal for a catch at the wicket from his side was turned down.  The incident occurred when Karnataka was 0/3 chasing 200 to win and their opener Mayank Agarwal was on one.

Umpire Virender Sharma consulted Umesh Dubey, his on-field colleague at square leg, before giving his decision in favour of the batsman.  Kai, 36, a former Indian Test and one-day player, urged the umpires to seek a television referral, however, the umpires declined the request, and it was then he ordered his team-mates off in protest of the decision. Reports say “almost the whole team" heeded his call which forced match referee Nitin Goel to intervene.

After “a few minutes” Goel, who had access to video footage of play, managed to calm the captain down after which Chhattisgarh resumed the game, the overall delay being eight minutes. At a hearing conducted after the match, Goel found that Kaif was responsible for the incident, gave him a warning and fined him his entire match fee.

Review denied as a result of ‘dressing room’ look.

Sam Ferris.

CA web site.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017.

PTG 2068-10468.

Australian captain Steve Smith was denied a review on what became the final day of the second India-Australia Test in Bengaluru on Tuesday, after he and his batting partner Peter Handscomb were judged to be seeking outside input as to whether to ask for the television umpire to look into the matter.  Smith had been hit just above his left boot by a Umesh Yadav delivery that 'went underground' and struck him in front of middle stump.

The two batsmen came together to discuss the merit of reviewing umpire Nigel Llong’s LBW decision but were quickly denied a referral when Llong spotted both looking in the direction of the dressing room.  International Cricket Council Standard Test Match Playing Conditions for 2016-17 say the umpires may decline a review if they believe the fielding captain or batsman has received any outside input. 

Those Playing Conditions state: “The captain may consult with the bowler and other fielders or the two batsmen may consult with each other prior to deciding whether to request a PlayerReview”. It goes on though with: “Under no circumstances is any player permitted to query an umpire about any aspect of a decision before deciding on whether or not to request a Player Review”.   “If the umpires believe that the captain or batsman has received direct or indirect input emanating other than from the players on the field, then they may at their discretion decline the request for a Player Review”. “In particular, signals from the dressing room must not be given”.

Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman took to Twitter to express his sentiments regarding the matter, suggesting Smith had acted "against the spirit of the game”.  Smith, who after the match indicated he erred in seeking outside input, and his opposite number Virat Kohli, engaged in a number of ugly spats during the match, the Indian effectively calling Smith a “cheat” over his apparent review manoeuvrings, a number of observers suggesting that they and other players may be sanctioned by match referee Chris Broad.

Out twice, but ‘bowled' takes precedence.

Bipin Dani.

Deccan Chronicle.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10469.

Indian opener Abhinav Mukund was effectively dismissed 'twice' in India's second innings of the second Test in Bengaluru on Tuesday, Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood trapping him LBW before the ball went on to dislodged off his off-stump, his mode of dismissal being recorded as ‘bowled’.  

Explaining the ‘double’ dismissal, Fraser Stewart, the Marylebone Cricket Club's (MCC) Cricket Academy Manager, said: "The reason for this is that bowled is the most definitive dismissal, where others, such as LBW, sometimes have an element of doubt in them. If the striker is bowled, there is no doubt”. 

Section 30.2 of the MCC Laws of Cricket says: “The striker is out bowled if his wicket is put down…  ... even though a decision against him for any other method of dismissal would be justified”.  The only other dismissal with a higher ranking is Caught (Law 32.2), which states in part: “if the striker is not out Bowled, then he is out Caught, even though a decision against either batsman for another method of dismissal would be justified”.

So, if the ball hits the striker’s pad and satisfies the criteria for LBW, but then goes on to hit the bat and is caught, the striker would be out caught, rather than LBW.

Security advisors reported 'satisfied' with Lahore PSL arrangements.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017.

PTG 2068-10470.

A group of security advisors comprising officials from the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a number of ICC Full Member boards are reported to have expressed satisfaction on security arrangements put in place for the final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore on Sunday, a match that went off without serious incident.  Security managers of at least four cricket boards, along with an ICC security expert, are said to have been in Lahore for the event.

A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) source claimed those visitors "were satisfied [with] and hailed the efforts of the PCB for organising a successful match”, however, none them have yet spoken publicly about their findings and the massive security screen that was put in place for the game (PTG 2065-10456, 5 March 2017).  Amongst said to have attended were Englishman Reg Dickason, who advised the international players’ union on security matters ahead of PSL, who along with Julian Siebrand was representing the England and Wales Cricket Board.


The ICC’s own security manager Sean Norris was also reportedly in the provincial capital to review arrangements, as were AKM Anisud Dowla from Bangladesh, Sean Carroll from Australia and Sarathchandra Liyanage from Sri Lanka.  Dowla went to Lahore as a result of the PCB’s invitation to the Bangladesh Cricket Board to play a series in Pakistan later this year (PTG 2064-10453, 3 March 2017).

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,069

 Thursday, 9 March 2017

 

 

• ‘Magnificent' Test soured by India-Australia antics, ICC runs for cover [2069-10471].

• India was right: UDRS is killing the spirit of cricket [2069-10472].

• Bowler loses half match fee over ball throw [2069-10473].

• Funding boost proves 'a winner for girls', says CA [2069-10474].

• ECB looking to boost number of women board members [2069-10475].

• West Indian could face extended doping-related ban [2069-10476].

‘Magnificent' Test soured by India-Australia antics, ICC runs for cover.

Andrew Wu.

Fairfax Media.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10471.

Australian and Indian captains Steve Smith and Virat Kohli have both escaped censure as cricket's governing body effectively declared open slather for the two sides for the rest of their on-going Test series.  Kohli all but accused Smith of cheating over the Australian captain's inappropriate attempt to use the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) during the second Test in Bengaluru, Smith admitting his actions but that they were just a “brain fade” (PTG 2068-10468, 8 March 2017).  Kohli suggested Australia used such a tactic ’systematically'.

In a statement issued overnight, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has refused to crack down on poor behaviour by both sides, saying it will not be laying any charges after one of the most spiteful international matches played in recent memory.  The announcement came after India thumbed its nose at Cricket Australia (CA) on a dramatic night where both boards stood defiantly by their captains.

Hours after CA chief James Sutherland went public on Wednesday and labelled Kohli's allegations of cheating against the Australian team as "outrageous", the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) replied, again in public, by hailing their "seasoned and mature" captain's behaviour as "exemplary”.  It followed the release of a video on the BCCI's official website where off-spinner Ravi Ashwin likened Steve Smith's behaviour with that of an under-10 side.

Relations between the two nations are now at their lowest point since the so-called 'Monkeygate' scandal reached its conclusion in Sydney more than nine years ago.  On that occasion the ICC backed-down and, amongst other things, removed West Indian umpire Steve Buckner mid Test series after threats from the BCCI that their team would abandon from the tour (PTG 172-919, 9 January 2008)

Smith and Kohli have been ordered by the ICC to meet before match referee Richie Richardson next week in Ranchi, however, it will take more than that for the two sides to work through their differences.  West Indian Richardson will, as scheduled pre-series, look after the last two Tests, Chris Broad of England overseeing the first two games (PTG 2049-10379, 15 February 2017).

Australians Smith, Kohli, Steve O'Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Indian trio Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin can all consider themselves fortunate to have escaped censure from referee Chris Broad.  By handing both sides a 'get out of jail free' card, the ICC has avoided the potential storm that would have erupted had they cracked down on the poor player behaviour. Sutherland and his BCCI counterpart Rahul Johri have until Saturday night to act but it would be a major surprise if either did.

ICC chief David Richardson said via ‘A statement in relation to the second Test between India and Australia': "We have just witnessed a magnificent game of Test cricket where players from both teams gave their all and emotions were running high during and after the match.  We would encourage both teams to focus their energies on the third Test in Ranchi next week. Ahead of that, the match referee will bring both captains together to remind them of their responsibilities to the game”.

India was right: UDRS is killing the spirit of cricket.

Peter Lalor.

The Australian.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10472.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCC) was right all along. The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) has no place in cricket. It should be scrapped. If any vestiges of the cursed machine remain, they should be handed to a third umpire and used exclusively for howlers.

One of the Indians’ many objections to its introduction was that it was not right to see a player challenge an umpire’s decision, and that was correct.  The BCCI had many other technical issues with UDRS and when its concerns about these were soothed it forgot about the first and most important one.

The problems in the second Test surrounded the UDRS, which the Indians now mockingly call the 'Dressing Room ­Review System', but that is not the problem.  Life is not fair, despite all attempts to make it so, and it will never be fair. There are winners and losers, some get their just desserts, some do not. The best of us can work and suffer and never prosper. The least deserving can live a long, healthy life, surrounded by beauty and wealth.

Cricket is and should be a ­reflection of society and more. People criticise the Test format when it doesn’t reach a conclusion, but does every effort bring about a result? There are winners and losers and often there is a stalemate.  

Excuse me for lecturing here, but one of the things the game taught every young player was to accept the umpire’s decision whether it is right or wrong. Tuck your bat under your arm. Get off. Have a sook if you want but make sure it is in the dressing room.  It is cruel to be dismissed when you are not out. It can change the course of a match. Such is life.

The UDRS played too prominent a role in the second Test. True it adds an element of intrigue, another layer of narrative to the game, but that doesn’t excuse the damage it has done to the way cricket is played.

Bowler loses half match fee over ball throw.

CA media release.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10473.

Queensland's Marnus Labuschagne lost half his match fee for 'throwing a ball at or near a player in an inappropriate and/or dangerous manner during a match’, a Level 2 offence, during his side’s Sheffield Shield match against South Australia (SA) at the Adelaide Oval ten days ago.   The offence occurred during the third session of day three of the game when Labuschagne was bowling to SA batsman Tom Cooper.

Labuschagne was reported by umpires Ashley Barrow and Geoff Joshua.  As per Cricket Australia's Code of Conduct procedure match referee Steve Bernard considered the umpires’ written report, and offered a proposed sanction of a 50 per cent fine of Labuschagne’s match fee.  The player elected to contest the charge and Bernard conducted a hearing at the ground the following day.  After considering submissions Bernard upheld the charge and the proposed sanction. Why it took so long for CA to release details of the matter is not known.

Funding boost proves 'a winner for girls', says CA.

PTG Editor.

CA media release.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10474.

Cricket Australia (CA) says that its 'Growing Cricket for Girls Fund’ (GCGF) has proven to be "an instant hit in its first summer", with "more than 500 girls’ teams joining more than 40 new girls’ competitions as a result of the funding boost".  Last July, CA announced a $A4 million (£UK 2.48 m)  investment in the project over four years, of which $A500,000 (£310,590) was to going directly to clubs, associations and secondary schools each year to grow female cricket (PTG 1878-9411, 16 July 2016).  There was a further boost in August, when "a huge response" from the cricket community prompted CA to commit another $A500,000 over the first 12 months (PTG 1913-9605, 1 September 2016).

Since then, with additional support from one of CA’s principal commercial partners, the total investment in growing cricket for girls is now $A6 m (£3.73 m) over the four years.  With successful applicants receiving grants of $2,000 (£1,240) for clubs and schools, and $10,000 (£6,210) for associations over two years, CA says the formation of 46 "new all-girls’ competitions" and the expansion of 11 existing competitions was achieved, with a total of 524 new and existing girls teams benefitting from the funding.  

CA says the result is that more than 7,500 girls aged between 13 and18 are now playing in girls-only competitions around Australia.  New South Wales the largest state population-wise led the way with 165 new teams, then came Victoria 139, Western Australia 64, Queensland 54, South Australia 47, Tasmania 37, the Northern Territory 11 and the Australia Capital Territory 7.  A CA study of those taking part in cricket as a result of the GCGF found that over half those playing were experiencing their first girl’s-only competition, with 59 per cent having never played in a boy’s competition.

In addition to the $A6 m GCGF, a further $300,000 (£186,350) per year has been committed towards additional support for cricket clubs to "create more inclusive and welcoming environments for girls and women, and other diverse communities”, says CA.  

ECB looking to boost number of women board members.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10475.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) says it is “taking steps” to ensure it is compliant with the UK Government’s 'Code for Sports Governance' by agreeing to “adopt a target, and take all appropriate actions to encourage, a minimum of 30 per cent of each gender on its board”.  The ECB has indicated it is “working on the detail” about how a 30 per cent threshold could be reached, it currently having two female directors on its 13-strong board.  

National sports governing bodies in the UK which do not currently meet the 30 per cent threshold, have been given until next month to submit plans which address how they are going to do so to grassroots funding body Sport England.  Sports face being stripped of millions of pounds of public money if they fail to address the issue in the long-run.

West Indian could face extended doping-related ban.

Reuters.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2069-10476.

West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell is facing the prospect of an extension to his one-year ban for a doping whereabouts rule violation.  Jamaica's anti-doping commission (JADCO) is pushing for the maximum two-year suspension to be imposed on the 28-year-old, who was banned in January for one year (PTG 2036-10312, 1 February 2017). 

JADCO chief executive Carey Brown said on Wednesday that his organisation had filed an appeal with Jamaica's five-member anti-doping Appeals Tribunal.   Russell, a two-times Twenty20 World Cup winner, was revealed to have committed the violation a year ago after registering three compulsory filing failures in 2015. That constitutes a failed drugs test under World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

The International Cricket Council announced last month that International players will now face stringent drug testing during major tournaments as testing of blood, as well as urine, will now occur (PTG 2040-10332, 6 February 2017).

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,070

 Friday, 10 March 2017

 

• BCCI, CA executives meet, declare truce after crisis talks [2070-10477].

• Former NZ first class umpire dies [2070-10478].

• Aussie umpire flown in for Hong Kong T20 series [2070-10479].

• Redfern keen to boost female participation in game [2070-10480].

• Another Test, another ‘brain fade' [2070-10481].

• Blame the dills who get it wrong, not the UDRS [2070-10482].

• Time for umpire’s revenge as politicians play the media? [2070-10483].

BCCI, CA executives meet, declare truce after crisis talks.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Friday, 10 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10477.

Indian media reports on Thursday stated that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had written to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to express "its displeasure" over Australian captain Steven Smith "going unpunished" after breaching Umpire Decision Review System protocols during this week's Bangalore Test (PTG 2069-10471, 9 March 2017).  However, late last night Indian time the chief executives of the BCCI and Cricket Australia (CA), Rahul Johri and James Sutherland, met in Mumbai and held lengthy discussions, after which the BCCI withdrew the complaint hours after it was lodged.

Sutherland said in a ‘joint statement' issued afterwards an India-Australia series "is bound to generate considerable excitement for fans in both the countries. On the field the two teams are fierce competitors who represent their countries with pride. As we have seen this week in Bangalore, with so much at stake, tensions can bubble over. We are half way through what has already been a riveting series, and we have agreed that it is in the best interests of the game to put these differences aside [so the focus will be] on the cricket”.

John expressed similar sentiments in the statement, adding that the BCCI "will withdraw the complaint filed with ICC with an expectation that the two captains will meet prior to the [third Test in] Ranchi and commit to lead their teams by example and play the rest of the series, in the right spirit, demonstrating that the players from both teams are true ambassadors for their respective countries”.

Prior to last night’s Mumbai meeting there were a raft of stories in the media of both nations about the issues involved.  Match referee Chris Broad is said to have told an Australian journalist that Smith’s indiscretion was the first of the match, which is a different view to that expressed by Indian captain Virat Kohli who claimed he witnessed two other such examples.  Broad is also said to have indicated that Smith did not face any penalty because umpire Nigel Llong intervened before any indiscretion was actually committed.

Australian Assistant Coach David Saker was quoted in an article published on CA's web site on Thursday evening as saying, in regard to Smith’s look at the dressing room: "we were more horrified than anyone else because we’d never seen that before”.  He went on to stress the team "haven’t got any elaborate sign system and when he did [look to us in the dressing room] it was quite a surprise”.

Another story posted on CA’s web site that day says Australian batsman Peter Handscomb, who was batting with Smith at the time in what was his sixth Test, was ignorant of the ICC’s ‘no off-field input’ regulation in regards to reviews, and that as such the situation "inadvertently exposed a loophole in the national team’s player education program".

The ‘Sydney Daily Telegraph’ claimed in a report on Thursday that Broad "caught a flight out of town within hours, moving quicker than a body surfer spotting a tsunami coming over the horizon”, a comment that reflects the general hysteria that has been part of reporting in both countries in recent days.  A ‘Wisden India’ article the same day said in reference to West Indian Richie Richardson who will be the match referee for the forthcoming third and fourth Tests, that with "the ICC asking for the show to go on, he has quite a task to maintain the peace”.

In an article published on Friday morning, Andrew Wu of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ says the ICC had spoken to both cricket boards in an attempt to bring peace.  He goes on to say: "After a thorough review by match officials and senior ICC figures, including chief executive David Richardson, the governing body believed they could not sustain any charges from the second Test. They now consider the matters emanating from the match as case closed.  Had charges been pressed and not accepted, the ICC were risking being involved in a costly legal case which would have taken attention away from a showcase [India-Australia] series”.

Former NZ first class umpire dies.

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10478.

Auckland umpire Peter Gasston, a member of New Zealand Cricket’s (NZC) Reserve Panel for ten seasons from 2005-14, died at the age of 56 on Monday.  During that time he stood in six first-class, eight List A and eight NZC domestic Twenty20 fixtures, as well as 20 women's domestic league matches and numerous national tournaments.  NZC said he was "a loyal and dedicated member" of the Auckland Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association who made a "significant contribution" to Auckland Cricket both on and off the field.

Aussie umpire flown in for Hong Kong T20 series.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10479.

Hong Kong Cricket (HKC) is using eight match officials, five umpires and two referees, including Australian first class umpire John Ward, for its five-team, five-day, eleven-match Twenty20 ‘Blitz’ series this week, the final being scheduled for Sunday.  Local players in what is the second edition of the tournament have been bolstered by the presence of a number of high-profile internationals who have, like Ward, been flown in for the event.

Apart from Ward the umpires are Indian-born Hong Kong residents Tauseef Bukhara and Ramasamy Venkatesh, and Australian-born residents Ian Thomson and Lou Coulthard, while the match referees are the latter pair’s countrymen and Hong Kong residents Charlie Burke and Matt Stiller.  Burke is currently head coach of the Hong Kong National Men and Women's cricket teams and Stiller the HKC's Programs Coordinator.

Just what the arrangement is regarding Ward’s participation in the event is not known, however, Paul Wilson his colleague on Cricket Australia’s (CA) National Umpires Panel, did so last year (PTG 1838-9204, 28 May 2016).  CA said in an article on its web site that:  "Although in the midst of the Australian cricket season, Ward’s involvement was made possible due to a break in his own hectic umpiring schedule”.  The helmet-wearing Australian has also officiated in the last two editions of the Caribbean Premier League (PTG 1895-9502, 9 August 2016).

Redfern keen to boost female participation in game.

PTG Editor.

ECB media release.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10480.

Sue Redfern, who play six Tests and 15 One Day Internationals for England, is no stranger to cricket on the big stage.  But arguably it is in another area of the game that Redfern, 39, has really made her mark, becoming one of a group of pioneering female umpires in England and Wales, and throughout the world.

Nottinghamshire-born Redfern was one of four female officials on a panel of nine at the recent Women’s World Cup Qualifier (WWCQ) series in Sri Lanka.  She stood in six of those matches and also served as television umpire for the final (PTG 2056-10411, 22 February 2017). That event allowed her and fellow female umpires Kathleen Cross, Jacqueline Williams and Claire Polosak, to stake a claim to stand in this year’s Womens' World Cup, which takes place in England in late June and July.

For Redfern though, he involvement as an umpire is more than personal umpiring opportunities – it’s a unique chance to inspire women to get involved in cricket in more than just a playing capacity.  Employed full-time as the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Birmingham-based 'Regional Clubs and Facilities Manager’, she says encouraging women is "massively important [as] some of the teams in the [WWCQ] have probably never had female umpires, that’s the reality of the global stage”.

She says: “The International Cricket Council (ICC), supported by the ECB, has been very forward thinking in identifying four females [Cross, Polosak, Williams and herself] from across the world to be on the ICC's [third tier] panel to support this project to try and have women officials represented at the World Cup.  When you look at countries like ourselves, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, we’ve got female officials officiating across our pathways. Women in some of the [WWCQ] countries will not have seen the opportunity until now to be able to officiate” (PTG 2051-10393, 17 February 2017).

“If one of those players goes back home and says do you know what, when I retire I’m going to be an umpire because I can stay in the game, and it starts that off in that country, that’s a fantastic achievement.  There’s definitely a more global communication in play with this”.  It all starts at home, however, and Redfern is just as passionate about being involved at a grassroots level in her ECB job.

“When I was playing cricket there were female officials, there were female umpires.  One of the biggest differences now is there’s more opportunity for women to umpire in a variety of formats and progress through the pathway – 95 per cent of my umpiring is in men’s cricket so it’s important that women feel like they have plenty of options. You can officiate wherever you want, you should be given the opportunity. At the end of the day I want to be judged on my ability, not my gender”.

“There are girls growing up now who see not just an opportunity to play but an opportunity to take part in cricket in whatever format, however they want to be involved.  Being a female official, a female umpire, shows there are other roles for women – just because you don’t play doesn’t mean you can’t fulfil another role. Or when you finish playing, like my experience, there’s a great opportunity to stay involved".

“When we go back to the 1973 Women’s World Cup (WWC) in England, there were two female officials on the pitch, so there’s a history of women officiating. The key thing is that now there are more opportunities, there’s a wider awareness that women have a large part to play in cricket and there’s less of a barrier to women taking part”.  There were actually nine women umpires who officiated in the 1973 WWC, a time  before the ICC started to oversee womens’ international cricket.

For those women who are today considering taking a step into umpiring, Redfern's advice is simple: “What’s really important is ultimately don’t be afraid in terms of thinking you haven’t got enough cricket experience or cricket knowledge. Be brave and pop yourself on to an umpire’s course, get appointments and find people who can support you. Just because you might be the first lady in your local area who’s an umpire, that’s ok, there are people who are absolutely going to support you".

Redfern “got such enjoyment out of cricket as a player" she wants to ensure that players get the same opportunity she got and provide a good quality service so they enjoy their game" and want to play on.

Another Test, another ‘brain fade'.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10481.

Bangladesh opening batsman Tamim Iqbal was 'run out' in unusual circumstances on day two of the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday.  Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella appealed for a caught behind off spinner Lakshan Sandakan, but as soon as his appeal was turned down by umpire Aleem Dar, he quickly removed the bails for the batsman had moved out of his crease, possibly not aware Dickwella had the ball.

Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusinghe, echoing Australian captain Steven Smith earlier in the week in Bengaluru (PTG  , said after the day’s play that the opener appeared to have had "a brain fade” (PTG 2069-10471, 9 March 2017).  He said his team were "very disappointed because we were cruising at that time” at 0/118.

Earlier in the day, Bangladesh fast bowler Subashish Roy thought he had dismissed Sri Lankan Kusal Mendis caught on the boundary, but at the same time the bowler was celebrating umpire Marais Erasmus was signalling six.  Mendis played a hook shot at a bouncer only to get a top edge. Fine-leg fielder Mustafizur, who was some five metres inside the boundary ran backwards, got under the ball, but made no attempt to avoid the boundary line, stepping on the rope while taking the catch.   

Mendis was finally dismissed soon after in a similar fashion. But this time Tamim Iqbal was aware of the ropes for he first took the catch, tossed it up inside the boundary, left the field of play, then returned to grasp the ball cleanly. 

Blame the dills who get it wrong, not the UDRS.

Patrick Smith.

The Australian.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10482.

Peter Lalor, my colleague at this newspaper, has expressed the view that the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) is “killing the spirit of cricket (PTG 2069-10472, 9 March 2017).  Please bare with me then as I express the opposite view, for my assessment is that the system continues to be an excellent way to adjudge decisions on the field, provided the protocols that support it are adhered to,

Virat Kohli is ranked the second-best batsman in the world. Nothing much gets past him; no thought nor out swinger.  Picture this possible scenario: the India captain stands still waiting for the bowler to deliver. The ball is well short of a length, just outside the line of his body and Kohli swivels, a powerful pirouette, as he seeks to hook the ball for easy runs.

The skipper has miscalculated the estimated time of arrival and the ball hurtles at him, almost squealing, after landing on a wide crack in the pitch. Kohli’s recalibration is rushed and wrong. The ball touches his glove and is captured by Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.

Kohli immediately and apparently innocently, begins scratching away at the batting crease. He knows he is out but also knows a Test match might ride with the umpire’s opinion. Not out, says the umpire. And shakes his head to underline his conclusion.  The opposition captain, Australian Steve Smith, stands at second slip as his teammates implore him to review the decision. Smith looks quickly to the changing room for some sign of guidance.  One of these two men — Smith and Kohli — is cheating. And it is not Kohli.

With no reviews left to reconsider the decision, this contrived scenario would point to what is at the heart of the hostility between the top two Test sides in the world that reached its most squalid moments in Bengaluru this week.  And that is that the lInternational Cricket Council’s Test match Playing Conditions, have given rules around the UDRS more weight than they require or deserve. 

In Bengaluru, Smith got into trouble because he sought guidance from not just his batting partner but his coaches off the field and in their viewing rooms (PTG 2068-10468, 8 March 2017).

A batsman has 15 seconds from the moment the umpire signals out before the time to ask for a review lapses. The chance of the team hunched over televisions and whizzbang tools off the field giving a more informed decision than those arrived at by the eyewitnesses at the scene — the batsman and his partner — are minimal to negligible. Maybe a smidgen more if some observers are right when say the television picture from cameras at the ground back to a TV set there is delayed a second or two.

The lesson to be learnt is that the UDRS continues to be an excellent system to adjudge decisions on the field. It is the rules and the dills around it who can make it look foolish. The UDRS standardises decisions: the same equipment, theory and algorithms are used to reach a finding on each appeal. So if we concede that much — calculations are made by computers using the same mechanics and reckonings every time — then the only variations are caused by human input.

For example: in Bengaluru, Australian Shaun Marsh did not review a poor umpiring decision. Had he, an LBW decision would have been overturned and a Test match lost may well have been won. That is not the fault of the review system.  On the other hand should a third umpire misinterpret the information given to them by the UDRS technology, it is not the system that is at fault but the men in charge of analysing what it presents them that must take the blame.

In the past seven Tests Australia has used the UDRS successfully nearly 37 per cent of the time, India just 26 per cent. These are figures that point not to deficiencies or inconsistencies in the UDRS but rather the more experienced and cool-headed captains who call for them.  India have come late and reluctantly to the UDRS system. It probably shows in the players’ anxiety and eagerness about employing it and their unease seeing opponents prosper from it.

When players call for a review now in tennis they simply accept Hawk-Eye’s deliberation even if it shows the ball to be a breadth of a hair out on some calls. So be it, say the tennis players and the match goes on without the old histrionics (Australians Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic aside).  It has taken much of the angst and inaccuracy out of umpiring. It certainly has not reduced the quality of the tennis as the classic 2017 Australian Open men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in January showed in everlasting glory.

The UDRS remains underused. If batsmen still refuse to walk and thus call for a review even when they have snapped their bats in hitting the ball to slips, not only should they be given out if the UDRS proves it but their side should be docked 20 runs as well.  That would ensure that even if they talked the talk they would walk the walk … very quickly.

Time for umpire’s revenge as politicians play the media?

PTG Editor.

CT media release.

Thursday, 9 March 2017.

PTG 2070-10483.

A team of Tasmania politicians will play their 19th annual match against a Tasmanian media side at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Friday.  The fixture, which has been described as “the most dishonest game of cricket ever played”, will be umpired by outgoing Cricket Tasmania (CT) chief executive David Johnston and the organisation’s chairman Andrew Gaggin.  

"To have myself and the Chairman be able to get something back on some media who have probably written some articles we haven’t been all that happy about and some of the pollies who haven’t given us all the attention we needed at different times will be gratifying”, said Johnston who is to leave his position next month after 19 years.  

Johnston thinks "the print media might be in for a hard time, there are a number of instances, nothing I’d like to highlight specifically, that maybe we can get some revenge on”.  “It’s also interesting in that for the politicians, who are from different sides pf politics and have never won the contest in the 18 attempts to date, it’s one of the rare occasions where they have to work together to get an outcome that is beneficial to all of them”.

The chief executive is confident his chairman will be up to the umpiring task.  “Whether he’s got any axe to grind which might be slightly different to me, I don’t know, but he’ll be in it for the right reasons.  What we are looking for is an enjoyable game for everybody and hopefully a close finish”.


 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,071

Saturday, 11 March 2017

 

• ECB accused of bullying counties over T20 changes [2071-10484].

• Fire alarm stops play in Dunedin Test [2071-10485].

• Keep players out of the UDRS equation, says former Test official [2071-10486].

• Watching cricket history from the best seat in the house [2071-10487].

ECB accused of bullying counties over T20 changes.

Elizabeth Ammon.

The Times. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2071-10484.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is facing a revolt from some counties that do not stage Test matches over its plans to push through a significant change to its articles and constitution (PTG 2065-10459, 5 March 2017).

Executives from the category B and C counties — those that do not host Test matches — are to meet on Monday week to discuss their concerns about the change and the implications of the proposed eight-team city-based Twenty20 competition before the ECB’s planned vote a week later.

At least six of the non-Test match counties have become increasingly concerned that they are being asked to vote to change the existing constitution, removing their power of veto and, for the first time, allowing the ECB to introduce tournaments that don’t include all 18 first-class counties.

The ECB needs these changes to be approved before it can begin the formal process of putting the broadcast rights for 2020 to 2024 out for bids.

One county executive said: “We feel bullied into voting for a huge change to the ECB’s constitution which has potentially far-reaching future consequences for domestic cricket in this country and which could be the thin end of the wedge to the future reduction of county cricket”.

The ECB’s constitution states that all 18 first-class counties have to take part in all ECB domestic competitions. Some counties want to ensure that any changes to this are specific to the new T20 competition only and do not give any constitutional scope for the reduction of teams in the County Championship or other domestic competitions.

County executives have been given further details of how the new T20 competition will work in a memo effectively threatens counties who try to obstruct the introduction of the tournament by not signing over their media rights to the ECB. Those counties risk being denied the promised £UK1.3 million ($A2.1 m) a year of new income from the competition.

Surrey and Middlesex are understood to be two of the counties who have not yet signed the ECB’s media-rights document (PTG 2044-10355, 10 February 2017).

Fire alarm stops play in Dunedin Test.

PTG Editor. 

Media reports.

Friday, 10 March 2017.

PTG 2071-10485.

Play in the first Test between New Zealand and South Africa at the University Oval in Dunedin was halted on Friday after a fire alarm in the main grandstand forced the evacuation of the venue and stopped play for about 30 minutes.  Players and match officials waited on the field after the some 3,300 people in the main grandstand and other viewing areas were cleared by security staff . 

The alarm went off after tea on the third day and soon after everyone on the grounds was asked to leave, including the players, television crew and other media, support staff, and spectators.  The media were evacuated from the ground for about two minutes before being told they could go back in, after the fire department had checked out the grandstand and given it the all clear.  The fire service indicate the grandstand fire alarm may have been caused by steam. 

Play was extended at the end of the day to make up the time lost, however, in the end bad light eventually led to players leaving the field.

Keep players out of the UDRS equation, says former Test official.

Clayton Murielle.

Midday.com

Friday, 10 March 2017.

PTG 2071-10486.

South African Cyril Mitchley, the first umpire to refer a decision to a colleague with access to a television replay, has called for removal of the player factor in the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS).  Johannesburg-based Mitchell, made that initial referral for a run out call way back in 1992, Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar being the player involved (PTG 2040-10336, 6 February 2017). 

The now 78-year-old did not want to comment on the shenanigans in the recent India-Australia Test at Bangalore  (PTG 2070-10477, 10 March 2017), but was clear in his view that players should not play a role in the UDRS.  Mitchell said on Wednesday:  "Give umpires the right to refer cases upstairs. They should be able to say, 'I have a doubt and I would like to check this’. It has to be the umpire who should reach out for technological help — not the bowler, not the batsman — only the umpire”.

 

Mitchley reckoned umpires don't have much on their plate like they did in his umpiring days. "All this technology takes away a thing called umpiring. I was against UDRS right from the start. I supported India's reluctance to embrace this particular technology because it was not perfect. UDRS is still getting it wrong and we are in big trouble”, he remarked, pointing to opener David Warner’s LBW decision in Australia's second innings at Bangalore.

"I watched Warner's dismissal on television and that was diabolical; that was a shocker”, he said. The Australian opener and vice-captain opted for a review but it came down to the umpire's call and Warner had to go despite the ball going outside off-stump”, said Mitchley .

While he wanted umpires to have a big say in the UDRS, Mitchley suggested minus points for umpires who end up getting things wrong. "For every bad call, the match referee can make a negative mark against the particular umpire and that according to me is the way to go”, he said.

Asked to recall his decision to check with the third umpire when it came to adjudicating on Tendulkar's run out in the Durban Test of the 1992-93 series, Mitchley said: "When I called for the replay, I asked myself, 'What are you doing standing in the middle of this ground?' I didn't feel comfortable”. Tendulkar played a Brian McMillan delivery to cover point where Rhodes stopped the ball before throwing it to Andrew Hudson at the stumps.

"Remember, it was Ali Bacher, South Africa captain-turned Board chief, who introduced this technology. I asked Ali how far down the road did he see technology playing a part and he said it was only for run outs and stumpings. Today, we use technology for everything”, said Mitchley.

Watching cricket history from the best seat in the house.

Andrew Faulkner.

The Australian.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2071-10487.

Australian Max O’Connell denies he is hexed. Or has supernatural powers of any description.  The former Test umpire has a Gump-esque knack of being on duty during the game’s most memorable moments. When the scarcely believable happens. Bad as well as good.

O’Connell was the one who told Dennis Lillee to take his aluminium bat home. Might as well take the ball too Dennis, given your unholy rod has knocked it out of shape. Brave man is Max.  He was umpiring when Graeme Watson was hit by a Tony Greig beamer. Hit so hard he required 40 pints of blood.

And O’Connell was officiating when Alan Turner and Jeff Thomson collided in Adelaide. The fastest bowler of all time never bowled as fast again. Considering all of the above it is hardly surprising that O’Connell was officiating during cricket’s most inexplicable event — the day Australia won the 1977 Centenary Test by 45 runs, exactly the same margin as the very first Test.

Forty years ago on Sunday the greatest Test started at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Before the game ‘Time' magazine splashed with “Test of the Century”. And so it was. This was not so much a Test match as a five day highlights package. Lillee’s 11 wickets. Derek Randall’s 174. David Hookes’ five fours in a row. On debut.

Rod Marsh breaking Wally Grout’s dismissals record and scoring the first Test 100 by an Australian keeper against Eng­land. But the image that lingers is Rick McCosker all bound up like a cartoon character with a chronic toothache. Another Test, another player for O’Connell to assist from the field.  His jaw smashed by a Bob Willis bouncer on the first day, McCosker returned swaddled in bandages to help Marsh to his 100 and add 54 decisive runs for the ninth wicket.

O’Connell was at square leg when McCosker was hit.  “Tony Greig beat me to it”, he said at the time. “Tony was straight in to help him. And he was in a bad way. We got half way to the rooms and Don Beard met us”.

Don Beard, old cricket salts will tell you, is one of the game’s great characters. The towering, angular former fast bowler was a combat doctor at the Battle of Kapyong in Korea in the early 1950s and, as South Australia’s team doctor, frequently and theatrically ran onto the field with his little medical bag when any of his boys was hit.

Beard was not on duty during the Centenary Test. Conveniently for such a cricket tragic (Thomson once bowled to Don Bradman in nets installed in Beard’s backyard) he was in Melbourne for a medical conference. The regular team ­doctor had been rushed to help a heart attack victim in the bowels of the stadium.

McCosker had his jaw wired tightly shut in hospital and was released to bat in the second innings. Oh, and meet the Queen and Prince Philip, who arrived on day five.  It was a one-way conversation, O’Connell says. McCosker was always a quiet sort of chap but Prince Philip seemed puzzled by just how quiet he was. Never mind. Perhaps the umpire will be more receptive.

“When he got to me he said something along the lines of: ‘Oh I’ve been waiting to see this game. I’ve been watching it on TV on the yacht. I couldn’t wait to be here’. Well he only got to see about two hours”.

In a week when cricket sportsmanship or lack thereof has been in the headlines, consider England captain Greig’s instructions to fast bowler John Lever when the wounded McCosker walked out to bat.

“He told him to bowl a short, slow, leg-side ball to give him one to get off the mark”, O’Connell says. And so Lever did. And so McCosker did. Consider also when Randall was given out caught by Marsh. The keeper protested that the ball didn’t carry, and Randall was recalled. And ponder over how Randall doffed his cap when Lillee sent a bouncer flying past his nose. And how he hit the deck, feverishly rubbing his head when another Lillee bumper found its mark.

It was another age. And imagine, Test cricket in March? Forty years later the MCG drop-ins are lifted out in February.

The match was also a link with ages past. The 218 Test players in attendance included Harold Larwood, Clarrie Grimmett and The Don, of course. Jack Ryder and Percy Fender reminisced about the 1920-21 Ashes. O’Connell, who today is now 80, adds still more colour from his mind eye at 22 yards. Hookes’s five fours in a row were something but O’Connell says the sixth shot — a powerful cover drive — was the best of the lot.

Max Walker’s delivery to get Greig — an inswinger that went late and fast — was the best ball he saw in his umpiring career. And O’Connell overheard Her Majesty’s reply when Lillee asked for her autograph. “Now, now Mr ­Lillee, perhaps later”.

Yes, another age. An age in which Marsh and the Queen shook gloved hands; hers snow white and elbow-length, his of the sweaty inner variety.

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,072

Sunday, 12 March 2017

 

• ICC meeting to look at Test championship issues [2072-10488].

• New bat size limits not an issue, says Aussie opener [2072-10489].

• BCCI reportedly push back on ‘poor’ Pune pitch rating [2072-10490].

• Two players to again face questioning in PSL investigation [2072-10491].

• Non first-class counties support new ECB T20 competition [2072-10492].

• Separate draft for England Test players in new ECB T20 competition [2072-10493].

• Bengaluru UDRS furore opens huge can of worms [2072-10494].

ICC meeting to look at Test championship issues.

Vijay Tagore.

Mumbai Mirror.

Sunday, 12 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10488.

The first step towards the World Test championship is being taken in Dubai on Monday and Tuesday (PTG 2039-10324, 5 February 2017). The International Cricket Council (ICC) has called a meeting of the scheduling managers of Full Member boards to finalise the plan for the championship which is tentatively being scheduled for 2019.

The existing proposal is to have a four-year cycle with a cut-off date for finals qualification, the two top teams at that stage playing a Test to decide the winner. The coming meeting will finalise when the cut-off point will be.  The ICC is seeking members’ views as to whether to start the championship cycle retrospectively or prospectively. If the cycle is to start from April this year, then there is a chance that the 2019 date may not bed viable.

For the time being, the ICC will adopt the 9+3 format for the Test matches with two sides in the nine team group qualifying to compete for the title. Currently, India and Australia are the top two sides in ICC Test rankings, while Afghanistan and Ireland are the potential contenders for the extra two Test spots.

There are likely to be discussions about several bilateral series in Dubai, the most vexing being India-Pakistan which is currently listed for year-end. There is no guarantee the series will take place and the Pakistan Cricket Board has said that it is already looking at possible alternatives.  The Indian side may explore options but the problem before it is that the go-ahead from their government for the tour could come at the last minute. Therefore a back-up plan may be prepared.

Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) Committee of Administrators (CoA) has scheduled a two-day meeting in Mumbai later this month to discuss a number of matters. Demand for a salary rise from support staff of the Indian team and proposals for central contracts are awaiting decisions.  A separate CoA meeting will be held in Delhi this week to discuss issues related to the implementation of the Lodha Committee's report.

New bat size limits not an issue, says Aussie opener.

Sam Ferris.

CA web site.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10489.

Australian opener David Warner is confident the upcoming bat-size restrictions set by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) will not have an adverse effect on run scoring. In fact, Warner says the Law change may actually help, not hinder, batsmen. 

The MCC announced on Tuesday that from October the thickness of professional cricket bats will be restricted to a maximum of 108 mm in width, 67 mm in depth and 40 mm edges (PTG 2067-10462, 7 March 2017).  The bat Warner currently uses for the Twenty20 game, the beefiest in his armoury, has a maximum depth of 85 mm, a full 18 mm more than the new Law  permits.  

Warner said on Saturday: "We're just going to have to adapt to the changes.  The ball will still go the same distance, still go to the fence, we'll still get our ones and twos.  The odd nick might not carry this time”.

While the changes to Law 6, which are designed to "redress the balance between bat and ball", are still seven months away, Warner has already been in contact with his bat manufacturer, Gray-Nicolls.  He and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who is also contracted to that compnay, visited their warehouse in Melbourne late last year to look at new designs and also test older versions to see whether they would be legal under the new permitted dimensions. 

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who is on the MCC panel that recommended the size change, says feedback from key stakeholders in cricket convinced the game's law makers to go ahead with the new rules.  "We consulted manufactures and players; 60 or 70 per cent of the players felt the bats had got too big which made the decision easier”, Ponting said on New Zealand radio.  "We asked all the bat companies for their thoughts and opinions on it all, and they felt they could make high-quality bats perform well under those limitations”.

BCCI reportedly push back on ‘poor’ Pune pitch rating.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10490.

So far unconfirmed reports say the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) disagrees the 'poor' rating given by match referee Chris Broad to the pitch used for the first India-Australia Test in Pune.  An unnamed official from the Board of Control for Cricket In India (BCCI) has been quoted by the ‘Times of India’ as saying: "That wasn't a poor pitch.  The Aussies scored 260 and 285 on it, after all. The definition of a poor pitch is that there's uneven bounce, and batsmen are getting hurt. Did that happen in Pune?  Therefore to term the Pune wicket as poor is harsh”. 

If that report is correct, the BCCI will by now have advised the International Cricket Council of its views on the matter.  The world body will now review footage from the Test before making a final decision on whether to impose a penalty for a substandard pitch, which could be as little as a warning or a maximum of a fine of a fine not exceeding $US15,000 ($A19,545, £UK12,060) given together with a directive for appropriate corrective action”. 

Two players to again face questioning in PSL investigation.

Umar Farooq.

Cricinfo.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10491.

Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Irfan and batsman Shahzaib Hasan have been summoned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in relation to their investigation into alleged corruption in the recent Pakistan Super League (PSL) series. Both men were called in for questioning by the PCB’s anti-corruption unit in Dubai last month but were cleared to continue playing in the tournament. Now, a PCB spokesman said, they face the possibility of being charged. 

Two cricketers - Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif - have already been charged by the PCB for various code-of-conduct breaches, including attempting to corrupt a cricket match (PTG 2054-10401, 20 February 2017). They are currently provisionally suspended and a three-member tribunal has been set up to hear their cases next week in Lahore. 

Irfan and Shahzaib had previously come forward to report approaches made on them at the PSL. They have now been recalled so that the anti-corruption unit can vet their stories. "PCB has initiated the investigation from the lead left in Dubai”, a spokesman told reporters at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. 

"It has started with both [Shahzaib and Irfan] being issued a demand note and by that both are bound to share all the information [they have] with the PCB's anti-corruption unit". "Irfan has been summoned to appear on Monday while Shahzaib asked to appear on Tuesday. The PCB anti-corruption unit will assess their evidence and information and will determine whether to charge them or not”.

Amid the ongoing investigation, Irfan has not been selected in a pool of 31 players to undergo a training camp ahead of the West Indies tour. Shahzaib, however, has not been in contention for a place in the national team since 2010, when he played the last of his three One Day Internationals and 10 Twenty20 Internationals. 

Non first-class counties support new ECB T20 competition.

Rob Johnston.

Cricbuzz.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10492.

The 21 non-first-class counties are in favour of England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) proposed new proposed Twenty20 competition and are likely to vote to change the ECB's constitution should that be required to allow the tournament to take place.

The current ECB’s Articles of the constitution do not allow any competition to be held without the 18 first-class counties having the option to enter. They state: "The board shall not have the power to deprive a first-class county club of the right to participate in all first-class county competitions authorised by the ECB”.

This will likely require amending if a new eight-team tournament, outside the county structure, is to get the go-ahead. Any changes to the ECB's Articles require the votes of all 41 ECB members, which includes the chairmen of the 18 first-class counties, the 21 non first class counties, the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Minor Counties Cricket Association.

According to Devon County Cricket Club Chairman and ECB Board Member Jim Wood, the vast majority of the 21 non first class chairmen are in favour of the new competition and are likely to vote accordingly. "I've spoken to 19 counties. The recreational chairmen are very close to grassroots cricket”, he says. "Many are still involved in local club cricket, even though they are chairmen of their county boards. They understand that our current professional product only meets the need of those currently in cricket".

"What we all recognise is that we need something that is new, innovative and vibrant that's going to attract those that are wavering. What we've got doesn't appeal to a nine-year old. Even if they are cricketers, when you ask them what their favourite cricket is, they tell you Cricket Australia's Big Bash League or the Indian Premier League. They wouldn't tell you our current T20 competition. The average age of people going to the current ‘Blast’ T20 series is 41. It's not children going”.

The latest update document published by the ECB and sent to all counties this week, confirms the approach towards the Articles is being developed. Whether the tournament is deemed a 'first-class county competition' if played by regional teams, and therefore requires changing, is one consideration. The proposal will be circulated to all first-class county chairmen and chief executives during the week commencing on Monday week ahead of the next update meeting on Monday fortnight.

Wood said: "The changes to the current Articles have not been finalised, it's a work in progress.  The 21 non first class county chairmen will be given the opportunity to hear the exact same presentation as the first-class chairmen to then make their decision”.

Critics of the proposed new tournament argue that it could marginalise the first-class counties. Essex chairman John Faragher said two weeks ago that he fears some clubs would become "minor counties" if the plans come in to effect (PTG 2063-10449, 2 March 2017). With the potential for such an impact on the first-class teams, it is fair to ask whether the non first-class counties should be involved in such a decision.

"I have had no push back from my non first-class chairs who have a vote”, says Wood. "The reason they would vote is not because they are treading in to first-class county territory because they're not. This is about a new product that is an ECB product that is linked to a different audience. At the same time, our current T20 competition will continue”.

Wood refutes the allegation that the new competition is driven simply by money. The ECB will start the process to rope in a new broadcasting deal shortly, which could provide a windfall for them and the 18 first-class counties, many of whom need the cash injection. "Yes, it's about developing something that a broadcaster would be interested in although it's not just about money”, says Wood.

The ECB have recently launched their 'Cricket Unleashed' initiative to get more people engaged with the game. Wood sees the proposed tournament as a part of that strategy together with the new 'All Stars' coaching initiative aimed at getting more children to play the game.

"My colleagues feel that doing nothing will watch our clubs gradually disappear. You have to attempt to be innovative. It's not about trying to massage the current cricket audience. It's trying to get a new audience, people who interested in sport and if we can put on something that might attract them, they might come to clubs and more people might play”.

Separate draft for England Test players in new ECB T20 competition.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10493.

England’s Test players could appear in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) proposed new Twenty20 competition when it is launched in 2020.  The latest briefing document for the new tournament, which was circulated to the counties this week, reveals that England’s Test players will be allocated in a separate player draft. 

The document also outlines more detail for the proposed main player draft to be held before the tournament and confirms in writing the ECB’s promise that each of the 18 counties will earn a minimum of £UK 1.3 million ($A2.1 m) a year from the competition even though they will not be taking part.

The new competition will be held in July-August and it had been assumed that England’s Test players would not be able to take part due to international commitments. However, they will be allocated to new teams in a separate draft to the main player auction should a window open for them to appear in the new event.  England’s highest profile players will be used to promote the tournament and will receive a match fee for every game they play.

In the first player draft of its kind in British sport, 13 players will be bought by each of the eight teams. Players will be sold at six salary bands. Two players will be bought in bands A-E then three in band F and teams will be allowed three overseas players.

The ECB memo anticipates that only five players per county will be involved in the new competition meaning more than half of the current 300 professional cricketers in England will not be picked up. They will instead play for their counties in the 50-over tournament that will run alongside the new competition. Two ‘wild-card’ selections per team will be made after the county ‘Blast' Twenty20, giving those players without a deal a way into the new tournament.

The rules for the draft mean that each team will draw lots to decide the order in which they pick before each salary band. Team one will be able to pick the first player in group A, and then the last player in group B and so on. There will be a 24-hour trade period after the draft so teams can swap players to balance their squads.

Coaches will be free to work at their local venue, a reverse of the original plan, and the new teams will be given a set coaching budget.  Teams will be allowed to retain a maximum of eight and minimum of four players for year two. Contracts will be for one year but with an option for a second at a higher salary. Players not retained will go back into the draft for year two.

An independent medical panel will be appointed to rule on injured players, who can be replaced from those not picked in the draft. The same rule will apply for players called up to play Test cricket.

The ECB’s ‘Blast' Twenty20 will start on the final weekend of May and run until mid-July, leaving a gap of only four days before the new tournament begins.  The eight new teams will play 36 matches in total over 38 days and all games will be televised. On the two weekends when there is no Test cricket, matches will be held in the afternoon and evening to capitalise on television audiences.

There is still no indication of where the teams will be based. An independent panel will be set up and the venues will be co-ordinated with allocation of international cricket.  The ECB is to meet to discuss the proposals with the counties on Monday fortnight.

Bengaluru UDRS furore opens huge can of worms.

Gideon Haigh.

The Australian.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2072-10494.

The only way to deal with an open can of worms is, proverbially, to obtain a much larger can. Thus this week’s agreement between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (PTG 2070-10477, 10 March 2017), after they had issued violently clashing statements in support of their ­captains after the second Test at Bengaluru (PTG PTG 2069-10471, 9 March 2017).

There had already been a ­conspicuous clatter as the Inter­national Cricket Council (ICC) tucked its Code of Conduct can opener away in the disciplinary drawer, enjoining the antagonists to “focus their energies on the third Test”. And people did just need to cool it, for as long as necessary for perspective to dawn.

Australian captain Steve Smith was wrong; Peter Handscomb his batting partner at the time, while inexperienced and well-meaning, was wronger still. Indeed it beggars belief that modern cricketers could be so obtuse about the conduct of the game as to start surveilling player viewing areas for escape clauses. Under the circumstances, indian captain Virat Kohli’s suspicion was perfectly pardonable.

Yet this is also a grey area in the Playing Conditions. Consultation about a review, it is true, can only be on-field; but Bengaluru was the first occasion anyone could recall umpires needing to define that line.

Some aspects of the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) protocols, moreover, remain ambiguous. In the NZ-Australia One Day International 13 months ago in Hamilton, umpires referred a caught and bowled after a big screen replay revealed that Mitchell Marsh had hit the ball into his boot and Brendon McCullum on seeing it reiterated his appeal (PTG 1758-8767, 10 February 2016). Smith opted not to make an issue of this, but made a useful point: “He was out, there was no doubt about that. But if I get hit on the pad next time and it’s missing leg, do I stand there and wait until it’s going to show that on the big screen?”

In a general sense, too, ­cricket’s playing area is scarcely sealed. The modern field hosts a seemingly unregulated parade of reserves and helpmates, with drinks, gloves, tab­lets etc, and also, as we know, from time to time, messages. And messages can come in all forms. ­Cricket frowned on Hansie Cronje’s earpiece; but boundaries have grown, if anything, more porous.

Under the circumstances, umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth did very well, acting promptly, decisively and firmly. Kohli did not need to say anything at all, during the incident or after the match. Regrettably he could not contain himself.

Private suspicion is one thing; noisy public allegation of a pattern of behaviour, on the basis of assertion rather than evidence, is a leaf from Donald Trump’s playbook. To let a journalist then interpolate the word ‘cheat’ was then just too cute. Had Smith acquiesced in a similar description of Kohli, one suspects that this might already have been ruled off as a two-Test, instead of a four-Test, series.

Kohli is such a glorious cricketer and vivid personality that one is inclined to excuse his occasional verbal incontinence. But this was a lapse of taste and intelligence. The BCCI may have felt no choice but to back him — in the search for a minuscule patch of high moral ground after being caught in the act of cooking the Pune pitch — but succeeded in doubling down the crassness. At the same time, there is a point or two to be made in India’s favour. Such smug vindication has surrounded India’s final assimilation of the UDRS it has been overlooked that many of its initial criticisms were valid.

When the BCCI made its ­objections known nine years ago, the technology was inadequate, the protocols unclear, the adoption decidedly casual. It’s thanks to the need to win Indian support that we have as effective a system as we do.

There have also remained solid grounds for objection, not least the mission creep of what started as a television gimmick being allowed to mutate into cricket’s ultimate appeals court, and what was originally a means of redress for ‘howlers’ making welcome gamblers and chancers. The technology is still inconsistently applied, and subsidised by broadcasters rather than the ICC (PTG 2070-10482, 10 March 2017).

On the field, UDRS has become cricket’s ghost in the machine, subtly distorting surrounding behaviour, essentially providing a legal channel for dissent, on which the game has traditionally frowned. Availability is unevenly distributed — the later you bat and bowl, the less likely reviews will be on offer. Benefit of the doubt is no longer extended to the batter — it accrues instead to the umpire.

These aren’t necessarily arguments for its repeal. The best case for UDRS is watching a game without it, like India’s last Test defeat in Australia, when Cheteshwar Pujara was caught behind off his helmet and Ravi Ashwin off his thigh; or India’s last win against England, when Joe Root was LBW despite virtually leaving a splinter in the ball.

But crude as he was, Kohli pointed up that the UDRS is a conversation cricket has rather failed to have. And if there is sufficient of an incentive, every system will interest its users in gaming it. While denying his own team so indulged, Australian assistant coach David Saker conceded on Thursday that malpractice was perfectly conceivable: “Because there is a lot of time, that could actually happen if you wanted to do it”.

The incident at Bengaluru recalled a fleeting interlude in ­England’s first innings in 2013’s Old Trafford Test, when Australia hesitated to refer an LBW appeal against Kevin Pietersen — the confidence of bowler Shane Watson was insufficient for captain Michael Clarke and vice-captain Brad Haddin to seek a review.

At the time, Darren Lehmann was enjoying somewhat of a ­burlesque relationship with broadcaster ‘Sky', based on his ever-present earpiece: a reaction shot of the hearty Australian coach to commentary banter and on-field events had become almost a meme.

This reaction shot was different: on the player balcony, Lehmann was revealed signalling lugubriously with his right index finger. Clarke recalled the moment in his tour diary. “It was out”, Haddin said. “Who said that?” Clarke replied. The keeper gestured to the dressing room. Look in that direction today and you’d best have a big empty can handy.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,073

Monday, 13 March 2017

 

• NZ 'absolutely in favour’ of international game revamp [2073-10495].

• Du Plessis bemused by ICC disciplinary inconsistency [2073-10496].

• Review not needed after dismissal mode clarified [2073-10497].

• There’s an awful lot of cricket in Brazil [2073-10498].

NZ 'absolutely in favour’ of international game revamp.

Clay Wilson.

Stuff.co.nz

Sunday, 12 March 2017.

PTG 2073-10495.

In a New Zealand sense, playing the game’s longest format loses the national body money. A quick glance at crowd figures for Tests versus one-dayers and Twenty20s will tell you that.  It is of little surprise then that New Zealand Cricket (NZC) are "absolutely in favour" of significant changes to the structure of the international game that is set to be confirmed at the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June.

A two-year Test league, with the top nine nations in one competition and 10th full member Zimbabwe and ICC Associate nations Ireland and Afghanistan in another, received unanimous support at ICC meetings in Dubai early last month (PTG 2039-10324, 5 February 2017).  New Zealand's representative on the ICC board, NZC chairman Greg Barclay, said they recognised the primacy of Test cricket, and the position of the international game as a whole.

"If nothing else [the proposed changes] start to give relevancy to Tests and Test series at a bilateral level”, said Barclay.  "Bilateral cricket is very much on the decline and it doesn't give the punter any sense of relevancy ... for us, outside iconic series like Australia, games don't really mean anything.  To get this [new] structure, even though it's not quite as dynamic as originally proposed, is a step in the right direction and does start to address some of the fundamental issues”.

While he called the Test league, which some refer to as the Test championship, a "compromised outcome", after a two-tier structure with promotion and relegation between seven and five-team tiers was shelved, Barclay felt the latter arrangement would eventually come to fruition.  If meaningful discussions weren't taking place to that effect post-2019, once the championship had started, he would be very surprised.  It remains unclear exactly how that will play out.

How the championship would affect the amount of Test cricket played also fits into that category but the answer to that question is likely to be much clearer much sooner.  NZC chief executive David White and general manager of cricket operations Catherine Campbell are to take part in a workshop at ICC headquarters in Dubai next week that will look at such issues (PTG 2072-10488, 12 March 2017).

Barclay estimated the result would be fewer Tests, meaning a continuation of often-maligned one and two-Test series, and fewer international matches in general.  Fewer games could also reduce the amount of time players spent on the road away from wives, partners and children, and make it easier for them to participate in lucrative T20 competitions such as the Indian Premier League.

"We'd certainly fulfil any commitments we had under any bilateral playing arrangements but all countries recognise the welfare and well-being of the players has got to be one of our paramount concerns”, Barclay said.  "Even a small tweak to give them more time around recovery and being with family, that would help immeasurably.  It also lessens that juggle, which is a commercial reality, the cash and country type issue. We would be dumb to deny players the opportunity to maximise their income in and around the international program”.

There were no concerns at NZC, though, that fewer games would mean any loss in income, with the added context expected to drive value up in both a broadcast and bums-on-seats sense.  And the potential financial benefits for New Zealand do not end there.

Also being voted on at the ICC AGM in June is a complete constitutional review, which includes significant changes in how the organisation is governed and how revenue is distributed to member associations.  A proposed new financial model remains confidential, and is subject to change at the next ICC meetings in April, but it is understood New Zealand is one of several nations in for a sizeable windfall.

Under the current model, which came in during the so-called "Big Three" takeover in 2014 and directed much of the control towards India, Australia and England, NZC would make $US80-85 million ($A106-113 m, £UK66-70 m) from their share of an estimated ICC revenue of $US2.5 billion ($A3.3 bn, £UK2.1 bn) for the 2015-2023 rights cycle.  That was expected to lift to between $US110-115 million ($A146-152 m, £UK91-95 m) under the new model, and as high as $US150-155 m ($A199-205 m, £UK123-127 m) if ICC revenue for that period reached $US3 billion ($A3.9 bn, £UK2.5 bn).

Although the financial model had received the most publicity, Barclay stressed that was one part of the total constitutional review.  There was a "greater over-riding principle" of control, particularly the amount enjoyed by India, and the need to make the governance of world cricket "far more fair and equitable", he said.

Barclay did, however, acknowledge NZC would be in line for an extra amount of money that was "quite significant" if the new financial model went through.  He predicted it could mean a boost of around five per cent in what their ICC share contributed to their total annual revenue.  While not an absolute game-changer, Barclay said the extra funds would certainly be welcomed.  "It would just enable us to do those few things that we can't afford to or wouldn't take a risk on at the moment [such as] more youth and development stuff and the women's game would benefit at the level below the [national side]”.

Suggestions for amendments to all proposals will be considered at the ICC's April meetings and it is expected India, who had undergone significant upheaval at board level and stood to lose around $US180 million  ($A238 m, £UK148 m) in the 2015-2023 ICC rights cycle, will push hardest for change to the financial model in particular.  Barclay felt there may be minor tweaks but was confident what had been approved last month would go forward to the June AGM for final ratification.

Du Plessis bemused by ICC disciplinary inconsistency. 

Firdose Moonda.

Cricinfo.

Sunday, 12 March 2017.

PTG 2073-10496.

South African Faf du Plessis has admitted being "surprised" that neither Virat Kohli nor Steven Smith were charged with any breaches of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) player Code of Conduct in the aftermath of the Bengaluru Test.   Du Plessis thinks their actions were more serious than his own offence of shining the ball with the aid of an artificial substance in a Test in Hobart three months ago.  He lost his entire match fee and had two demerit points added to his disciplinary record for that offence (PTG 2010-10163, 22 December 2016). 

Du Plessis appealed that decision but lost and has since maintained that his punishment was harsh, especially because other teams, including Australia, admitted to shining the ball same way. Asked on Saturday for his reaction on the Kohli-Smith affair, du Plessis said he would have preferred to see the ICC deal his two opposite numbers a stronger hand. "I was [surprised that no one was charged] purely from the reason of what I went through for something I feel was a lot smaller and a lot less... whatever you want to call it. So yes, surprised with that”.

The South African said the reaction from the ICC was different to the way it dealt with him.  However, he would not be drawn further into what he thought of either Kohli or Smith's actions. He had said before this match that he did not expect the ongoing contest against New Zealand to get as tense as clashes against either India or Australia can be, not least because of the differences in the way the series are reported on. 

“[South Africa] and New Zealand are very similar in the way we play”, du Plessis said. "We respect each other on and off the field and we play a similar brand of cricket. We don't see that the way you carry on off the field will have an effect on the outcome. When you play a team like India and Australia that can happen and it's easy to see how that can blow up. For me it has been good to be on the other side for a bit and to see how things unfold. It would have been interesting to see how the Australian media would have reacted to me doing that”.

Review not needed after dismissal mode clarified.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Sunday, 12 March 2017.

PTG 2073-10497.

During the first Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Galle last week, the visitor's opener Soumya Sardar wanted to go to a review after he had been bowled, perhaps the first instance of a batsman opting to use the Umpire Decision Review System after being dismissed in such a way.  

Umpire Marais Erasmus took a relatively long time to raise his finger, and that apparently led to the batsman thinking he had been given out caught behind. Erasmus eventually advised Sardar he had been bowled, the ball after spinning away and beating the outside edge of the bat going on to clip the top of the off-stump, therefore the review was not proceed with. 

There’s an awful lot of cricket in Brazil.

PTG Editor.

ICC media release.

Saturday, 11 March 2017.

PTG 2073-10498.

Cricket Brasil employee Roberta Moratti recently spent two weeks each with Cricket Victoria (CV) and Cricket Australia (CA) in Melbourne, a visit that was supported by the Australia Awards Fellowships Program.  The government funded initiative is providing opportunities to staff from International Cricket Council second-tier Associate member countries to travel to Australia and learn from some of the world’s best cricket administrators.

The game in Brazil is a growing sport where developing projects with local schools have led to over 2,000 juniors getting involved for the first time. The 'Cricket Pocos de Caldas' social project is where Moretti first started playing the game, and she is now working on marketing the sport throughout the country’s targeted cities to grow the game.

During her visit, CV provided Moratti with direct experience of its array of programs including community coaching courses, female engagement clinics and a volunteer’s appreciation event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. She said: “[CV] was a fantastic first step to understand the full pathway of cricket in Australia, including female engagement. It gave me an understanding of the training undertaken to help volunteers and coaches”.

Whilst working at CA's Headquarters, Moretti learnt about the organisation's marketing and strategic commercial planning, as well as sponsor relationship management. Such experience has given her expertise, ideas and information she can take back to Brazil to contribute to the country’s plan of getting more people playing cricket.

A CA staff member will now undertake a return visit to Brazil to support Moretti in applying what she learnt during her time in Australia; whilst seeing first-hand the growth of the game in a developing Associate member.  “The visit to Brazil from an Australian staff member will help to improve the Cricket Brasil pathway, building a better cricket system and assisting in bringing more partners on board to help us grow the game”, said Moratti.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,074

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

 

• Where does CA’s $A460 m revenue gap go? [2074-10499].

• NZC hands out suspension after third disciplinary offence [2074-10500].

• New ECB Reserve List member aiming higher [2074-10501].

• Strong Indian interest in new South African T20 league [2074-10502].

• Euro football deal a positive for coming ECB TV rights tender [2074-10503].

Where does CA’s $A460 m revenue gap go?

Russell Gould.

Melbourne Herald Sun.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2074-10499.

Australia's players want to know what Cricket Australia (CA) does with $460 million (£UK285 m) in revenue they don’t share in when a new pay proposal is put forward this week.   With total cricket revenue expected to soar beyond $A2 billion (£1.24 bn) over five years, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), or players’ union, remains concerned about why CA is looking to limit a revenue sharing agreement (PTG 2066-10461, 6 March 2017).  

Players believe CA has already eroded the players share from 26 to less than 20 per cent  (PTG 2060-10431, 27 February 2017).  ACA president Greg Dyer said on Monday the association remained “largely in the dark” about CA’s reasons for change amid concerns about what the governing body plans to do with an increase in funds if they don’t want to share it with all players, male and female (PTG 2062-10445, 1 March 2017).  The ACA is also concerned CA will ignore precedent and go around the union by sending their proposal directly to the players this week.

Dyer said CA had continually failed to explain what it does with the $A460 million gap between revenue it makes and the funds shared with players and the lack of transparency had created a chasm between the two groups.  “Right now, transparency is missing and so trust is absent. And until it returns there can be no deal between the players and the administrators”, he said.

The ACA president has penned ten questions for CA asking, among other things, about revenue forecasts, why domestic and female players would be excluded from revenue sharing, why grassroots cricket is poorly funded and what rises are expected in executive pay.

“These are some of the questions and concerns that the players have, and that are unacceptable now, and which become far worse in the context of a game which will most likely attract more than $A2 billion in revenue in the years ahead”, Dyer said.  “Which is why, with so much money coming into Australian cricket, transparency will matter more than ever. Why accountability will matter more than ever, and why an open and trusting partnership with the players is so important.  Therefore, trust needs to be restored with CA providing some answers”.

CA chief executive James Sutherland has made no secret of plans to end the complete revenue-sharing agreement for all players, but said he still wants to work with the ACA.  “Our views are that perhaps that share of revenue arrangement is not so appropriate for the future”, Sutherland said after spending time with the Test players in India last week.  "We are absolutely committed to a partnership with the ACA, and our players.”

Questions the Australian Cricketers’ Association want answered: 1. What is the forecast revenue for the period of the next pay deal? 2. With significant growth in revenue coming into [the Big Bash League) and women’s cricket why does CA want to exclude domestic and women cricketers from revenue sharing?  3. What is the justification for the erosion of the players’ share of revenue from a publicly reported 26 per cent to a figure closer to 19 per cent?  4. Why is there an estimated $460 million difference between the revenue pool shared with the players and the revenue which CA receives?  5. Why is only 12 per cent of all the revenue invested in grassroots cricket?

NZC hands out suspension after third disciplinary offence.

PTG Editor.

NZC media release.

Monday, 13 March 2017.

PTG 2074-10500.

New Zealand and Auckland all-rounder Colin Munro is set to miss his side's Plunket Shield match this week after being suspended after using 'inappropriate language' in the previous round of the competition a week ago.  A Code of Conduct (CoC) hearing last Wednesday found Munro guilty of the offence during the match against Canterbury at Eden Park, his third breach of the CoC in the past three years.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said in a statement: "Given [Munro's] previous record in this area, [the hearing panel] handed down a one-match suspension”, a result he has not appealed against.  He had previously breached the CoC in a NZC List A match last month, and before that in November 2014.  

In Australia this February he was fined $A1,500 (£UK900) for "using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting" while playing in the Big Bash League (PTG 2036-10315, 1 February 2017), and before the he was censure by the England and Wales Cricket Board (PTG  1593-7703, 16 July 2015).  Over the past year he has also played Twenty20 cricket with Auckland, in the Caribbean Premier League, Indian Premier League and the England and Wales Cricket Board's ‘Blast’ series.

New ECB Reserve List member aiming higher.

Mark Dunford.

Crawley Observer.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

PTG 2074-10501.

Sussex Premier League (SPL) umpire Mark Newell, who has been named on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Reserve List for the 2017 season, says he is delighted to have moved up to that level (PTG 2044-10356, 10 February 2017).  Newell, 43, will run his ECB umpiring role side-by-side with his job at Gatwick Airport but his long-term aim is to do umpiring full-time.

Newell is "very chuffed about it, it’s a good bit of news. It’s the second tier of professional umpiring that supports the first class group.  We get a full amount of fixtures, predominantly second team cricket with some university stuff thrown in, but there will be some first class games.  Next step is to get on to the Full List but a degree of patience is required because a lot of those guys go through to retirement age.  They are waiting for spaces to become available and then they select the guys to fill those spaces from the Reserve List”.

The former batsman Newell played 24 first class games for Sussex and Derbyshire, said: “Umpiring wasn’t on my mind when I came out of the professional game. I wanted to stay in cricket so I went back and played for Three Bridges in the [SPL].  It’s when I got to my mid-30s I started to think about the next phase of what I wanted to do with cricket as my playing career was winding down.  I had a chat with a few of the local league umpires and they talked about umpiring as a way forward and I liked what they said and it went from there".

Newell believes having played at first class level is a big help to umpiring at the higher standard. “It certainly helps. It gives you an understanding the kind of pressures the guys you are umpiring are going through and that gives you a certain amount of empathy with them.  In that respect I think it does help. I don’t think it alters how you manage the game though”.

And what advice would Newell give to any one looking to progress in the umpiring world?  “Look for guidance. Seek out guys who have progressed up the ladder and ask them how they got there, what kind of commitments you have to make to progress and listen to what they have to say.  They have been there and done it and any advice they can give you should heed”.

Chairman of the Sussex Association of Cricket Officials Terry Burstow said: “Besides being a very good batsman I found Mark to be a very thoughtful and intelligent cricketer when he captained Three Bridges. He used these attributes as he moved steadily through the umpiring ranks. His calm nature has provided the ideal base for clear decision making which is a huge benefit in umpiring. His elevation is completely deserved and the Sussex umpiring fraternity is justifiably proud of him as he follows in [former ECB Full List umpire] Martin Bodenham’s footsteps” (PTG 1651-8076, 25 September 2015).

Strong Indian interest in new South African T20 league.

Firdose Moonda.

Cricinfo.

Sunday, 12 March 2017.

PTG 2074-10502.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has received more than 150 expressions of interest over ownership of the eight franchises, which will be privately-owned, in their new T20 league (PTG 2041-10341, 7 February 2017). South Africa are planning a tournament, to be played annually in November and December, in the mould of such leagues around the world as the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and Caribbean Premier League.

CSA's expression of interest deadline revealed that the most likely owners will be local or Indian - with 39 per cent from South Africa and 35 per cent from India, the latter country being a CSA target (PTG 2045-10365, 11 February 2017) . There has also been interest from the UK, the USA and the United Arab Emirates . The next step in the process is for parties to submit tender proposals by mid-April. CSA will then decide on a shortlist and then finalise the team owners. 

Apart from communications from potential team owners, CSA has also been in contact with what its chief executive Haroon Lorgat called "star players from across the world" who want to participate in the tournament. CSA has already confirmed all of South Africa's internationals will be available for the event, with no other fixtures planned for that period. 

CSA current has a six franchise T20 competition but it has remained a low-key series. The new tournament, whose name and logo are in the process of being confirmed, will be a completely different entity, and will run separately to CSA's other domestic competitions. 

Euro football deal a positive for coming ECB TV rights tender.

Charles Sale.

London Daily Mail.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2074-10503.

England cricket looks likely to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the European Football Union's decision  to award monopoly TV rights for the Champions League and the Europa League to BT Sport in a £UK1.2 billion ($A1.9 bn) deal.  Broadcaster ‘Sky' will be that much more determined to win most if not all of that cricket content having lost out to BT Sport in regards to football. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are hoping to take full advantage of the TV football fall-out by going to market as early as this northern summer to sell their rights in various packages from 2021 onwards, including their proposed new flagship T20 tournament.  The ECB are also guaranteed a competitive tender as BT are still keen on more cricket rights, having spent £80 million ($A129 m) on Australian cricket over five years, primarily in order to cover the Ashes Down Under next austral summer.  BT outbid Sky on that occasion (PTG 1632-7982, 31 August 2015).

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,075

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

 

• Player 'sent off’, four others get ‘yellow cards’, in 'spiteful' match [2075-10504].

• Another semi final, more players behaving badly [2075-10505].

• India-Australia sledging will bring out 'ugly response': ‘Chappelli' [2075-10506].

• Third player provisionally suspended in PSL spot-fixing investigation [2075-10507].

• Cricket, AFL in Gabba turf war after Adele concert damage [2075-10508].

• UK grassroots awardee to ring Lord’s bell [2075-10509].

Player 'sent off’, four others get ‘yellow cards’, in 'spiteful' match.

Tim Michell.

Moonee Valley Leader.

Monday, 13 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10504.

Five yellow cards were issued on a spiteful opening day of the Victorian Turf Cricket Association (VTCA) B1 semi-final between East Keilor and West Newport on the outskirts of Melbourne on Saturday.  Both clubs have declined to comment, however, it is understood an East Keilor batsman was shown a red card on Saturday after being issued a second yellow card, and that his team mates were the recipients of all the other yellow cards.

Under current VTCA rules, players can be shown a yellow card if they commit a "potentially reportable" offence, which can include dissent, swearing or breaches of the Association's code of behaviour, rules or the ‘Spirit of Cricket'.  If a red card is issued, the player is automatically required to front the tribunal, can take no further part in the game, and cannot be substituted.

VTCA president Steve McNamara said the league was waiting on a report from umpires Mark Robinson and Mark Wilson, but confirmed several incidents from the match were under scrutiny.  

He said: “There’s an investigation underway.  There was a bit of spite during the game, five yellow cards, one of them obviously translated to a red card.  Once all the prevalent information is available to our tribunal manager, we will act on the details”.  McNamara said a tribunal hearing would have to take place this week if any West Newport players, who are due to play in the B1 grand final starting on Saturday, had received cards.

East Keilor compiled 9/170 on day one of the final after one of its batsmen was sent from the field, West Newport winning the match the next day by reaching 8/174.  The VTCA increased its presence at the ground on Sunday in an effort to stamp out the on-field issues. 

Another semi final, more players behaving badly.

PTG Editor.

WIN Television Albury.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10505.

A two-day semi final in Cricket Albury Wodonga’s top competition played in Yackandandah in north-east Victoria last Saturday-Sunday featured a serious on-field confrontation between a bowler, a batsman and a fielder, says a media report.  Details of any charges laid against those involved in the  match between Yackandandah and Eskdale are yet to be made public, however, video broadcast in a news report suggests those three players are likely to be facing disciplinary issues.

Vision aired by a local television station on Tuesday evening shows that after bowling a Yackandandah batsman, Haydon Wilson, who reports say was the Eskdale bowler concerned claps his hands enthusiastically while running directly towards the unnamed batsman who is still near his crease.  In response the latter moves slightly towards Wilson and deliberately shoulders him away such that the bowler falls backwards to the ground.  

Other Eskdale players quickly arrive on the scene, one of them, Jared Wright, knocking the batsman to the ground before being pulled away by colleagues as he points towards the batsman, umpire Dan Bowden then moving in to try and calm things down.  

For Eskdale their season is over but several players may be missing from early games next austral summer, while Yackandandah will continue in the finals this weekend, however, whether the batsman concerned will be playing is not yet known.

India-Australia sledging will bring out 'ugly response': ‘Chappelli'

Tyson Otto.

news.com.au.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10506.

Former Australian Test captain Ian Chappell says the negligent dithering by umpires and officials will see the ill-feeling between India and Australia in their on-going Test series fester.  Ahead of the third Test in Ranchi which begins on Thursday, Chappell has forecast players will take matters into their own hands in responding to sledging and personal attacks because of the lack of control umpires have had on the series so far.

Chappell said the spite between the two teams in an enthralling Test series will continue to deteriorate in the third Test with both teams ready to fight fire with fire.  The former Test batsman has predicted the situation will naturally evolve into an all-out gunfight with batsmen chirping back at bowlers and fielders.  He has forecast fed-up batsmen at the non-striker’s end will snipe at bowlers as they run-in to bowl if umpires can’t enforce respectful silence from the fielding team as the batsman is preparing to face a delivery.

The former national skipper says it's up to the on-field umpires to make sure the hostility between the two teams is not allowed to continue. In his view: “The administrators are foolish if they’re going to allow all this talking to continue on the field.  If it does, there’s going to be trouble. It’s been allowed to escalate over the years, and nobody is stepping in to stop it.  It’s ridiculous to allow that much chatter to occur on the field".

Meanwhile, former Australian spinner Brad Hogg says Australian critics of Indian captain Virat Kohli are way off the mark, claiming both he and Australian captain Steve Smith acted within the spirit of the game during the heated second Test.  In a column for thenewdaily.com.au, Hogg wrote he supports the match officials’ decision not to take any action against Smith or Kohli  (PTG 2069-10471, 9 March 2017).  

“Some people are suggesting the line has been crossed”, Hogg wrote.  “I don’t agree. I don’t think they’ve gotten close to it.  I’m glad no bans were handed out to Kohli, Smith or any of the other players – their behaviour didn’t warrant it.  Smith’s decision to look at the dressing room while contemplating asking for a referral will leave him feeling slightly embarrassed.  But it was dealt with then and there, by the umpire, who gave him his marching orders". 

Third player provisionally suspended in PSL spot-fixing investigation.

Press Trust of India.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10507.

Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Irfan has been suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as a result of on-going investigations into the spot-fixing allegations in this year's Pakistan Super League (PSL) competition. He was interviewed by the PCB's Anti-Corruption Unit in Lahore on Monday as a result of allegations he did not report an incident in which a bookie made a contact with him whilst the PSL was underway. 

Reports suggest that Irfan said during the interview that he could not report the approach because he was upset about the death of his parents, who passed away one after other in a space of one year. The PCB said in a statement that Irfran had been issued with a Notice of Charge and that he has 14 days in which to submit his response.

Last week a three-member tribunal was formed by the PCB to investigate the PSL spot-fixing case allegedly involving Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif. They have already been charged by the PCB for various code-of-conduct breaches, including attempting to corrupt a cricket match (PTG 2054-10401, 20 February 2017) and are currently provisionally suspended. The pair responded to the official charges laid against them last Saturday.

British Police have arrested three suspects in connection with the case including former Pakistan opener Nasir Jamshed, who was released on bail (PTG 2050-10386, 16 February 2017).

Cricket, AFL in Gabba turf war after Adele concert damage.

Andrew Hamilton.

The Courier-Mail.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10508.

A turf war has broken out over the Gabba pitch in Brisbane with concerned cricket officials warning the first Ashes Test in November will be ruined if Australian Rules Football (AFL) games are played at the ground before the end of April.  Stadiums Queensland (SQ) is being lobbied by Queensland Cricket (QC) officials to keep all activity off the ground for six weeks.

QC outlined to SQ its concerns last week's Adele concert had damaged the square and put November's Test in jeopardy (PTG 2064-10452, 3 March 2017).  A meeting was to have been held on Tuesday between SQ, QC and Cricket Australia’s head of venue business Katie Twomey.  It is understood a turf expert has been commissioned to inspect the pitch later this week.

An SQ spokesman said no decision had been made regarding football at the ground as it was “too soon to know” whether the pitch would be ready.  The Gabba’s chief curator Kevin Mitchell raised concerns over the state of several pitches after the Adele concert, pitch five having been earmarked for the November Test.  The damaged areas were replanted late last week and Mitchell says they needed six weeks without traffic to properly take root.

QC chief executive Max Walters confirmed on Tuesday night confirmed their request to keep football off the ground for that time.  He said: “AFL and cricket have their respective interests in this matter ... but SQ is the ultimate arbiter”.

UK grassroots awardee to ring Lord’s bell.

PTG Editor.

MCC media release.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017.

PTG 2075-10509.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and 'The Cricketer' magazine have launched a new award whose aim is to recognise the person "who most tirelessly invests their time and effort into building, maintaining and supporting the game at grassroots level throughout the UK.  The Cricket Community Champion Award  will be invited to enjoy hospitality at the England-South Africa One Day International (ODI) at Lord’s in late May, where they will also be invited to ring the ground's five-minute warning bell for players.

Derek Brewer, the MCC's Chief Executive and Secretary, said in a statement: “We are very pleased to be working with 'The Cricketer' magazine on this award, as it is very important that we recognise the hard work of the great number of people involved in recreational cricket across the UK. Ringing the five-minute bell at Lord’s will be a fantastic experience for the winner, and we look forward to welcoming them here for the [ODI]”.

Guy Evans-Tipping, Chief Executive at The Cricketer, said: "Our readers are playing critical roles in recreational cricket throughout the UK. They are the bedrocks of our game. With this unique and generous partnership with MCC we are able to give one deserving individual the chance to experience the magic of being part of [an ODI] at the Home of Cricket”.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,076

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

(Second edition)

 

• Lengthy suspensions handed down for on-field fracas [2076-10510].

• New ECB T20 series forecast to lose £UK15 million in first year [2076-10511].

• Bengaluru Test pitch rated ‘below average’ claim reports [2076-10512].

• First class debut for Kiwi umpire [2076-10513].

• Player returning after fractured skull, brain bleed nets injury [2076-10514].

Lengthy suspensions handed down for on-field fracas.

Andrew Moir.

The Border Mail.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2076-10510.

Cricket Albury Wodonga (CAW) has moved quickly to deal with a clash between players that erupted in a match between Yackandandah and Eskdale last weekend, handing down two of its biggest suspensions of the modern era at a disciplinary hearing held on Tuesday.  Two players have been banned until new year’s day 2018, effectively for the remainder of the current season and the first half of the 2017-18 austral summer, while another, who can play on this season, was given a four-match suspended sentence.

Contrary to earlier reports, it was in fact Yackandandah that was in the field when the indigent occurred, their bowler taunting an Eskdale batsman who then pushed the bowler over before he himself was pushed over by a Yackandandah fielder and briefly prevented from getting up (PTG 2075-10505, 15 March 2017). 

The bowler was Yackandandah's Mick Walker, the fielder his team mate Daniel Attwell, and the Eskdale batsman Jye Hodgkin.  Previous suggestions that the batsman was Yackandandah’s Haydon Wilson and the fielder Eskdale’s Jared Wright were clearly incorrect.

The tribunal suspended batsman Hodgkin and fielder Atwell until 1 January 2018, while bowler Walker received the four-match suspended sentence, which will be in place until the end of the 2017-18 season.  As a result he is eligible to play in this weekend’s home preliminary final against Kiewa.  Reports suggest none of the three have previously been suspended by CAW.

Yackandandah president Reon Garvey said the incident is “something we don’t like to see happen in cricket, and certainly when it’s your club.  It’s not a good look and certainly [we] don’t condone their actions.  But in the heat of the moment it’s probably reactionary I would have thought, still, by the same token, that doesn’t excuse what’s gone on”.  Eskdale president Joel Parsons said in relation to Hodgkin’s action: “You’re never happy when you go out and for someone to run, I guess, in your vicinity when you’re a bit upset you can kind of just have a bit of a brain fade”. 

The clubs can appeal the tribunal’s decisions and will both hold meetings after their respective training sessions on Thursday night to further discuss the bans.  Both entities said though they wouldn’t be taking further action against their players.

CAW chairman Michael Erdeljac said the seriousness of the incident fast-tracked his organisation’s handling of the matter.  He indicated Walker had received a warning from the umpire the previous over for "improper conduct", but he wasn’t reported and was therefore not charged for that.  Both Hodgkin and Attwell were reported and charged with "bringing the game into disrepute”.  Erdeljac went on: “The simple message out of this is cricket has an etiquette and we are here to play a sport.  When you play cricket you are supposed to be gentlemen”.  

New ECB T20 series forecast to lose £UK15 million in first year.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2076-10511.

County clubs have been warned that the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new Twenty20 competition will lose £UK15 million in its first year,   Despite that, the ECB has assured the counties they will still receive their £UK1.3 m ($A24.1 m) dividend from the first year of the tournament, when costs are expected to be at their highest due to marketing and launch expenses, but will receive no increase until the tournament becomes profitable.

The news was revealed by Scott Smith, the ECB’s head of finance, last week at Lord’s when he met with the treasurers and financial directors of the 18 counties and the Marylebone Cricket Club.  Since that meeting the counties have sent a series of questions to the ECB detailing their outstanding concerns over the tournament, which is set to be ratified in the coming months. 

The main concern of the counties is when the new competition will become profitable and what steps are being taken to prevent the ECB’s existing Twenty20 ‘Blast’ tournament, becoming a “subsidiary” to the new competition, competing for supporters and sponsorship and so potentially suffering from what the document calls a ‘dilution effect’. 

The memo states: “Whilst all FCCs [first-class counties] are expecting to receive £1.3m as a result of the new tournament, for those FCCs who do not host the new T20 competition, there is a real risk that they will suffer a loss of income from a number of other sources (e.g. membership, sponsorship, hospitality), particularly as a result of not playing a full first team during the period of the new T20 competition”. 

“This begged the question as to whether the new tournament would devalue the ‘brand’ of the FCCs, and in particular those not hosting the new tournament. Similar points also apply to host FCCs as there is a risk that the other games they are putting on during a season will be seen as being a lower quality of cricket”.

The county financial directors have also asked for evidence the competition will bring in spectators from wider than the current geographical area of 5-8 km from the grounds involved, none of whom have yet been confirmed as hosting matches in the new series.

Bengaluru Test pitch rated ‘below average’ claim reports.

PTG Editor

Media reports.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2076-10512.

Indian media reports say match referee Chris Broad rated the pitch provided at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru for the second Test between India and Australia as "below average”, as assessment that follows his description that the pitch provided for the opening Test in  Pune was “poor”.  Unconfirmed reports say the Board of Control for Cricket in India have rejected that poor rating (PTG 2072-10490, 12 march 2017).

While rating the Bengaluru pitch "below average”, apparently because it provided “variable bounce”, Broad is said to have judged the outfield as being "very good”.  Under International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations, a “below average” rating does not have the potential to attract a penalty or fine.

The ICC normally only releases the ratings of pitches considered poor or unfit but is moving towards publishing the marks given for all pitches, a change that could come into effect as early as next month (PTG 2041-10337, 7 February 2017).  The world body has warned curators they will "shame" those who produce substandard surfaces under a new system designed to produce entertaining cricket. The initiative was agreed upon at a meeting of the ICC board in February.

First class debut for Kiwi umpire.

PTG Editor

March score sheets.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2076-10513.

Wellington umpire Garth Stirrat, 48, is making his first class debut in the on-going Plunket Shield match between Central Districts and his home association in Napier.  Stirrat was appointed to  New Zealand Cricket’s (NZC) then third-tier ‘Emerging’ Umpires Panel in October 2010 (PTG 684-3354, 19 October 2010), and three years later joined the nation’s new second-tier Reserve Panel when the then ‘A’ and Emergring groups were amalgamated.

In the time since he has stood in five NZC List A matches, his debut at that level being in December 2015, and last December was on-field in his first two senior NZC Twenty20 fixtures.  Along the way he has featured in numerous NZC tournaments, an Under-19 One Day International (ODI), and during the current austral summer three womens’ ODIs.

Player returning after fractured skull, brain bleed nets injury.

PTG Editor

Media reports.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

PTG 2076-10514.

South Australian fast bowler Joe Mennie will return to first-class cricket this week after recovering from a fractured skull and minor bleeding on the brain after he was hit by a ball during a Big Bash League net session (PTG 2031-10281, 26 January 2017).  Mennie was struck in the side of the head by a ball while training with his Big Bash League franchise the Sydney Sixers in late January.

The bowler said on Tuesday he considers himself "very lucky [as] it could have been a lot worse than what it was.  I was just bowling in the nets and unfortunately a ball got hit back at me and I couldn't get the hands up in time.  In the past I have had it come back and just managed to evade it at the last second or get some hands on it, but unfortunately not that time and I copped it in the side of the face”.

Given the nature of his injuries, which led some to raise net safety issues (PTG 2033-10293, 28 January 2017), doctors opted for a conservative approach in regards to his return to cricket.  "It's all fully clear now and a specialist has advised there's no issues long term either.  The whole time I have felt fine, I have been able to function normally.  I'm just really keen to get back and play some cricket”.

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,077

Thursday, 16 March 2017

 

 

 

• ICC chair in surprise resignation [2077-10515].

• The more things change the more they stay the same [2077-10516].

ICC chair in surprise resignation.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Thursday, 16 March 2017.

PTG 2077-10515.

Shashank Manohar, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) first-ever independent chairman, resigned on Wednesday morning just eight months into his two year term.  The ICC announced his surprise resignation in a brief statement issued later that day, Manohar thus becoming the second successive ICC chairman to fail to see out his term after the resignation of his predecessor and countryman Narayanaswami Srinivasan as  result of the fall out of the Indian Premier League corruption scandal. 

Manohar stated in his resignation letter: "I was elected unopposed as the first independent chairman of ICC last year. I have tried to do my best and have tried to be fair and impartial in deciding matters in the functioning of the Board and in matters related to Member Boards along with the able support of all Directors”.

"However, for personal reasons it is not possible for me to hold the august office of ICC Chairman and hence I am tendering my resignation as Chairman with immediate effect. I take this opportunity to thank all the Directors, the Management and staff of ICC for supporting me wholeheartedly. I wish ICC all the very best and hope it achieves greater heights”.

Manohar had led attempts to make the ICC more transparent. He also promoted the Test championship and other methods of giving bilateral cricket more context. Those plans too look set to be put on hold until a new chairman is elected at the ICC’s annual conference in mid year (PTG 2077-10516 below).

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Mike Atherton.

The Times.

Thursday, 16 March 2017.

PTG 2077-10516.

Given the history of the International Cricket Council (ICC), with its politicking, behind-closed-door dealings, lack of transparency and constant merry-go-round of here-today-gone-tomorrow administrators, it takes a significant event to elicit surprise, shock even, among seasoned observers and insiders. The resignation of Shashank Manohar, the ICC’s chairman and the most significant administrator in the world game, did just that (PTG 2077-10515 above).

It came out of the blue. There was no indication that this was coming, until a resignation e-mail dropped into the inbox of David Richardson, the chief executive, on Wednesday morning, citing “personal reasons”. With that, Manohar was gone, leaving a power vacuum in his wake, much in the same way that he had stepped down abruptly from running the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to take the top position in Dubai (PTG 1824-9123, 11 May 2016). 

Manohar is a strange cat, most unlike a cricket administrator. He is not very clubbable, is socially awkward and has little interest in personal aggrandisement. He was also unusual in that he was prepared to take on his former and powerful colleagues at the BCCI in persuading the ICC to row back from the reforms instigated two years earlier by India, England and Australia, which attempted to place administrative power and financial control in the hands of what became known as the “Big Three”.

Appointed the ICC’s first independent chairman (in the sense that he held no position within the ICC’s constituent governing bodies) just eight months ago (PTG 1826-9135, 13 May 2016), Manohar, along with the ICC’s executive team, was the driving force behind the retreat from these governance changes which were widely criticised for their unfairness, and which he admitted as being “not always in the best interests of the game”.

He was intent on moving to a more equitable model. His proposed reforms will see the BCCI’s income from the new television rights’ deal, for example, fall from  $US450-290 million (although still the largest share), with smaller reductions for England and Australia. These reforms were passed in principle at the ICC’s most recent board meeting in February, with only India and Sri Lanka voting against and Zimbabwe abstaining, giving the reformers a 7-2 majority, and awaiting full ratification in April (PTG 2039-10323, 5 February 2017).

These reforms were welcomed broadly, although a significant dissenting voice in the way they were negotiated came from Sambit Bal, the influential editor of the Cricinfo website. Acknowledging the need for reform, Bal argued the absence of the BCCI (India, he said, contributes roughly 80 per cent of ICC income) from the negotiating table was “bad politics” which would result in some payback before long. It was, he argued, a return to the days when the “BCCI was outside the tent, growling and ready to strike”.

Whether Manohar’s resignation is part of that remains unclear. Reports in India suggested that BCCI officials have been working hard to resist the changes, meeting with their opposite numbers from Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh recently. The BCCI would need the support of two more countries as well as Sri Lanka to scupper the two-thirds majority required in April. Manohar would have known there was a fair amount of wrangling to come.

More broadly, Manohar’s resignation comes at a significant time. The February meeting of ICC was important because of other proposed reforms to the game, too, such as providing context and meaning to international cricket through a rolling two-year rolling Test Championship, and World Cup qualification through a three-year cycle of One Day International cricket (PTG 2039-10324, 5 February 2017). The ICC was hoping to get these principles ratified at the next board meeting in April (PTG 2073-10495, 13 March 2017), and Manohar’s resignation must now put a question mark against all that.

Away from the intricacies of Manohar’s resignation, the significance of all this is the broader uncertainty at the heart of the administration of the game. The BCCI is currently in flux after India’s Supreme Court appointed a four-man panel of administrators, for the short term, following a purge of the previous leadership (PTG 2035-10307, 31 January 2017). That panel is an eclectic bunch: the former auditor general of India, Vinod Rai; an eminent historian, Ramachandra Guha; the managing director of India’s largest stock exchange, Vikram Limaye, and Diana Edulji, a former captain of India’s women’s cricket team.

The economics of the game are changing rapidly, meaning that the BCCI is not quite as politically dominant as it was. Many governing bodies (England are no exception in this regard) rely heavily on broadcast revenues from India to sustain their balance sheets, but there is an acceptance that those golden days are coming to an end, as broadcasters in India turn their attentions towards the Indian Premier League on the one hand, and ICC events such as World Cups on the other, leaving less money for foreign rights to bilateral international cricket.

This is part of the reason why the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hope to emulate Australia by introducing a Big Bash-style T20 tournament, to mitigate their reliance on television income from bilateral international cricket (PTG 2076-10511, 15 March 2017). As more countries look to become financially self-sufficient, so there will be a knock-on effect on the way the game is administered. More and more the international game is crying out for independence and transparency, and for the requirement to administer the game according to the highest governance standards.

Where do the ICC go from here? They will look to appoint an interim chairman quickly, with a more permanent successor chosen at the April meeting. It raises the intriguing question as to whether Giles Clarke, the president of the ECB, would be a candidate, given his long-standing ambitions in that regard. If India is flexing its muscles about proposed reforms of the financial distribution model, then they may push for one of their own candidates.

So the danger is of a return to more politicking which would be a shame given that there was an unmistakable feeling of optimism recently among various bodies, such as the Federation of International Cricketers, or players’  union, who had been previously critical of the ICC. There was a sense that decisions were being made with the greater good of the game in mind, and that real progress was being made. Now, following Manohar’s resignation, there is confusion and uncertainty again. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,078

Saturday, 18 March 2017

 

• Fifth player provisionally suspended in PSL spot-fixing probe [2078-10517].

• Convicted spot-fixer Butt in line for Test recall [2078-10518].

• Two Bangladeshis fined for on-field actions [2078-10519].

• Drop-in pitch at Gabba not required, says Healy [2078-10520].

• Why India are Kohlier than thou [2078-10521].

Fifth player provisionally suspended in PSL spot-fixing probe.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Friday, 17 March 2017.

PTG 2078-10517.

Shahzaib Hasan has become the fifth player to be suspended for over spot-fixing allegations in this year's Pakistan Super League (PSL) Twenty20 tournament.  On Friday, the 27-year-old was provisionally suspended “with immediate effect” and charged by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as part of an anti-corruption investigation into the issues involved.

Shahzaib, who has represented Pakistan in three One Day Internationals and 10 Twenty20 Internationals, has been charged with three violations of the PCB's anti-corruption code and has 14 days to respond to the charge.  The PCB said last month it was investigating whether an international betting syndicate tried to influence matches in the PSL.

Pace bowler Mohammad Irfan, batsmen Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif were provisionally suspended last month while former opener Nasir Jamshed was suspended and arrested in England as part of the same investigation (PTG 2075-10507, 15 March 2017).  Jamshed was later let out on bail.

Convicted spot-fixer Butt in line for Test recall.

Elizabeth Ammon.

The Times.

Friday, 17 March 2017.

PTG 2078-10518.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt could be in line for a recall to international cricket. Butt, 32, who was jailed and given a five-year ban for spot-fixing in 2011 as a result of a newspaper ’sting', has been performing well in domestic cricket after his return to the game last year.

The Pakistan Cricket Board have given clearance to their selection panel to consider Butt for future Test inclusion and it is understood that Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector, is keen for him to be brought back into the side for Pakistan’s forthcoming three-match series against the West Indies.

However, others on the selection panel and within the Pakistan team are thought to be far less keen, believing that it sends out the wrong message on corruption particularly when the Pakistan Cricket Board is in the midst of a match-fixing investigation relating to the recent Pakistan Super League (PTG 2078-10517 above).

Two Bangladeshis fined for on-field actions.

PTG Editor.

ICC media release.

Friday, 17 March 2017.

PTG 2078-10519.

Bangladesh batsmen Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes have been fined 15 per cent of their match fee, and had one demerit point added to their disciplinary records, for Code of Conduct breaches during the second day of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday.  Both players were found to have engaged in “conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game”.

Tamim showed his bat to the umpire during an appeal for LBW, indicating that he had hit the ball. Imrul pointed to his thigh pad to indicate that the ball had hit him there when Sri Lanka was appealing for a catch.

After the match, both players admitted their respective offences and accepted the sanction proposed by match referee Andy Pycroft and as such, there was no need for a formal hearing.  The Level 1 charges laid by on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Sundaram Ravi, third umpire Marais Erasmus, and fourth umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge.  All Level 1 breaches in internationals carry a minimum penalty of a warning/reprimand and/or the imposition of a fine of up to 50 per cent of the applicable match fee.

As of now, both players have one demerit point each and should they accumulate four or more within a twenty-four month period, the points will be converted into at least two Suspension Points which will equate to a ban from their next match or matches. Two Suspension Points equate to a ban from one Test or two One Day Internationals or two Twenty20 Internationals, whatever format comes first for the player.

Drop-in pitch at Gabba not required, says Healy.

Robert Craddock.

The Courier-Mail.

Friday, 17 March 2017.

PTG 2078-10520.

Former Australian player Ian Healy believes cricket and football can comfortably coexist at the Gabba in Brisbane without the need for a drop-in pitch.  Healy has urged authorities to reject the proposal for drop-in cricket wicket seen as a solution to ease the discomfort at the change of seasons between cricket and Australian Rules Football (AFL) matches (PTG 2075-10508, 15 March 2017).

Healy fears the Gabba pitch could lose some of its world renowned qualities if a drop in pitch was inserted.  “The Gabba has been the best Test pitch and we have had football on it for 20 years so you don’t need to change anything”, Healy said.  “I love sharing the stadiums. It is great for our city. We are pretty good at sharing them. I think we can coexist easily”.

Healy said the recent Adele concerts and the women’s AFL grand final had created a schedule squeeze which was not normal. “There may be a few problems at the moment but we missed out by only two weeks of having it right. Adele has put us back a couple of weeks.  The grass can still grow here over the winter. While they play footy on the pitch it does not scar up. It is very doable [to play cricket and football] on a normal wicket in the topics”.

Why India are Kohlier than thou.

Gideon Haigh.

The Australian.

Saturday, 18 March 2017.

PTG 2078-10521.

“Let’s get on with the cricket” was last week’s cry. The third Test in Ranchi between India and Australia could hardly come quickly enough, and in the end it didn’t quite. At this rate, it will need to turn into Test cricket’s third tie off the final ball of the last day to distract from events that continue unfolding off the field. 

A recurrent complaint during the stand-off in the wake of the Bengaluru Test was about the lack of leadership at the International Cricket Council (ICC) (PTG 2069-10471, 9 March 2017). On Wednesday the complaint achieved literal truth: the ICC’s chairman, Shashank Manohar, suddenly resigned, eight months into a two-year term, without a word to his fellow directors, without anointing a successor (PTG 2077-10515, Thursday, 16 March 2017).

Manohar’s resignation, “for personal reasons”, followed his meeting the previous day with representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) who advised that they could not support his mooted new ICC financial model. He denies any connection between the meeting and his departure, correlation is not causation etc etc. But, y’know, c’mon.

The connection between Manohar exiting meekly in Dubai and Indian captain Virat Kohli standing astride India like a colossus isn’t quite so obvious, but it’s detectable. And unlike many of cricket’s serial crises in recent years, both can be ascribed in their way to the BCCI being not too strong, but at the moment uneasily divided.

For the last few months, as a result of sweeping reforms mandated by the Lodha Committee of India’s Supreme Court, the BCCI has been overseen by an interim committee of administration (CoA): former Indian auditor general Vinod Rai, former Indian women’s captain Diana Edulji, banker Vikram Raye and historian Ramachandra Guha. Their chief responsibility is to oversee smooth transition to a new permanent governance structure (PTG 2035-10307, 31 January 2017).

Day-to-day issues are enlarging and elasticising their responsibilities. Most pressing of these has been reform of the ICC: a rolling back of the controversial ‘Big Three’ deal engineered three years ago by the BCCI in cahoots with the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia (CA).

For the CoA, this rollback presents a problem. They are interim governors being asked to acquiesce in permanent measures substantially reducing the BCCI’s rake-off — a rake-off the BCCI barely deserved and cynically obtained, of course, but to which, over the course of three years, the state associations that compose it have developed understandable sensations of entitlement.

The Lodha Committee’s diktats have nominally swept aside many of BCCI’s old powerbrokers, including president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke, not to mention the old Chennai ­warhorse Narayanaswami Srini­vasan. But they remain vigilant, vigorous and in the vicinity.

So while the headlines have been about matters related to the current India-Australia Test series, the backstory has been the BCCI ­versus itself, with interim administrators accountable to the Supreme Court, state associations accountable to themselves, and a disgruntled ex-administrators accountable to nobody.

At the recent BCCI awards night, there were more representatives from CA (one, Pat Howard) than from India’s state cricket associations; at the Bengaluru Test, the atmosphere between the BCCI and the hosts the Karnataka State Cricket Association was chill.  When the BCCI became tangled in the Pune pitch fiasco, industrialist Shirke led the demands for an inquiry; no sooner had ‘UDRSgate' erupted than Thakur, who is a national-level ­politician, darted into the Twitter fray: “For years Australian ckt. team have been bullying world ckt. Not any more”. Exactly: that’s India’s job.

“Extremely proud of #Team­India (@BCCI) and @imVkohli who reported the matter to umpires”, Thakur hashtagged and ampersatted on. “We must stand by our captain and support him”. Well, yes — extreme pride is the politically expedient position. One suspects, indeed, that part of the reason India’s cricket establishment has turned so Kohlier-than-thou is the division elsewhere in its ranks.  Rallying round the skipper, ­describing his temper as passion and characterising his word salads as witty ripostes, not only provides a pleasingly simple narrative, but makes the speaker sound bigger, tougher, more patriotic, more up-to-date.

Perhaps feeling a little relevance deprivation syndrome these days, for example, Sunil Gavaskar leapt to Kohli’s defence with his umpteenth public jag about conspiracy and double standards, including the regulation disparagement of the Australian cricket media as serving the ­cricket team’s interests — not bad from the member of a commentary panel who wear shirts that read ‘Indian Cricket’.  When Gavaskar was in his cricketing pomp, one marvelled that such a small man could be such a champion. Now one marvels that such a champion can, on occasion, be such a small man.

Anyway, when Rai, Limaye and BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri met Manohar this week, and advised their countryman that the BCCI’s interim committee would not support the in-principle decision of the ICC’s executive board made in early February, they recalled that famous negotiation exchange between Churchill and de Gaulle.  Shocked that the Frenchman was proving so intransigent from a terribly shaky position, Churchill asked: “Cannot you make me any concessions?” Replied de Gaulle: “No. I am too weak”.

Yet the BCCI’s position is also not unjustified: the new financial model on the table might be more equitable, but by being cooked up from arbitrary numbers and opaque calculations invites the same criticism as the ‘Big Three’ scam.  Nor should it have come as a surprise that the BCCI had drawn the boards of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to its side, ­sufficient to throw into doubt next month’s meeting to ratify the reforms.

Helpfully, the BCCI website now provides minutes of the CoA’s meetings, where the motion agreed to three weeks ago is there for all to see: “The BCCI should take all steps necessary to protect the interests of BCCI including by engaging in negotiations/discussions with other ICC member countries as well as other concerned parties/individuals with proposals/suggestions that could potentially garner their support for BCCI’s position on the proposed changes”. Ambiguous, eh? You may disapprove the message, but it has the benefit of clarity and transparency.

Some argued that disarray at the BCCI was an opportunity to push the reform cause without the necessity for Indian support — there was, no doubt, an element of payback after the indignities of the ‘Big Three’. But as a tactic it always looked too clever by half, and right now appears misguided in the same proportion.  So, sure, on with the cricket, and it’s been a tonic to watch this Test played in a keen and competitive spirit: go the tie, hopefully with laurels for both captains. But once it’s over, cricket has lots of gaps to bridge, fences to mend and, now, places to fill.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,079

Monday, 20 March 2017

 

• Some Laws Code changes to apply for ECB’s 2017 season [2079-10522].

• BCCI makes clear its view on ICC revenue model changes [2079-10523].

• ECB chief speaks in favour of four-day Tests [2079-10524].

• Another Kiwi umpire goes for hat scratch routine [2079-10525].

• Sub-continental boards seeking to revive Asian bloc unity [2079-10526].

Some Laws Code changes to apply for ECB’s 2017 season.

Elizabeth Ammon.

The Times.

Monday, 20 March 2017.

PTG 2079-10522.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is set to announce new playing regulations for its 2017 season that include some of the amendments that are to be introduced by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in its new Laws Code which is to come into force in October (PTG 2067-10462, 7 March 2017).  The ECB sets the playing regulations for all English domestic competitions and has decided to introduce some of the changes six months early.

From the start of this season, ECB Playing Conditions will allow batsmen to be caught off a fielder’s helmet. In addition they will not be given out run out if they or their bat have made their ground when the wickets have been broken, even if the bat has bounced up off the ground in the momentum of their dive.  The ECB made the wearing of helmets by batsmen, and in some circumstances wicketkeepers and fieldsmen, ahead of its 2016 season (PTG 1698-8377, 28 November 2015).  

However, the ECB has stopped short of an early introduction of a restriction in bat sizes and increased disciplinary sanctions and will not bring the changes involved on line until the 2018 season.  

In a radical move which goes beyond the recommendations of MCC though, the ECB has decided that when it comes into force next year, the up-graded, so-called ‘red card’, arrangements will be extended beyond just players to coaches and support staff. Coaches could therefore accumulate disciplinary points for dissent against umpires, abuse and, in the most serious cases, be sent off if there is violence or threat to an umpire (PTG 2068-10464, 8 March 2017).

BCCI makes clear its view on ICC revenue model changes.

Press Trust of India.

Monday, 20 March 2017.

PTG 2079-10523.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) "categorically rejected" the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) proposed new revenue sharing model and constitutional reforms in a eleven-page letter it sent to ICC chief executive David Richardson on Sunday.  In outlining its views, the BCCI reminded the world body that it has the option of exercising the rights mentioned under the Members’ Participation Agreement (MPA), which assures certain benefits to member nations who compete in the ICC tournaments in the period from 2015-23.

While the BCCI’s stand on financial and constitutional issues is well known, Vikram Limaye, who heads up the BCCI’s Committee of Administration (CoA), points out in his letter that the ICC should respect the MPA which was signed in mid-October 2014.  It is understood the BCCI can take legal action should the ICC violates the MPA.  

Limaye's letter states: ”The proposed new ICC Constitution and financial model will, if adopted, entitle us to exercise certain rights under the MPA and also to avail remedies under applicable law. We trust the ICC will reconsider the proposed new ICC constitution and financial models in light of provisions of the MPA so that we do not have to consider exercising our rights and remedies in relation to the MPA, which are expressly reserved. Please communicate our stand to ICC [members] for information and necessary action”.

Well informed reports say the CoA has decided that India’s interest as the game’s financial powerhouse is non-negotiable (PTG 2039-10323, 5 February 2017).  Limaye said after his first ICC board meeting in February, that the ICC could not give any cogent reason as to what economic model has been used for equitable distribution of revenue which seemed to be based more on “good faith and equity” (PTG 2044-10354, 10 February 2017).  

A top BCCI source said: “The ICC tried to hit us when BCCI was in troubled waters (PTG 2043-10350, 9 February 2017). Now with [former ICC chairman Shashank] Manohar, who was the biggest opponent of BCCI, gone (PTG 2077-10515, 16 March 2017), the ICC in any case will neither be able to pass the constitutional reforms nor the revamped financial model”.   The BCCI is also moving to improve its negotiating position in attempting to revive Asian bloc solidarity within the ICC (PTG 2079-10526 below).

ECB chief speaks in favour of four-day Tests.

Mike Atherton.

The Times.

Saturday, 18 March 2017.

PTG 2079-10524.

Where does Test cricket fit into England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison’s vision for the future? As more of a niche offering is the answer; played less frequently, but with more meaning and context and, ultimately, in all likelihood and in the right conditions, over four days.  The pros and cons of that concept were summarised by the Marylebone Cricket Club’s World Cricket Committee late last year, and it is to revisit the issue at its next meeting scheduled for Lord’s in early July (PTG 1998-10088, 8 December 2016).

Initially, Harrison was not a supporter of four-day Tests but has been convinced of their merits, bringing his thinking into line with that of his chairman, Colin Graves. Answering a question about whether England and Australia are “pushing hard” for four-day Tests, he said: “We’re pushing the benefits of it, without saying we’re pushing hard and it has to happen”.

What are the benefits? Is it simply about creating space in the calendar for more T20 cricket? “It creates space in the calendar but it’s not just about that and not just so we can schedule more. It’s about understanding the benefits from a consumer perspective. Can we create a better product by introducing a four-day format in certain conditions? My personal view is that I don’t think it works everywhere; like day-night Test cricket, it has to be the right time, right place, right conditions” (PTG 1972-9937, 9 November 2016).

“We have to take a look at the pressure on boards to keep Test cricket at the heart of their proposition. We’ve seen a lot of amazing Tests over five days but we haven’t really tested the theory as to whether the players’ mindset changes over four — if we increase the over rates, which is a thorny topic. I don’t believe it’s impossible to bowl more overs in a day” (PTG 1894-9494, 7 August 2016).

“Four-day Test cricket is a really interesting debate and will evolve and I’m sure we will get there in the end. I had to be convinced because when I started out I was massively against it, but I am for it because with Test cricket there is a risk of us loving it to death. We have to adapt".

“I am absolutely convinced the game can flourish over three forms. The balance between international and domestic cricket will change. We have to be careful about that and that is my fear about private ownership. Controlling private ownership will be difficult and controlling the ambition of very successful tournaments will be difficult".

“We have to retain the focus that the thing that has floated cricket for so many generations has been international cricket. That balance is being challenged but I’m hugely optimistic about the ability of international cricket to win through, even if it dominates a smaller part of the international calendar than it does now” (PTG 1890-9475, 3 August 2016).

But if cricket continues to pitch different forms of the game against each other, won’t that marginalise the longer form? An example will be the new ECB T20 competition in 2020, which will take place at the same time as Tests so that England players will not be available. “We will need to be more flexible”, he said. “Players will become more specialist in one format or another. That’s already happening in Australia and it might not be to everyone’s taste".

“Test cricket will become special and unique. It’s there and healthy and there will be less volume, which should be seen through the context of it being more positive. In England Test cricket will be special, an occasion rather than a diet to serve the appetite of the grounds.  Test cricket remains absolutely central to the diet that we put out to our fans every year. We are still filling grounds for Tests and we are still the team that everyone wants to come and play against. A Test series in England is still regarded as the pinnacle for many players from overseas.

“The objectives of our new [T20] tournament are about creating a new audience for the game, future-proofing our game and being relevant to communities that at the moment can’t see cricket. Test cricket is the audience we are good at marketing to. If we have a plan that is reliant entirely on managing that, then we will be managing decline. They can live together and they won’t overlap. Test cricket still has to be at the pinnacle of our sport and will remain so”.

Another Kiwi umpire goes for hat scratch routine.

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Sunday, 19 March 2017.

PTG 2079-10525.

New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney sent hearts fluttering around the Ranchi ground in the third India-Australia Test on Sunday as he appeared to dismiss Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, after the batsman tried to pull a short ball.  Gaffaney looked to be giving Pujara out, but then, after a half-hearted appealed, proceeded to start scratching his head in a move that was reminiscent of his countryman ‘Billy’ Bowden in a NZ domestic match in late December (PTG 2012-10178, 27 December 2016).

Sub-continental boards seeking to revive Asian bloc unity.

Vijay Tagore.

Pune Mirror.

Monday, 20 March 2017.

PTG 2079-10526.

With international cricket and the International Cricket Council (ICC) in a state of flux, especially since the resignation of the world body's former chairman Shashank Manohar (PTG 2077-10515, 16 March 2017), the talk is now one of the need for Asian unity in relation to ICC matters. As a result efforts are being made to revive the long-defunct Asian Bloc consisting of the ICC full members on the sub-continent: the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI); Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB); Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

To that end a meeting has been scheduled for Dubai next Monday at which Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) may be "a special invitee”.  A meeting attended by representatives from the BCCI, BCB and SLC plus ZC, was held in Colombo last week as part of efforts to revive the sub-continental bloc, the aim being to protect the region’s interest in ICC deliberations (PTG 2079-10523 above). It was the Asian block that managed to end the England-Australia hegemony in world cricket in the late 90s, and the need for it has been realised again lately, particularly after the BCCI was outnumbered at the last ICC meeting.

Next week's Dubai meeting aims to get Pakistan back into the fold as the PCB missed out on the Colombo conclave. There will be discussions over bilateral series, particularly about India-Pakistan series that is scheduled at the end of the year, although the BCCI and PCB will leave it to their respective governments to make a final decision on the matter. The Asian boards may also propose the name of an Asian for the now vacant ICC chairman’s position.

Meanwhile, it is back to courtroom for the BCCI. On Monday, India's Supreme Court will hear a range of petitions from the BCCI’s state units about such issues as: the need to hold an Special General Meeting on ICC matters; pleas over non-applicability of the Lodha reforms; the BCCI’s Committee of Administration’s (CoA) denial of the states’ demand for advance payment to stage Indian Premier League (IPL) matches; as well as applications regarding the new BCCI constitution that is being ‘finalised’ by the CoA.

The states are yet to sign on the dotted lines over stadium agreements for IPL matches but news from the states is that the final decision will be taken after Monday's Supreme Court hearing. The CoA says payments of 30 million Rupees ($A595,000, £UK370,500 ) for each match they are to host cannot be advanced to the states at the moment because of the binding order from the Supreme Court regarding financial transfers. Considerable clarity is expected to emerge after Monday’s hearing and in that sense, it is yet another D-Day for the BCCI members.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,080

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

 

• MIT puts ‘Virtual Eye’ through its paces in Dunedin [2080-10527].

• New BCCI constitution brings life to Lodha reforms [2080-10528].

• Shield final appointments a guide to CA IUP changes? [2080-10529].

• Indian's 50th first class game comes in South Africa [2080-10530].

• Provisionally suspended PSL players given travel bans [2080-10531].

• Football turfed from Gabba for a spell [2080-10532].

• ECB initiative aims at engaging pre-teens in the game [2080-10533].

• Will motor racing impact on a Sheffield Shield final? [2080-10534].

• London Olympic Stadium likely to 2019 World Cup games [2080-10535].

MIT puts ‘Virtual Eye’ through its paces in Dunedin.

Steve Hepburn.

Otago Daily Times.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10527.

Technology helps back up umpiring decisions in cricket .  But who backs up and checks the technology?  Well, for the past two days at the University Oval in Dunedin, the site of last week’s NZ-South Africa Test, a bunch of bright minds have been busy working out the accuracy of the ‘Virtual Eye’ ball tracking  system, used in international cricket around the world.

Designed and operated by Virtual Eye, the sports division of Dunedin firm Animation Research Ltd, the ball-tracking service has been in operation since 2009.  It judges LBW dismissals among other things and is one of various technological tools brought into cricket to get more accuracy into the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MIT consultant Jaco Pretorious (left), bowls a ball while testing systems at the University Oval in Dunedin on Monday. 

Things such as ‘Hot Spot', ‘Snicko' and the ‘Zing' bails, which light up as soon as the bails leave the wickets, are also services which have been introduced in the last few years, all in the name of getting things right and taking some heat off the umpire.  But the International Cricket Council (ICC) has also decided these new technologies have to be tested to determine the range of their accuracy.

ICC general manager cricket Geoff Allardice was in Dunedin for the past few days helping with testing the Virtual Eye system.  Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who the ICC commissioned last year to test Umpire Decision Review System related equipment (PTG 1847-9260, 7 June 2016), were leading the work and it involved a bit more than a bat and a ball and the cracking of the willow.

They were tracking where an actual ball landed and bounced and where it went past the stumps. That involved the use of lasers from the boundary and also a camera over the top of the crease. They could not be used in the actual playing of a game when four precisely located cameras are used to provide input into the Virtual Eye system.

Animation Research Ltd chief executive Ian Taylor said each piece of technology used in cricket in the current era had its strengths and weaknesses and the testing would define just what they were.  An accuracy range will be found for each tool and the rules pertaining to their use will be adapted based on the findings.  The testers will now take away the data, take time to analyse it, and then go back to the ICC with their findings.

Last year the MIT investigation found that 'Hawk-Eye’, Virtual Eye’s rival in the ball-tracking technology business, can have a field of error of up to almost four centimetres (1.5 inches) when determining the projected height of balls.  Hawk-Eye has always maintained its technology is only accurate to within 5 mm (PTG 1855-9301, 17 June 2016).  

New BCCI constitution brings life to Lodha reforms.

Hindustan Times.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10528.

Mumbai, 41-time Ranji Trophy champions, will no longer be considered a Full Member association of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under the national body’s new constitution.  The Committee of Administrators (CoA), appointed by the Indian Supreme Court to carry out the reforms suggested by the Justice Lodha Committee, finalised the new constitution on Saturday and the proposed document was posted on the BCCI’s web site on Monday.

Among the many reforms, the new constitution stipulates that only 30 associations will function as controlling bodies for domestic cricket in their respective states. These 30 bodies will be Full Members and receive voting rights. This was implemented to follow the one-state-one-vote rule, which is a Lodha Panel recommendation.

Maharashtra and Gujarat cricket associations were included in the list of Full Members which means that the cricket associations of Mumbai, Vidarbha, Saurashtra and Baroda —previously functioning as Full Members — will henceforth be considered Associate Members.  However, the new constitution also confirmed that membership for multiple associations in a single state would rotate on an annual basis.

The list of Full Members also includes the likes of Bihar, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya, none of which were Full Members in the past.  Besides Mumbai, Vidarbha, Saurashtra and Baroda missing out, founding members, Cricket Club of India and National Cricket Club also miss out on the Full Members list.  Government institutes like Railways, Services and Universities also miss out on membership.

The new constitution clarifies previous debates on the nine-year clause for the country’s cricket administrators.  After the Lodha Panel recommendations that administrators should only serve nine-year terms, some suggested the possibility of serving 18 years in cricket administration — nine years in state associations and nine years with the BCCI.

However, the new constitution clarifies that the proposed nine-year clause covers administration over BCCI and state associations collectively. Therefore an individual will no longer be able to work in cricket administration in the country once they have held office for nine years split in any way over office held in the BCCI and state associations.  

The constitution states: “A person shall be disqualified from being an Office Bearer if he or she has been an Office Bearer of the BCCI for a period of 9 years or an office bearer of any Member for a period of 9 years”.  That point is further elaborated saying, “No person shall be an Office Bearer for more than 3 terms in all” and that “the Term of office of an Office Bearer shall be 3 years.”

Additional regulations concerning cricket administrators specified that administrators cannot be over the age of 70 and that they cannot be ministers or government servants at the same time they hold office in BCCI.  The three-year cooling off period for BCCI office bearers is also included in the new constitution.

Shield final appointments a guide to CA IUP changes?

PTG Editor.

CA media release.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10529.

Simon Fry is to stand in his seventh Sheffield Shield final in eight years when Victoria play South Australia in Alice Springs later this week.  Fry, 50, will be on-field with fellow Cricket Australia (CA) National Umpire Panel (NUP) member Paul Wilson, for whom its his second final in a row, while their NUP colleague Sam Nogajski will be the television umpire for the match, his debut in a Shield final.  Overall management of the match will fall to match referee Bob Stratford, while Jim Hamilton and Vicky Hutchinson will be the scorers. 

For Fry, 50, who missed last year’s final only because he was in India standing in the World Twenty20 Championship series as an International Cricket Council (ICC) umpire (PTG 1776-8868, 6 March 2016), this week’s match will be his 87th first class game and 66th in CA’s Shield competition since his debut just over 15 years ago.  Wilson, 45, who stood in last year’s final with fellow NUP member Mick Martell, will be on-field in his 48th first class game in just over eight years, while Nogajski, 38, who has 32 first class games to his credit since debut in November 2011, will be working in the television role in a multi-day game for the first time.

Stratford, 67, a former first class umpire, looked after the 2009, 2013 and 2014 finals as the referee, this year’s decider being the 55th occasion he will have overseen a Shield fixture in that role.  Records available suggest Hamilton was a scorer in the 2010 Shield final, however, it would appear Hutchinson will be working in her first.

Fry, Martell, Wilson and Nogajski, who as well as being NUP members are also CA’s appointees to the ICC’s second-tier International Umpires Panel (IUP), plus the NUP’s Shawn Craig and Gerard Abood, were all selected to stand in matches in the final round of Sheffield Shield matches over the weekend.  That suggests those six remain in the upper half of NUP ratings as the Australian season comes to an end, with Craig a potential IUP member in waiting at a time when the ICC is looking to expand its Elite Umpires Panel and Fry could depart to join that group (PTG 2044-10353, 10 February 2017).

Within the IUP the CA ratings had over the past year been Fry 1, Martell 2, Wilson 3 and Nogajski 4.  So whether the fact Martell, who stood in the past two Shield finals, is missing from this year's final means he has slipped down the ratings, and therefore into a television role with  Nogajski, Wilson going into an IUP on-field spot alongside Fry for 2017-18, is a question now being asked.  There appears to be no ICC appointments reason for Martell's omission this week, but there may of course be a non-cricket related factor that has not been made public. 

Indian's 50th first class game comes in South Africa.

PTG Editor.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10530.

Indian umpire Virender Sharma chalked up his 50th first class game during his recent exchange visit to South Africa, Australians Geoff Joshua and New Zealand’s Richard Hooper also being in that country on exchange in the same period.  All three each stood in two Cricket South Africa domestic first class four-day matches, Joshua’s being his 41st and 42nd first class games, and Hooper just his third and fourth.

Sharma, 45, played 51 first class games for Himachal Pradesh in the period from 1990-2007, before making his umpiring debut at that level in November 2009.  All except a handful of his games to date have been in India’s Ranji Trophy competition, while two were in England whilst on exchange in July last year (PTG 1882-9431, 21 July 2016).  His matches in South Africa were between the Warriors and Lions in East London, his on-field colleague then being  Babs Gcuma, and the Dolphins and Cape Cobras in Durban with Bongami Jele.

Joshua, 47, stood with Jele in Paarl, the Cape Cobras and the Knights being the teams involved, and with Allahudien Paleker in Johannesburg for the match between the Lions and the Knights.  He made his first class debut in October 2009, his first international exchange coming a year  ago to New Zealand with India his potential next exchange step later this year (PTG 1746-8690, 26 January 2016).

Hooper, 40, from Central Districts, was appointed to New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) then Emerging Umpires Panel in August 2012 (PTG 980-4752, 18 August 2012), and two years later joined the second-tier Reserve Panel when the then ‘A’ and Emerging Panels were amalgamated.  He made his first class debut in February last year and stood in a second Plunket Shield match in November before travelling to South Africa.  There he was on-field in a Dolphins-Titans fixture in Pietermaritzburg with Paleker and a Titans-Warriors fixture in Benoni with Dennis Smith.

Provisionally suspended PSL players given travel bans.

BBC News.

Monday, 20 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10531.

Five players provisionally suspended as part of an anti-corruption inquiry have been barred from leaving Pakistan (PTG 2078-10517, 18 March 2017).  Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Irfan and Shahzaib Hasan have been charged with breaking the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) anti-corruption code.  The charges relate to allegations of spot-fixing during the recent Pakistan Super League series (PSL).

Jamshed, 27, is still in Britain, following his arrest by the National Crime Agency last month. The batsman was bailed until April pending further inquiries.  Batsmen Sharjeel, 27, and Latif, 31, are contesting the charges against them and have been instructed by the PCB to attend a preliminary hearing in front of a three-member tribunal in Lahore on Friday.

Latif and 34-year-old pace bowler Irfan gave statements to the Federal Investigation Authority in Lahore on Monday, while Sharjeel and 27-year-old batsman Shahzaib are due to give statements on Tuesday.

Football turfed from the Gabba for a spell.

PTG Editor.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10532.

In a rare move in Australia, the interests of cricket have been put before Australian Rules Football (AFL), with Stadiums Queensland declaring on Monday that the Gabba ground should not be subjected to AFL games being played on it over the next month.  Last week cricket officials warned, after a recent concert was held at the ground, that the pitch for the first Ashes Test later this November would be compromised if this coming weekend's AFL Womens' Grand Final and the Brisbane Lions mens team's first two home games next month were played at the venue (PTG 2075-10508, 15 March 2017).

Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland said in a statement on Monday:  “This is a very unfortunate situation to be dealing with.  As long-term tenants of the Gabba, we’re very sympathetic to the Brisbane Lions and the AFL’s situation. It’s never ideal to have to move a fixture, particularly given how successful the AFL Women’s competition has been.  The centre area of the ground is incredibly important for both our sports – and together with the AFL, we will be looking to engage with Stadiums Queensland about future major events at the Gabba, to ensure the turf isn’t compromised in this way again".

“Since the recent damage to the centre wicket block, we’ve had very constructive talks with Stadiums Queensland and have been given reassurances from them on the quality of the pitch for the first Test of the Ashes.  The Test series will be the biggest sporting event in Australia this year, and we look forward to welcoming fans from all over the world to Queensland when we host another record crowd at the Australian cricket team’s traditional fortress, the Gabba”.

Criticism had been directed towards Gabba ground staff about the current state of the centre wicket and suggestions eight months were needed to prepare for the Ashes.  

Recently-retired Queensland player Chris Hartley defended curator Kevin Mitchell Jr, saying: "What disappoints me is we've got a guy who's been curating at the Gabba for decades, and he's the only one who is an expert on how a pitch needs to be prepared.  For some reason we've got politicians and administrators in the AFL suggesting the wicket is going to be fine for the Ashes (even if they'd played the AFL Womes' grand final at the Gabba).  I'm not sure how many pitches they've prepared in their lives, but I'd be listening to the guy who has been making the best [pitches] in the world for the past 20 years, and work with him and try to make his job a little bit easier”.

ECB initiative aims at engaging pre-teens in the game.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10533.

When the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) learnt that only two per cent of five to 12-year-olds placed cricket in their top 10 sports it provided a stark reminder of the fight the game faces to stay relevant (PTG 1925-9671, 16 September 2016).

In response the ECB on Monday launched 'All Stars Cricket', its first grass-roots initiative aimed at primary schoolchildren. The target is to attract 50,000 children to the game this year as cricket attempts to become more accessible after a decade on pay-per-view television and at the same time as the county game debates a new city-based Twenty20 competition.

“Unless a child has picked up a bat by the time they leave primary school there is very little chance of them playing or being a fan of the game so unless we get them at this age we have no chance”, said Matt Dwyer, the ECB’s director of participation and growth who introduced a similar program in Australia. “This is also the age group when children are sampling a different range of activities so we want to invest in a great first experience in the game for them”.

“We have done lots of insights into the relevance of cricket for five to 12-year-olds and less than two per cent of kids have cricket as their favourite sport so regardless of what factors have led to that stat, it is a concerning stat and proves the game is not as relevant as we would like it to be. Moving forward we will find a solution”.

Cricket has long been a sport played within families. In his book 'Game of Life', Scyld Berry wrote that 154 of 665 England Test cricketers have had a father, brother or uncle who has played international cricket. Another 110 have a father, brother or half-brother who has played first-class cricket.

It is Dwyer’s job to reach a new audience and expand the game beyond its traditional base. It is why the ECB has teamed up with Mumsnet, a UK parenting web site, as part of the new program as it targets the whole family.   “It is going to be cricket as kids have never seen it before”, says Dwyer. “It will teach all skills of the game but it is not about the technical level of the game. It is about having fun. There will be badges for the children every time they learn a new skill like catching, throwing, fielding, bowling and batting".

“One of the insights we got last year was that three-quarters of kids in the UK spend less time outside than a prison inmate and that is a stark stat. One of the reasons is in built-up areas there is a lack of green space and we have had that in mind with the programme. It is flexible and can be run anytime anywhere at any time of the year.”

After registering, children will be sent a cricket backpack personalised with the England team logo containing a bat and ball. They will receive a welcome video message from Joe Root and emails from England players when they learn a new skill. Children will start an eight-week program at a local club. The ECB already has 2,000 clubs signed up to the scheme.

Many clubs already have a thriving junior section. It is keeping hold of them in the teenage years that is tough but Dwyer says his experience in Australia is that the drop-off is less when children are introduced to the game at an earlier age.  

Will motor racing impact on a Sheffield Shield final?

Daniel Cherny.

Fairfax Media.

Saturday, 18 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10534.

As Victoria prepare for a "home" Sheffield Shield final in Alice Springs 2,300 km to the north-west of Melbourne in central Australia (PTG 2080-10529 above), the prospect of how the Australian Grand Prix might affect their chances of hosting the 2018 final at the redeveloped Junction Oval in Melbourne on Grand Prix weekend remains up in the air.  Cricket Victoria (CV) said this week that the state's new home of cricket was due to be ready for games next January, meaning matches in the back half of the 2017-18 season could be played at the venue.

The move of Cricket Australia (CA) domestic first class games to Junction Oval from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) will solve several issues for CV, who have in recent seasons been forced to host the Victorian team's matches at interstate venues due to the MCG’s unavailability because of Australian Rules Football needs (PTG 2080-10532 above). Two summers ago Victoria "hosted" Western Australia in Hobart for the Shield final, and this year they will be flying to the Red Centre as they look to claim their third title on the trot.

However, one problem that could arise in the future is if the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, within which the Junction Oval lays, coincides with the Shield final. The GP has long provided a headache for club and district cricket in the area. This year's Victorian Premier League final will be played at Carlton's Princes Park Oval to the north of the city proper, rather than the nearby Albert Ground, which like Junction Oval is affected in terms of both access and noise during the Grand Prix, a main straight being located just metres from the oval’s boundary. Both the Grand Prix and Shield final are traditionally held in late March.

A CA spokesman said: "Whilst the 2017-18 Shield schedule has not been finalised, if there was a fixture clash between the Grand Prix and Victoria hosting the final at Junction Oval, we would work with all parties to look at our options and best possible solution”.

London Olympic Stadium likely to 2019 World Cup games.

Ben Rumsby.

London Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2080-10535.

A deal was close to being struck on Monday that would see England play one of their 2019 World Cup group matches at the London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium (PTG 2000-10110, 9 December 2016).  The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was in advanced negotiations to stage two of the tournament’s highest-profile fixtures in front of what would be record crowds for cricket in the UK.

One of those games at the 60,000-seater venue is likely to be England's group match against Australia looking like the prime candidate.  The second would be one of the other 44 group fixtures most likely to sell out, such as India-Pakistan.  Confirming the ECB was keen to stage games at the stadium, chief executive Tom Harrison said on Monday: “It would be an amazing statement to have 55,000 to 60,000 people in a ground in the UK watching World Cup cricket”.

An inspection of the ground in January found that the pitch dimensions complied with the necessary requirements for staging One Day Internationals.  Harrison added: “It has the right dimensions to play meaningful cricket and there not a lot of other stadiums around the country that have got the capacity to fit the boundaries in.  We will have to tweak the orientation of the ground slightly. There are minimum boundaries that we have to deliver”.

A drop-in pitch would be used for the two fixtures, with the managing director of the 2019 World Cup, Steve Elworthy, having visited New Zealand – where such wickets are more common – in a bid to ensure the playing surface would be of a high enough standard.  What would amount to a test event could also be held at the London Stadium in 2018 in the shape of an Essex domestic Twenty20 fixture.

What is now West Ham United’s home boasts twice the capacity of any cricket ground in the UK and its use for the World Cup, which has the full backing of the International Cricket Council, is seen as a way of helping turbo-charge the tournament.  There was talk of staging the opening ceremony there as well but that has been ruled out. 

Using the London Stadium for World Cup matches would not be without controversy, with the ECB having guaranteed 11 county venues around the country a certain number of games in the tournament back in 2014.  Some of the additional revenue generated could be used to compensate those venues which lose out.


 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,081

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

 

• New England captain told flair beats a win [2081-10536].

• CA wedges men with doubled female pay offer [2081-10537].

• Local Indian tournament has goat, roosters, eggs as ‘trophies’ [2081-10538].

• Headingley on the brink of losing major cricket ground status [2081-10539].

• Patronising women is not the way to boost participation [2081-10540].

New England captain told flair beats a win.

Martyn Ziegler.

The Times.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2081-10536.

Joe Root, the new England captain, has been told to ensure that his team play exciting cricket rather than settle for a safe but dull result.  Tom Harrison, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) chief executive, said England’s priority must be for attacking cricket to attract new fans and maintain the interest of existing supporters, even if it leads to defeat.

England have Test series against South Africa and West Indies this northern hemisphere summer and Root, as well as Eoin Morgan, England's one-day captain, have been made aware of their responsibilities.

Harrison said: “Joe Root and Eoin Morgan understand their responsibility to be playing exciting cricket for future generations to connect with and for fans of the game to get behind. It’s a very deliberate strategy. It doesn’t work every time you go out on the park. But we understand that it’s more likely you’re going to be forgiven for having a bad day if you’re doing everything to try to win a game, as opposed to not trying to lose it, which is a very key difference in positioning”.

He added: “Andrew Strauss [the director of England cricket] and the England teams are very clear that part of their responsibility in playing this bold and brave cricket — this commitment to playing an exciting formula of cricket every time they go on the park — is linked to this”.  In terms of captains who have led England in Tests in at least ten games, the team’s runs per over was highest at 3.48 when Strauss was captain, and lowest under Len Hutton when the figure was 2.17.

Asked if the future health of the game was more important than England winning a one-off Test match playing boring cricket, Harrison replied: “One hundred per cent correct. We’re in a competitive world now. The reason why Twenty20 blows other ratings out of the park on television and attendances — and this is not just in the UK, this is around the world — is because people want to watch.  They know they’re going to go there and see some dramatic cricket, they’re going to see some amazing skill”.

T20 cricket is at the heart of the ECB’s plans with a revolutionary new competition to be launched in 2020 (PTG 2076-10511, 15 March 2017). Harrison suggested that the TV rights will be sold before the venues are finalised, with the broadcasters who win the rights able to have an input into the organisation of the competition. He also said the packages would be sold in a way that would make it accessible to terrestrial TV.  “Whoever wins the TV rights will be part of us building this”, he said. “The proliferation of media is so broad that you’re competing with 'The Only Way Is Essex’ [a UK reality TV series], as much as you are with football”.

Harrison also believes the new tournament, which will aim to rival the Indian Premier League in terms of size and interest, will make even bigger stars out of the players. “Absolutely, absolutely, I do [think that]”, he said.

He was speaking before the launch of a new grassroots initiative pitched at children aged between five and eight (PTG 2080-10533, 21 March 2017). Harrison said the “All Stars Cricket” program was an attempt to win the “battle of the playground and the car park” and attract 50,000 children away from video games and the internet.  “We’ve got kids spending money going to watch in stadia people playing e-Games”, he said. “e-Sports is a huge competitor to us, or kids watching ‘YouTube' or bloggers. If you leave it until children are 11, it is 60 to 70 per cent more difficult to get them in”.

Cricket has lost about 100,000 regular players over the past decade but the figures for the last five years have been relatively stable.  Harrison said the ECB is also making huge strides in reaching South Asian communities and is now looked upon by government as a leader in understanding how to reach these groups and tap into their potential.  He is also keen for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to get behind a campaign for cricket — most likely in the T20 form — to become an Olympic sport. “It’s something we’ve discussed at ICC level”, said Harrison (PTG 1877-9406, 16 July 2016).

CA wedges men with doubled female pay offer.

Peter Lalor.

The Australian.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2081-10537.

Cricket Australia (CA) has offered its female players a massive pay rise as part of a package that is set to spark the most bitter stand off with cricketers since the collective bargaining agreement was first introduced.  CA is trying to move away from the revenue share model which has underpinned all player payments since the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA), or players’ union, was introduced in the 1980s.

Australian captain Steve Smith and his vice-captain David Warner said at the start of the negotiations that they insist the pay share model remain. They were briefed by the ACA last week ahead of the Ranchi Test and are understood to still be united in opposition to the revenue share move.  Female players are also in step with the men, however, they will be tempted by the generous pay hike included in CA's proposed   new five-year MoU.

CA chief executive James Sutherland, said on Tuesday the offer would allow women to operate as professional sportspeople and provides generous pay rises to all players.  “We are pleased that the [ACA] agrees with us that women, for the first time, should be part of the MoU, and we have proposed a financial model that has gender equity at its heart”, said Sutherland.

“Under the proposal, women will receive an immediate average pay increase of more than 125 per cent”, continued the chief executive. As a result, our international women cricketers will see their average annual pay increase from $A79-179,000 (£UK49-111,000) as of 1 July this year. By 2021, we expect to see our international women cricketers earning an average of $A210,000 (£UK130,300) per annum.  And our state female cricketers, playing in both the Womens’ National Cricket League (WNCL) 50-over series and the Womens’ Big Bash League (WBBL), will see their average remuneration more than double from $A22-52,000 [£UK13,650-32,270] this year".

“Under this offer, we will achieve gender equity by ensuring that the minimum and average hourly pay will be the same for state men and women in 2017-18. In addition, match fees for the WNCL and the [men’s 50 over competition] will be exactly the same: a one-day game for a state cricketer is worth the same to both men and women.  We are also introducing in the 2017-18 season, for the first time, prizemoney for the WNCL of $A258,000 (£UK160,000) and the WBBL of $309,000 (£UK191,700)”.  Just how that prize money will be distributed was not spelt out.

Sutherland said the proposed up-grades show that “cricket has led the charge on providing a real sporting career path for women, and this offer locks in all that hard work of the past few years. It is truly an historic development which allows us to say with confidence that cricket is a sport for all Australians”.

CA is offering pay increases to all the players. Its model would see only the international male players offered a share of revenue and would cap payments to domestic cricketers. Under the existing model the players receive a set share around 26 per cent of certain revenues and that money is divided between international and state players.  The administrators claim they will increase payments from $A311-419m (£UK192-260 m) over the course of the next MoU which will run from 2017-22.

The average international player will receive $A816,000 (£UK506,310) which, with the inclusion of bonuses, match payments and BBL payments would rise to an average of $A1.16 m (£UK720,000).  Domestic male cricketers (state competitions and BBL) will also be earning an average of $A235,000 (£UK145,800) by 2021-22, up 18 per cent from the $A199,000 (£UK123,470) of 2016-17.

“We have placed the emphasis on increasing the guaranteed amount that the men will receive, rather than rely on any projected increase in revenue”, Sutherland.  “We understand that the ACA prefers the status quo, but CA believes that the model devised in the 1990s, which is based on a fixed percentage of revenue, has served its intended purpose – to make Australia’s cricketers some of the best paid sportspeople in the country".

“It was a means to an end, not something that has to hold us back from providing players with financial certainty, a fair deal for all players including women, and the flexibility to invest in the grassroots of the game.  This is a landmark agreement. We are now looking forward to sitting down with the ACA to work through the details and we are confident we will be able to announce a completed agreement before [the end of] June”.

ACA chief Alistair Nicholson said: "For the moment, what can be said is that this proposal shows a number of promising signs that indicate that CA has been taking the ACA's lead on various key points from our MoU submission.  However, with a lack of detail in the terms and conditions that underpin this proposal, the ACA will continue to seek clarification from CA and advise the players on this accordingly”.

Local Indian tournament has goat, roosters, eggs as ‘trophies’.

Sandy Nair.

The Times of India.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.

PTG 2081-10538.

Last Sunday in the Indian state of Mahaarashtrai, the winners of an annual cricket tournament in the Jawhar district did not go home with a trophy or prize money. The winning team received a goat, the runner-up five roosters and those who hit fours and sixes a boiled egg for every strike. Any spectator who caught the ball was also presented with an egg.

The idea was the brainchild of coach Umesh Tamore, who convinced the tournament committee that cash creates tension and leads to fights among players.  "Every year cricket matches are held at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Jawhar with prize money of [50-100,000 Rupees]” ($A995-1,990,  £UK610-1,220), said Tamore.

Despite the no-cash policy, 14 teams came forward to participate in the tournament. Each paid 1,000 Rupees ($A20, £UK12) to the organisers. The tournament committee comprising six members, including Tamore, chipped in with 1,000 Rupees each.

The goat was kept tied up near the boundary while the teams played their five-over matches.  The winning team’s captain Manoj Prabhu said: "The prize was unique. We are now waiting to feast on it”.  However, the side that came second had a tough time managing the five roosters they won but "They are not a bad deal”, said captain Anil Kanne.

Both players and spectators were served vegetable pulav for lunch and everyone shared the boiled eggs. "In the past we have experienced allegations of rigging and fights over prize money. This time, all willingly shared their prizes”, said Tamore.

Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals president Shakuntala Majumdar said while gifting an animal was not legally wrong, "ethically and morally we are against gifting animals as there is no way of knowing how they would be treated and where they have been procured from”.

Headingley on the brink of losing major cricket ground status.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.

PTG 2081-10539.

Headingley will lose its place as one of the major cricket grounds of the world unless delicate talks between the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Leeds City Council can resolve a funding row that threatens the ground’s international status.  Headingley has hosted Test cricket since 1899 but unless the club can finance the rebuilding of the stand at the Football End it will no longer meet modern requirements and will lose the four matches it is due to host in the 2019 World Cup.

Headingley will also lose Test status from 2020, when its staging agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) expires, and will not be able to compete with other grounds to host a team in the ECB’s new Twenty20 tournament unless the deadlock over ground improvements is solved before the end of this cricket season.  The club has to find £UK17 million ($A27.6 m) to finance its half of the work on the stand which is shared with Leeds Rhinos rugby league club. 

Yorkshire had been awarded a £4 m ($A6.5 m) grant from the city council and were looking to borrow money for the rest of the project. However, the council offer was withdrawn recently under political pressure within the local authority, which is facing massive cuts and around 2,000 job losses over the next four years. 

Yorkshire are already saddled with almost £25 m ($A40.6 m) of debt, with most owed to a trust fund set up by ECB chairman Colin Graves, and Steve Denison, the club’s chairman, has ruled out financing the entire building work through new loans. It is a possible a solution may be found by the end of this week as talks continue with the council but Yorkshire look set to start the new county season with major doubts over the club’s future place at the top table of English cricket.

“Discussions are ongoing all the time formally and informally [with the council] to try and find a solution because it is bonkers if the city, county and the club are running the risk of losing international status”, said Denison. “There is no guarantee we would be able to host one of the new T20 teams as we haven’t got a stadium up to scratch. It does look quite gloomy but nobody is giving up. We are going to keep going but it is hard work". 

“The Ashes Test at Headingley will happen at 2019 anyway as it is not predicated on anything. But the World Cup games are predicated on us finishing that stand, so if we want to get it done by then we have to be cracking on by the end of [the 2017] season. That is only a matter of weeks away in construction terms plus there will be a substantial amount of preparatory work that has to be done before bulldozers move in and knock down the existing stand. It is why everybody is working really hard to find a solution".

“The last thing we want to do is mortgage the future at all costs. Having a club that can sustain itself is the most important thing. We are not going to risk that because of the situation we find ourselves in right now. We don’t want to say ‘don’t worry let’s just borrow up to £40 m ($A64.9 m) and pay it off over 40 years.’ It is an unimaginably long period and who knows what will happen in the next four years let alone 40”. 

The ECB has written to Yorkshire to confirm the ground does not meet international requirements so will not be considered for matches after its current staging agreement runs out after the 2019 Ashes series. The ground does not have a big enough capacity unless the new stand is built.  The club cannot appeal to the ECB for funds as the board has warned counties it will not be a lender of last resort (PTG 1625-7930, 22 August 2015), and Durham discovered last year the price of a bailout from the governing body (PTG 1938-9747, 5 October 2016). 

Durham were stripped of Test status and if Headingley goes the same way it will leave Lancashire as the only Test ground in the north of England. Lancashire would also be in the strongest position to host one of the eight new Twenty20 teams.

Funding from local authorities is controversial, particularly in an age of austerity when cuts to services are biting. But Warwickshire, Hampshire and Glamorgan are counties that have been helped by their local council after being able to prove the value international cricket brings to local businesses. Only last year Yorkshire paid back a £7 m ($A11.4 m) loan from the city council to help with previous rebuilding work. 

With Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, this week confirming the London Stadium as a possible World Cup venue (PTG 2080-10535, 21 March 2017), there is an alternative if Headingley cannot host its four matches.  It would be a huge blow to the self esteem of a club steeped in cricket’s history and the beating heart of the recreational game’s club scene.

“The council officers get it and quite a lot of the politicians get it as well but they are for whatever reason not in a position where they feel they can give the £4 m to Yorkshire”, said Denison. “We sit at the heart of an enormously passionate cricket population and when you add in the five million people in and around Leeds that is a pretty powerful combo”.

Patronising women is not the way to boost participation.

Elizabeth Ammon.

The Times.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.

PTG 2081-10540.

Every week brings an announcement from one sports governing body or another — a new initiative to increase engagement, participation or crowd sizes. Almost all of them seem to be aimed at getting more women and girls into sport. More and more I hear adminstrators saying “we’ve got to the get the mums” and therefore by default their kids.  Surely that’s a good thing? How can you possibly object to that?

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) latest participation initiative, 'All Stars Cricket', has a strong element of pitching to mums, so much so that the press release had a quote from the chief executive of ‘Mumsnet', the online parenting forum (PTG 2080-10533, 21 March 2017). One of the main stated objectives of the ECB’s new T20 competition is to attract more women and children. Last year's “This Girl Can” initiative has been pretty successful and is well intentioned and well marketed but I find myself slightly horrified that there was any prior belief that “this girl couldn’t”.

I have been told that many women don’t go to sporting events because the stadiums aren’t nice enough. That they’re grubby and the facilities are terrible. That not enough families go to our sporting events because it’s not a nice spectator experience for the mums.

There are two problems with statements like these. First, they imply that the reason fewer women go to watch football, cricket or rugby is because there are no Laura Ashley cushions on the seats and no hand lotion in the toilets. And second, they imply that men are alright with stadiums being unpleasant places (they aren’t).

Yes, many of our stadiums in the UK are terrible. They don’t have facilities that make things a bit easier if you’ve got kids. But that’s not because we’re women. It’s the same for dads — particularly if dads are taking their daughters. Taking two small girls to the toilet when you are a man is a particularly challenging experience especially when they’ve got to the age that they want to go to the ladies themselves. The poor fellas find themselves loitering awkwardly outside the ladies loos.

How about making your stadiums more comfortable and user-friendly because it’s the right thing to do, not because you have a notion that women are delicate flowers who can’t handle the rough-round-the-edges elements of playing or watching sport?

The increasing rhetoric that women need help to access, engage with, or participate in sport drives me potty. Women aren’t special cases that need extra help. We know what sport is. We know how to access it. We understand it. We know where and when you can watch it. We understand the rules. And if we don’t, we know how to find them out. We don’t need to have them explained to us. Honestly, football is far less complicated than buying a pair of skinny jeans.

Yes, more men watch and play sport than women do. More women watch 'Strictly Come Dancing' and 'The X Factor' than men do but we don’t see the launch of special initiatives to explain singing and dancing to men.  Every time I see one of these new initiatives pitched to me as both a woman and a mum, it’s invariably being pitched by a middle-aged bloke. Always with the best of intentions, always coming from the right place. Always trying to work out how they can support us to be more engaged with their sport. Admirable but patronising as hell.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted that sport has woken up to the fact that women exist. And particularly delighted that my own sport, cricket, is recognising the need to try and broaden its appeal. But the language being used grates on me.

Please stop thinking women don’t know about sport. Stop thinking that the reason many of us don’t watch or play it is because we don’t understand it. Please stop thinking we’re more likely to go if you dumb the sport down a bit, make it shorter, make it easier to understand or put flowers in the aisles.

We don’t need your help. We get it. We can use the internet and read the newspapers and watch the telly just like you can. If you want to increase engagement and participation in your sport, be more targeted than just “get more women”. There’s probably a whole heap of men not accessing your sport either.

But if you do want to tap into the “female market” (that’s a phrase one man said to me), think about who we see leading the sport, who we see in your sport’s workforce, Think about the role of women in sport being so normal that it doesn’t even need mentioning.  “We cannot be what we cannot see” is a phrase often used by feminists. Perhaps if we saw more women running sport, working in sport, talking about sport that would be the catalyst. Perhaps then we could get to a stage where we could just stop mentioning gender.

This isn’t meant to be an uncharitable rant. I know you are trying to help and I don’t want to be churlish about anything that gets people to engage with sport. But language matters and I urge you not to talk to women as if we don’t get sport without your help.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,082

Thursday, 23 March 2017

 

• Backlash from Australia-India series will hurt Test cricket: Bhogle [2082-10541].

• ‘Red Centre’ one week, Guyana the next [2082-10542].

• Player to face tribunal over umpire `shirt front’ charge [2082-10543].

• India doubles player salaries, hikes match fees [2082-10544].

Backlash from Australia-India series will hurt Test cricket: Bhogle.

Tyson Otto.

news.com.au.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.

PTG 2082-10541.

It is being described as a series that has re-invigorated Test cricket, but appearances can be deceiving.  Australia and India's enthralling and fiery battles on the sub-continent are threatening to get out of hand ahead of the fourth Test in Dharmsala which is due to get underway on Saturday.

Long-time Indian cricket commentator Harshe Bhogle has hit out at the glorification that aggression and division has received from cricket commentators this series.  He has called for restraint from both camps and external forces that have fanned the flames of tension.  He said cricket's reputation is the thing that will eventually get burnt by the external forces pouring fuel on the fire.

It comes as former Test players, including VVS Laxman, Ian Healy and Mitchell Johnson, have all declared their concern with the behaviour of individual players this series.  Captains Virat Kohli and Steve Smith have been lightning rods for criticism and allegations, following Smith's second-test review "brain fade", Kohli's aggressive remonstrations with umpires and Australian players, and other acts by players, none of which has resulted in disciplinary action being taken against those involved.

Bhogle says the salacious friction between the two teams and commentators on both sides of the fence will eventually prove harmful to the game, if the commentators screaming for blood are not silenced.  He said cricket commentators and reporters have all been guilty of taking sides.  In a series of tweets, Bhogle called for perspective from those outside the Australian and Indian dressing rooms.  

It is the job of the International Cricket Council, Cricket Australia and the Board of Control For Cricket in India to pull the series out of the darkness, says Bhogle. Despite Bhogle’s call for calm though, the mud-slinging across the two camps continued on Wednesday.

‘Red Centre’ one week, Guyana the next .

PTG Editor.

ICC appointments.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2082-10542.

Australian Simon Fry will be in Alice Springs standing in the five-day Sheffield Shield final during the coming week (PTG 2080-10529, 21 March 2017), but a week later he will be on the other side of the world in Guyana as one of the neutral officials for the three One Day Internationals (ODI) between the West Indies and Pakistan.  Fry, together with New Zealand’s Jeff Crowe and England’s Ian Gould, were named on Wednesday as the neutral officials for the series.

Crowe will oversee the series as the match referee, Fry standing in the first and third games with Gould the television umpire, the latter pair reversing roles for the second ODI.  The series will take Crowe’s ODI record as a referee to 256 matches, Gould to 115 on-field and 34 as the television umpire (115/34) and Fry to 33/15.  

The Australian, who is a candidate for elevation to the International Cricket Council’s Elite Umpires Panel, will be standing as a neutral in an ODI series for the fifth time in just over two years, after stints in the England-Pakistan series last year, Zimbabwe-India in 2015, the World Cup of 2015, and the Sri Lanka-England series in 2014.

Crowe will also oversee the four Twenty20 Internationals the Windies and Pakistan are to play in Bridgetown and Port of Spain prior to the ODIs.  West Indian umpires Joel Wilson, Gregory Braithwaite, Nigel Duguid and Leslie Reifer are expected to be named to support that series.

Player to face tribunal over umpire `shirt front’ charge.

Alex Oates.

Geelong Advertiser.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.

PTG 2082-10543.

A player with the South Barwon club in Victoria’s Geelong Cricket Association (GCA) has been stood down indefinitely amid allegations he “shirtfronted” an umpire.  Sean Thompson has been banned from his side's grand final match on Saturday and will face the GCA tribunal after his ­alleged shoulder charge on St Peter’s captain Brett Fisher last weekend.

Fisher was acting as an ­“unofficial” umpire at square leg on Saturday when he was allegedly hit by Thompson during a GCA Division 7 semi final match. It’s believed Thompson charged at Fisher and bowled him over after the St Peters' skipper/umpire turned down a close run-out. GCA president Barry McFarlane said he had directed the incident go straight to the tribunal which will sit on Friday night. 

South Barwon officials were stunned by the incident and declared Thompson’s actions completely out of character.  “He’s extremely remorseful”, said club president Darren Hauenstein.  

"We couldn’t believe it was Sean”, said the club's first XI captain Brad Hauenstein.  “He’s one of the nicest guys at the club, and of all the people, he was the last bloke I ­expected to do such a thing.  He was in tears after the game. He made a mistake and he deserves to be punished for it, but he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. I was stunned, absolutely shocked, to hear it had happened”.  Thompson has been stood down by the club pending the hearing.

The GCA’s McFarlane was called to the game on Saturday and ran on to the field to question South Barwon captain Colin Dempsey, who had sent Thompson from the field.  “It’s not a part of cricket that the association believes in”, McFarlane said.  “You can’t confront an ­official of the game like that. While he is a member of the other team, he’s an officiating umpire and should be shown the respect that every umpire should be shown.  It’s just not on and he’ll have to face the tribunal and suffer whatever consequences that are thrown his way”.

McFarlane said Thompson was distraught when he met him just after the incident.  “He certainly was [remorseful] to me”, said McFarlane.  “A family member was sitting with him and he said, ‘This is totally out of character,’ and then his grandmother said, ‘This is just not like him,’ as I was walking away. ‘He’s just not that sort of boy’".

The GCA president indicated it's the second week in a row “where I’ve had to go down to the ground after incidents in the lower grades”.  "People at any level of cricket need to play the game in the right spirit and I just can’t accept that [type of behaviour].  It really concerns me, disappoints me, that we get to that stage.  We didn’t have an official umpire down there, and I know it’s a semi-final, but ­umpire numbers only go so far. But the players have to realise, it doesn’t matter who is there [acting as the umpire]), if he’s standing there, he’s an official”.

McFarlane applauded South Barwon’s decision to stand Thompson down.  “I would expect nothing less from South [as] they run a pretty tight ship down there, they are a pretty good club, and that’s fine. Now the tribunal have to find if there is any further penalty”.

St Peters' vice-president Justin Brown said the club was disappointed by the incident.  “There’s just no place for this type of thing in cricket, ­regardless of the grade or whether it’s adults or juniors”, Brown said.  He said Fisher was not hurt but was angered and embarrassed. “Brett’s a pretty big guy, he’s an ex-footballer who played for a long time.  He’s well built and he can handle himself, but I haven’t heard that he was hurt”.

India doubles player salaries, hikes match fees.

Reuters.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2082-10544.

Indian players have been given a significant pay rise, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announcing on Wednesday that it had doubled salaries for the 2016-17 season and increased match fees across all three of the game's formats

India players in the uppermost “A” category have been put on a retainer of 20 million Indian Rupees ($A399,000, £UK245,300) for the period ending in September this year, up from ten million Rupees ($A200,000, £UK122,660) last year.  That is still well short of the £UK700,000 ($A113,930) retainers that England’s top cricketers are on, or the $A1.12m (£UK688,150) Australian captain Steve Smith currently receives from Cricket Australia.  

The BCCI said it had seven players on Grade A contracts, up from four last season, with Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Murali Vijay joining captain Virat Kohli, former skipper MS Dhoni, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and batsman Ajinkya Rahane.  Indian players on Grade B contracts, such as batsman Rohit Sharma and pace bowlers Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will earn ten million Rupees ($A200,000, £UK122,660) each and Grade C players five million Rupees ($A100,000, £UK61,330).

Top Indian cricketers also receive a match fee for each international appearance, and many benefit from playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL).  Indian media reports indicate that Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who captains Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, earned 15 million Rupees ($A299,000, £UK183,990) from the league last year.  The IPL is not ungenerous to match officials either (PTG 1896-9508, 10 august 2017)

The BCCI also increased match fees for the national team, with players now earning 1.5 million Rupees ($A29,900, £UK18,400) per Test match, three times as much as they did last season.  Match fees for both One Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals have been doubled, to 600,000 Rupees ($A11,960, £UK7,360)  and 300,000 Rupees ($A5,980, £UK3,680), respectively.  The changes have been backdated to the start of October last year.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,083

Friday, 24 March 2017

 

• Female match officials for day-night Womens’ Ashes Test? [2083-10545].

• Womens’ Ashes Test 50th organised between the two sides [2083-10546].

• Indian cricket’s economic boom has bypassed Ranji Trophy players [2083-10547].

• Yorkshire chief blasts ECB over prize money in cricket [2083-10548].

• Pre-ODI series warm up for English umpire [2083-10549].

• Second Kiwi in a week makes first class debut [2083-10550].

• Russell seeks dismissal of one-year ‘doping whereabouts’ ban [2083-10551].

• The game needs variety, not just an ‘exciting formula’ [2083-10552].

• April Fool’s Day not so foolish for some! [2083-10553].

• PCB invites Bangladesh to visit for two T20Is [2083-10554].

• How do you feel about artificial pitches? [2083-10555].

• NZ 'free-to-air' sports bill doesn't have the numbers [2083-10556].

Female match officials for day-night Womens’ Ashes Test?

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10545.

Will female match officials, the referee, umpires and scorers, be appointed to oversee play in the first ever day-night Womens’ Test match scheduled for Sydney later this year? (PTG 2083-10546 below).  The answer, if the appointments record for the 15 Womens’ Tests that have been played since the International Cricket Council (ICC) took over responsibility for the womens’ international game from the International Womens’ Cricket Council (IWCC) in mid-2005 is used as a guide, is probably not.

However, that question comes as cricket bodies in some parts of the world are actively working to encourage more females to become involved in the game, both as players and match officials.  At the moment though, while female scorers regularly feature in the game right up to men’s Test level, especially in Australasia, the pool of female umpires who potentially have the aptitude and experience to stand in a Womens’ Test can be counted on a hand that’s missing several digits (PTG 2051-10392, 17 February 2017), while female referees in the international womens’ game in the ICC era are even rarer.

Those 15 ICC-era Womens’ Tests have involved just five national sides, four of whom were from ICC Full Member entities, the other six such bodies not being involved.  In the 12 years since the ICC took over, England has played 12 such four-day contests, Australia 9, 8 of their respective matches being Ashes games, India 6, South Africa 2 and the Netherlands one.  In fact, since the ICC took over from the IWCC, women from the six other Full Member entities, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe, have been limited to playing 50 and 20 over format internationals.

Of the Womens’ ICC-era Tests, Australia travelled to England for 5 Tests over 4 tours, England to Australia (3/3), India to England (3/2), England to India (1/1), India to Australia (1/1), South Africa to the Netherlands (1/1), and South Africa to India (1/1).

Records available show a total of 30 umpires, appointed by the match’s home board, have supported those 15 Tests, 17 from England, 8 from Australia, 4 from India and one from the Netherlands; none of the on-field spots involved being filled by neutral officials.  Of those, 14 of the 17 from England were members of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Full List of first class umpires, while 6 of the 8 Australians and all 4 Indians were also first class umpires.

Two of the 30 umpires were female: Lorraine Elgar from England in 2005 and Netherlands-born Ingeborg Bevers in 2007, both standing in single matches; although Elgar was on-field in two other Womens’ Tests in IWCC days.  Neither Elgar or Bevers have stood at first class level.  Of the 11 scorers whose names are actually included in the 15 score sheets, some unfortunately being missing, 5 were from Australia, 2 of whom have also scored in men’s Tests, 4 from England, and 2 from the Netherlands.  Nine of those were females: three of the five Australians, all four Englishwomen and both those from the Netherlands.

Information available, which may not be complete, suggests a referee has only been appointed to oversee 9 of the 15 Tests.  Of the six referees appointed, four were Australian and one each came from England and India.  Of those the only female was India’s Rajani Venugopal, who prior to becoming a referee, played six Womens’ Tests and 9 Womens’ One Day Internationals in the period from 1984-96, fixtures which were all played under the auspices of the IWCC. 

Womens’ Ashes Test 50th organised between the two sides.

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10546.

Next November’s Womens’ Ashes Test in Sydney, which will be the first to be played in a day-night format (PTG 2067-10463, 7 March 2017), will be the 50th organised between the two countries, and will bring their respective Ashes Test hosting records to an even 25 each; Australia winning 12, England 9, there haves been 27 draws, while one match in Sydney in 1958 was abandoned.

All-up to date, a total of 138 Womens’ Tests have been played over the 83 years since the first in 1934, most being four-day games a few of the others were three-day fixtures.  Over the history of such games, teams representing eight of the current ten Full Members of the ICC have featured, the missing entities being Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, while ICC second-tier Associate Members Ireland and the Netherlands have played one Test each.

To date, England has participated in 94 Tests, Australia 73, New Zealand 45, India 36, South Africa and the West Indies both 12, Pakistan 3, and Ireland, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands each one.  In addition to England’s Tests against Australia, they have played NZ 23 Times, India 13, South Africa 6 and the Windies 3 times.  Apart from Ashes Tests, Australia has played NZ 13 times, India 9 and the Windies twice.  

In addition to those 36 matches against Australia and England, NZ’s 45 is also made up of India 6 and South Africa 3; while India, in addition to Australia, England and NZ, has played 6 against the Windies and 2 South Africa.  The latter country's 12 is made up of England 6, NZ 3, India 2, as well the Netherlands only Test to date; while the Windies, in addition to Australia, England and India, have also played Pakistan once.  Pakistan’s three Tests have been against Ireland, Sri Lanka in what so far has been it’s only Test, and the Windies.   

Indian cricket’s economic boom has bypassed Ranji players

Amrit Mathur.

Hindustan Times

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10547.

Two dramatically different worlds exist in Indian cricket.  One occupied by the elite, dazzling duniya of rich international cricketers with their earthly concerns and possessions.  The other, on the fringe of this celestial system, is inhabited by impoverished domestic first-class players who live on the edge of the proverbial poverty line. 

International players deserve their central contracts from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), plus their Indian Premier League (IPL) contracts which result in their life of extraordinary privileges.  These players are the axis on which the cricket universe spins, the key drivers of an amazing economy that is recession proof. Players are magnets that attract fans and sponsors.

Male Indian internationals who have ‘A' contracts with the BCCI currently have an annual retainer of 20 million Indian Rupees ($A399,000, £UK245,300), ‘B’ contracts ten million Rupees ($A200,000, £UK122,660), and Grade ‘C' five million Rupees ($A100,000, £UK61,330).  On top of those figures are match fees for Tests of 1.5 million Rupees ($A29,900, £UK18,400), and One Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals 600,000 Rupees ($A11,960, £UK7,360)  and 300,000 Rupees ($A5,980, £UK3,680), respectively (PTG 2082-10544, 23 March 2017).

The problem is, cricket’s economic continuing boom has bypassed the 1,000-odd domestic players who represent the 28 Ranji Trophy first class teams. In past years, cricketers secured regular jobs with government departments and corporates, but these are now gone and their only source of earning is match fees from playing in BCCI Ranji Trophy matches. This means the BCCI is the de facto employer of domestic players.

This dependence, of living on match fees alone, comes with a deadly catch. Ranji players get paid only if selected and the lucky ones who play all matches in all formats stand to earn in the order of 1.2 million Rupees ($A23,950, £UK14,690). But without annual contracts, such as exist in Australia, England and South Africa, Ranji Trophy players have zero financial security.

Worse, match fees are paid through a bizarre arrangement which makes Ranji Trophy players glorified daily wage earners.  The system works like this: each player receives 10,000 Rupees ($A200, £UK122) per day if they are in the playing eleven (which means [$A800, £240] per game), plus an uncertain sum which is linked to BCCI’s annual revenue. The first amount which is fixed is disbursed immediately, the BCCI’s contribution usually after the season has ended. 

So, players don’t know what or when they will get paid.  The arrangement is so flawed that Ranji Trophy players have not received their dues for matches that concluded in March 2016!  The reason for this spectacular mess is the Gross Revenue Share (GRS) formula, the arrangement manufactured in 2004 which splits 26 per cent of BCCI’s annual revenue three ways - one half of that figure going to international payers, and the other shared by domestic senior, junior and women cricketers.

The GRS is cleverly controlled to exclude large chunks of BCCI revenue (70 per cent of media revenue and the entire IPL money) from the pool to be shared with players. Also, while the intent was players should swim or sink along with BCCI fortunes, the reality is quite the opposite.

Mindful of a backlash in case player earnings fall below what previous payments, the BCCI regularly makes ‘top up’ contributions beyond the 26 per cent limit to ensure payment levels are maintained.  So, effectively, the 26 per cent GRS is never that, rather only a notional revenue-sharing construct.  The way forward to adequately compensate and incentivise the talent pool that feeds Team India is to junk GRS and consider either of two options.

One: institute annual contracts for domestic players, preferably in three grades, funded from the generous grants gifted to state associations.  Two: revise match fees and pay it upfront, not after one year.  This will be a 'win-win' for both the BCCI and Ranji Trophy players.  The BCCI would know its exact financial liability and wouldn't have to play around with numbers.   And players would rejoice as stress arising from financial insecurity, unnecessary suspense and frustrating delays would end.

Yorkshire chief blasts ECB over prize money in cricket.

Chris Waters.

Yorkshire Post.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10548.

Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison has branded the prize money in county cricket as “a joke”.  Denison, whose club currently has almost £UK25 ($A40.6 m) of debt on its books (PTG 2081-10539, 22 March 2017), believes the numbers involved are “derisory” and wants the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to act.

In total, Yorkshire received £36,634 ($A60,025)  in total for finishing third in last season’s County Championship and for reaching the semi-finals of both one-day tournaments.  To put that into perspective, Leicester City earned £24,848,100 ($A47.3 m) in prize money for winning football’s Premier League last year – roughly the same amount that Yorkshire are in debt.

Denison said: “As far as prize money in domestic cricket is concerned, frankly this is a joke in just about all respects.  It’s terrible, and it barely pays a wage or two in some cases.  Competition sponsors provide the prize money, so I appreciate that it’s difficult.  There is a question, however, as to whether the ECB should be putting in prize money from their own funds, and I think that should be looked at”.

Yorkshire received £15,022 ($A24,610)  for finishing third in last year’s County Championship, £16,212 ($A26,560) for reaching the ECB’s T20 ‘Blast' semi-finals, and £5,400 ($A8,850)  for reaching the semi-finals of the one-day cup.  Even if they had done the
treble, as had seemed possible
going into the last few weeks of the season, they would have received only £293,160 ($A480,355) in total prize funds.  

Denison said: “If you did a straw poll and asked people how much they thought Yorkshire would have got for finishing third in the Championship last season, and for reaching both one-day semi-finals, most would say £100,000-plus ($A163,850-plus), even while recognising that there’s no money in cricket.  But the reality is even more pronounced.  In fact, I recently ran a little online sweep and gave four options – and less than half guessed correctly that circa £37,000 was the right number. Most thought that last year we would have achieved at least £137,000 [$A244,480]”.

When Yorkshire won the Championship in 2015, they received £158,100 ($A259,050) in prize money – known as the County Performance Payment (CPP).  According to Denison, it barely reflects the prestige of the achievement and the efforts involved. “Even for winning the County Championship, £158,000 doesn’t get you much”, he said.  “It’s probably worth Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney’s left toenail, or something like that".

“The bottom line is that we’ve got players at Yorkshire who are striving incredibly hard on the pitch for the club, and the prize money that the club receives doesn’t even cover the cost of
participating, which can’t be right”, continued Denison.  “So we’re therefore reliant on the luck of the draw in terms of making money; if we get a home quarter-final against Lancashire in the one-day cup, for example, then bingo, but how often does that happen?”

The CPP does not include players’ prize money, which is typically at least twice as high and sometimes more.  Whereas Yorkshire’s combined CPP last year was £36,634 ($A60,025), their aggregate Players’ Prize Money (PPM) across the three tournaments was £119,750 ($A196,215).  Players’ prize monies are paid to counties as part of a total prize fund that includes the CPP, with clubs then free to distribute players’ cash as they see fit.

The £119,750 figure is the amount that Yorkshire would have been able to pass on to players, coaches and staff without incurring additional costs.  Had Yorkshire won the treble last year, their aggregate PPM would have been £649,000 ($A1.1 m) – £374,000 ($A612,815) for winning the Championship, £175,000 ($A286,745) for winning the T20 Blast, and £100,000 ($A163,855) for winning the one-day cup.

Denison, of course, is speaking as the chairman of a successful First Division club, but the prize money is naturally even less in Division Two of the Championship.  Last year’s Second Division champions, Essex, received a CPP of £33,000 ($A54,070), while second-placed Kent received just £8,000 ($A13,110).  “The money that clubs receive contributes, if you like, towards the development of their teams, so it is important”, emphasised Denison.

“At Yorkshire, we actually achieved the minimum target that we set ourselves last year in all competitions, and yet received that princely sum of around £37,000.  You can tell, therefore, the extent of the challenge. Prize money is not going to fund our club, or, indeed, any club”.

Pre-ODI series warm up for English umpire.

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10549.

English umpire Michael Gough, who is to stand in the One Day International series between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Dambulla and Colombo over the next week (PTG 2060-10426, 27 February 2017), has just completed a week’s warm up in Dubai in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) North v South fifty-over series which had a £UK50,000 ($A81,700) winner-take-all prize.  Gough is a member of the International Cricket Council’s second-tier International Umpires Panel (IUP).

Gough was on-field in the three North-South matches with ECB Full List colleague Alex Wharf who is staying on to stand with Russell Evans, another Full List member, in the day-night county opener game between a Marylebone Cricket Club XI and last year’s county champion Middlesex; the seventh such county opener day-night fixture since the first in 2010 (PTG 593-2986, 29 March 2010).  

For Wharf, 41, a former England one-day player who is seen as a potential future member of the IUP, its his 60th first class match as an umpire, and Evans, 51, his 44th.  Two of Wharf’s first class games were during an exchange visit to India in November-December 2015 (PTG 1703-8423, 4 December 2015), while for Evans it appears to be his first overseas umpire venture.

Second Kiwi in a week makes first class debut.

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10550.

Northern Districts umpire John Dempsey this week became the second New Zealand umpire to make his first class debut this austral summer, doing so in the Plunket Shield match between Central Districts and Canterbury in Nelson. Last week Wellington’s Garth Stirrat debuted in Napier in Central Districts’ match against his home association (PTG  2076-10513, 15 March 2017).  

Dempsey, 51, was appointed to New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) second-tier Reserve Panel in July 2014 (PTG 1398-6766, 25 July 2014).  He made his List A debut in January last year in his second season on that panel, was given two NZC Twenty20 matches late last year in what is his third season, and then stood in his second, third and fourth List A games over a period of seven days last month in this lead-up to his first class debut.

NZC, which has not as in the past been publicising its match appointments ahead of time, does not appear to have given publicity to either Stirrat or Dempsey’s debuts.

Russell seeks dismissal of one-year ‘doping whereabouts’ ban.

Reuters.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10551.

West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell has appealed to have his one-year ban for a doping whereabouts rule violation dismissed. Russell, a two-time World Twenty20 Championship winner, was revealed to have committed the violation a year ago after registering three filing failures in 2015. That constituted a failed drugs test under World Anti-Doping Agency rules. 

Russell's appeal, which was submitted to the Jamaican Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal on Monday, calls for "the decision rendered by the independent anti-doping disciplinary panel be set aside".  Jamaica's anti-doping commission has appealed to have Russell's suspension doubled from one year to two (PTG 2069-10476, 9 March 2017). In a second filing, Russell called for this appeal to be dismissed on the grounds that there is no basis for his suspension to be extended.

The game needs variety, not just an ‘exciting formula’.

Mike Atherton.

The Times.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10552.

There was, on the face of it, something delightfully old-fashioned about England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison’s directive, delivered publicly on Monday, for the England teams to play exciting, attractive cricket regardless of the outcome. You might even call it Corinthian: sport played for fun and joy, rather than for the end result (PTG 2081-10536, 22 March 2017).

Style or substance? Is football the sport of Danny Blanchflower’s description: a game that is about glory, doing things in style, with a flourish, and beating the other lot rather than waiting for them to die of boredom? Or is it purely about winning? Is it about parking the bus, hitting them on the break and scuttling away with a 1-0 victory?

Is it about a left-arm spinner bowling repeatedly outside leg stump from over the wicket to Sachin Tendulkar until, bored, he charges down the pitch and gets stumped for the only time in his career? Is it about underdogs finding a chink in the opposition’s armour, as Italy did in the Six Nations rugby recently, forcing England off their game? Is it about playing to your strengths, camouflaging your weaknesses, adapting to conditions and the changing rhythms of the game, even if that means, occasionally, sacrificing entertainment for results?

It is about all those things. Winning and playing boldly and attractively are not mutually exclusive, clearly. The best two cricket teams of the modern era, the only two really dominant sides, married style and substance. There was no better team to watch than the great West Indies sides of 1976 to 1995, and Australia pushed the boundaries of attacking cricket when they took the mantle of world champions from the Windies Indies in the mid-1990s and owned it for a decade. It helped that both had world-class players.

Aiming for that combination is entirely laudable. But first, let’s be clear about what Harrison was saying: this was not an appeal to the amateur spirit of days gone by. Don’t expect Joe Root — a hard-nosed professional Yorkshire cricketer if ever there was one — to be suddenly transformed into a modern-day Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, all fancy declarations and twinkling eyes after a close defeat. He is not about to start approaching a Test match as though he were playing a game for the free-wheeling Hampshire Hogs.

Instead, this was a pragmatic assessment of the governing body’s aims. Harrison was speaking on the day that the ECB launched its latest attempt to attract the five to eight-year-old age group to the game (PTG 2080-10533, 21 March 2017). Why? Because, as he told me a few days earlier, cracking that market will be “a return on investment” that pays off over a lifetime. It is an attempt to broaden the reach and appeal of the game (PTG 2079-10524, 20 March 2017). It is also an attempt to shore up future revenues. Harrison runs the business, not the cricket, but the business is an easier sell if the cricket is attractive to watch.

It is perfectly reasonable to put the England captains (Test and one-day, men and women) on notice that their teams ought to be accessible and have responsibilities in areas where, previously, there was no expectation. As Harrison explained, the sporting landscape has changed and cricket is fighting for its market share against a host of other sports and, just to emphasise how much the landscape has changed, against eSports too.

But there are some obvious challenges to his expectation that the England teams will have a “commitment to playing an exciting formula of cricket every time they go on to the park”. That should be the broad, general aim. But sometimes conditions or the match situation simply don’t allow it. No game is more determined than cricket by conditions, and the fundamental expectation of international players should be that they are able to adapt to whatever is put in front of them.

His comments came, ironically, on the day when Australia clung on defiantly to preserve their chances of pulling off a rare Test series victory in India.  For a long time, Australia thought that they could simply cut and paste their traditional strong-arm tactics to India, but defeat after heavy defeat caused them to think again. It has not been pretty to watch at times — although you can certainly argue that it has been compelling — but it has been more effective.

With the ball gripping and turning, you cannot hit through the line with hard hands, as Australia’s batsmen are prone to do at home. Just as they could not hit their way out of trouble at Trent Bridge on a green top two years ago, when Stuart Broad went through them like a hot knife through butter. Sometimes you have to use your brain and adapt accordingly.

This was Steven Smith, the Australia captain, after the draw in Ranchi: “They [Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb] backed their defence for a long period of time and to see the game out for as long as they did, it was an outstanding performance. I’m really proud of the way they did that. That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about: being resilient and sticking out the tough times”. They could have thrown in the towel and had a jolly blast, but they didn’t. They now have a chance to win the series.

Harrison’s directive poses other questions: how far will the ethos of attacking at all costs impinge on selection? Will there be a place for a Jonathan Trott of the future? Or even someone like Alastair Cook, blind to the requirements of dashing off a hundred before lunch or putting every inch of his soul on social media but whose 11,000 Test runs have helped to win a few matches.

The more removed from the playing side of the game that I have become, the more I recognise that winning isn’t everything. Harrison is certainly right to require his England captains to be in charge of teams who are articulate, well-liked and accessible and who want to win the right way, playing attractive cricket. But I am not so removed as to have forgotten what it feels like to be a player too: young, competitive, red-blooded men and women want to win above all. Usually an England captain has enough on his plate worrying about that in Australia.

The great glory of the game is that there are many routes to victory. You cannot win playing the same way every time unless, of course, you play on artificial pitches. Even a Twenty20 match played on a spinning pitch might require a little more craft and thought than normal. This variety, this essential requirement to adapt strategies to conditions and play intelligently, occasionally to have an over-my-dead-body attitude to live to fight another day, is part of what makes cricket a special game.

April Fool’s Day not so foolish for some! 

PTG Editor.

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10553.

Some are complaining about their low rate of pay for playing in India’s Ranji Trophy series (PTG 2083-10547 above), others play to win a goat, roosters and eggs (PTG 2081-10538, 22 March 2017).  However, regardless of the outcome of the fourth and final India-Australia Test, which is due to start in Dharamshala on Saturday and is the first to ever be played there, the home side will finish as the top of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test rankings for the year that ends on April Fools’ Day.  For their trouble over what will have been 17 Tests in that time, they will receive a prize of $US1 million ($A1.3 m, £UK802,100) from the ICC.

However, the jury is still out on whether Australia (13 Tests) or South Africa (11 Tests) will finish second in the rankings, and thus attract $US500,000 ($A654,950, £401,050), or end up third and $US200,000 ($A261,980, £160,420) better off.  Australia will finish second if they draw the Dharmsala Test, while South Africa can finish second if Australia loses and South Africa either wins or draws the last Test of the series against New Zealand in Hamilton.  

Whatever happens, $US100,000  ($A130,990, £80,210) will go to England for their efforts in 14 Tests, the results in which saw them finish fourth in the rankings.  Just how, and where, the monies each of the four teams receives is distributed is not altogether clear.

PCB invites Bangladesh to visit for two T20Is.

Asia News Network

Thursday, 23 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10554.

After successfully holding the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Lahore, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has invited Bangladesh to play two Twenty20 International there in July-August (PTG 2068-10470, 8 March 2017).  The PCB originally wanted Bangladesh to tour the country in May, hoping it would strengthen Pakistan’s case of reviving international cricket at home

In recent years the PCB has invited several foreign teams but have only succeeded in hosting Zimbabwe, Kenya and Afghanistan. The country’s cricket governing body said Ireland and the West Indies were also willing to tour but cancelled their plans following bomb blasts on both occasions.

How do you feel about artificial pitches?

Liam Cromar.

Cricinfo.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017.

PTG 2083-10555.

When it comes to describing pitches to a fellow club cricketer, few terms induce the grimace that "artificial" does.  Non-turf strips have something of a bad reputation. Bowlers feel they are on a hiding to nothing, while batsmen feel they have no excuse to not score heavily. To an extent, this perception is unfair, since these pitches are not always the batsman's paradise they are assumed to be. 

While their pace and carry may be limited, they can permit a degree of movement. Five-wicket hauls are far from unknown. The advantage of increased playability should also not be undervalued. 

At the recreational level, where so much effort goes into getting the necessary players to the ground, anything that boosts the likelihood of the game going ahead has to be a welcome development. With many clubs struggling for volunteers, the less demanding requirements when it comes to maintenance are also a significant point in favour of artificial pitches.

Reliability is also a key benefit. In 2014, Mike Selvey wrote in ‘The Guardian' of his local club opting, against his advice, to install a grass square rather than an artificial surface. A few months down the line the pitch started misbehaving dangerously. There's now no club; it would be foolish to place this solely at the door of its unruly turf, but it cannot have helped matters.

None of this is to say that artificial pitches should be the primary choice, or that they are generally preferable to grass. Natural grass pitches continue to command the affection of both players and spectators. Discovering, adjusting to, and exploiting the vagaries of individual pitches continue to make cricket on such surfaces interesting.

With all that in mind, how should we assess, then, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) idea of playing its new T20 competition on artificial pitches? (PTG 2053-10399, 19 February 2017). 

While the reflex of most cricket lovers might be to retch at the thought of professional cricket being played in such conditions, it should be remembered that it would be nothing new. Even Test cricket, that most traditional of formats, has been played on jute matting - which is nothing if not a sort of artificial pitch. Illustrating how such a surface can reward both batsmen and bowlers, the Lucknow Test between India and Pakistan in 1952 saw Nazar Mohammad carry his bat for 124, while Fazal Mahmood finished with match figures of 12/94. Non-turf pitches are, in fact, so firmly a part of cricket that they even receive particular attention in the game's Laws 7.5 and 10.8.

Artificial need not mean evil. Unfortunately the very words "artificial" and "synthetic" convey the notion of unhealthiness. It's only a matter of time before the term "fake" joins them. If it hasn't already happened, "fake cricket" will surely be the next lazy epithet to be wheeled out to condemn any unwelcome development in the game.

Indeed, there is a risk that the anti-artificial-pitch movement gets caught up in the misguided quest for authenticity, glimpsed in many spheres today, from food to clothing to music to theatre. It's all too easy to become attached to fixed ideas of representativeness, and thereby fail to appreciate the potential of alternatives to the status quo. Fair play, then, to the ECB, not an organisation renowned for unconventionality, for thinking outside the box.

If the misguided quest for authenticity is one extreme, then the other is the misguided quest for saleability. It appears that the major reasons why the ECB is contemplating such a move are: firstly, to procure the steady rainfall of sixes it deems to be necessary to render an attractive spectacle; and secondly, to ensure that more traditional rainfall need not jeopardise play.

It has to be admitted that an artificial pitch might well provide a better spectacle than some of the pitches used for T20 in recent years, including at major grounds such as Lord's. The desire to improve the experience for spectators isn't a fault. Nor is the wish to minimise lost playing time, although it should be observed that often it is the outfield rather than the pitch that delays restarting play.

No, the reason why artificial pitches for T20 are a Bad Thing™ is because they sell the game short, robbing it of its potential. If the competition is truly about attracting new audiences to the game - a worthy aim - it makes no sense to deliberately devalue that game. Cricket relies on variability for its interest. 

Identical artificial pitches represent the ultimate form of homogenisation. Stripping the game of another layer of subtlety - and despite what its critics may say, there is plenty of subtlety in T20 beneath the surface - would be foolish, counterproductively reducing its ability to obtain new fans while simultaneously alienating existing ones.

If, on the other hand, we could construct artificial pitches that vary throughout the game, and which can be produced according to differing specifications, cricket would be enhanced. Single-use surfaces that provide both high variability and high playability could be the future, especially for temporary venues such as Olympic stadiums - should cricket ever get that far.  For the moment, however, for anything other than recreational cricket, artificial pitches deserve no more than a grimace.

NZ 'free-to-air' sports bill doesn't have the numbers.

Isaac Davison.

New Zealand Herald.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017.SPTG 2083-10556.

A proposal to make national sporting events free-to-air in New Zealand is set to fail.  A bill in the name of 'New Zealand First' MP Clayton Mitchell, would ensure that any game of "national significance" was freely available to all New Zealanders.  But Mitchell said he had failed to gain enough support to get it over the first hurdle.

Mitchell singled out Labour for not agreeing to back it, saying the party was "forsaking working Kiwis and seniors" who could not afford pay TV.  Supporting New Zealand teams and other taxpayer-supported events could involve costs of $NZ1,000 ($A922, £UK560) a year per household, he said.  The bill would have covered all international rugby, rugby league, netball, cricket, and football games either played in New Zealand or in a major event such as a World Cup.

Labour's broadcasting spokeswoman, Clare Curran, said her party was aware of the public's increasingly dissatisfaction with their access to live sport.  But she said Mitchell's bill was "unworkable and impractical" because it required too many sporting events to be broadcast for free. Labour's priority was improving public broadcasting, she said.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,084

Saturday, 25 March 2017

 

• ICC chairman ‘defers’ resignation, returns to postIon [2084-10557].

• SACA Umpire Coach appointment reported near [2084-10558].

• Players’ union pushes back on CA pay ‘wedge' [2084-10559].

• CA offer places the weight on ‘revenue’ and none on ‘share’ [2084-10560].

• Why is CA so far ahead in its promotion of women's cricket? [2084-10561].

• Beer sponsor pulls stumps on Australian cricket [2084-10562].

ICC chairman ‘defers’ resignation, returns to postIon.

PTG Editor.

ICC media release.

Friday, 24 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10557.

Shashank Manohar, who resigned as the chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) nine days ago (PTG 2077-10515, 16 March 2017), agreed on Friday "to defer" his departure until the "ongoing processes” involved in the restructuring of ICC governance and financial arrangements have been completed, efforts he has strongly supported.  The U-turn came after a resolution of the ICC Board requesting him to remain in his post until such matters were resolved was passed with “overwhelming support” earlier this week, the ICC said on Friday.

Manohar said in an ICC media release: “I respect the sentiments expressed by the Directors and the confidence they have reposed in me. In the light of this, and although my decision to depart due to personal reasons has not changed, I am willing to continue as chairman till the responsibility as per the resolution is complete.  I have [a] duty to work with my colleagues to enable a smooth transition and continue our work on the governance of the ICC”.

Cricket Australia Chairman David Peever, who some media reports claim this week was a potential interim chairman,  said: “This resolution is a clear indication that whilst the Board may not yet agree on the detail of our reform process, we are committed to the overarching philosophies of it. We all believe that Shashank should be the man to see it through and whilst respectful of a decision made for personal reasons, we are delighted that he has agreed to remain in post until the completion of the 2017 Annual Conference [at the end of June] where we can elect a successor”.

Vikram Limaye, who is the chairman of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) Committee of Administrators, added: “It is important that the current issues are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. We had a productive meeting with Mr Manohar recently [prior to his resignation] wherein we outlined the BCCI’s concerns on the financial model and governance issues and our suggestions for resolution (PTG 2061-10432, 28 February 2017). We are committed to working with ICC for a satisfactory resolution of these issues”.

Precisely why Manohar stepped down in the first place is not known, however, he met with several administrators from the BCCI the evening before his resignation was announced.  Many reports suggest India’s opposition to the proposed reforms was the trigger, both they and Sri Lanka voting against the proposed changes in February, and that Manohar’s resignation indicated he believed the reforms had little chance of going through.  The inclusion of Limaye’s comments in the ICC media release announcing Manohar’s return is therefore significant.

SACA Umpire Coach appointment reported near.  

PTG Editor.

Friday, 24 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10558.

Reports from Adelaide suggest that the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) has chosen its new ‘State Umpire Coach’ and that an announcement about who the new incumbent will be could come as early as next week.  The position became vacant four months ago when Neil Poulton, who had headed up SACA’s umpiring effort for nine years, resigned unexpectedly (PTG 1984-9994, 23 November 2016). 

SACA called for applications for the position in mid-January, the deadline for those interested in applying being seven weeks ago.  The position is, said SACA at the time: "responsible for recruiting, retaining and driving the ongoing improvement of all cricket umpires in [in the state in order] to help ensure the state produces the best and most respected match officials in Australia” (PTG 2025-10249, 16 January 2017). 

Players’ union pushes back on CA pay ‘wedge'.  

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Friday, 24 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10559.

The Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) estimates Cricket Australia (CA) will earn $A2 billion (£UK1.22 bn) over the four years from 2017-21 and accuses it of diverting away money that belongs to the players, as the industrial strife between the two organisations continues.  The ACA, which has long sought details of projected CA earnings, is working to formulate a response to the pay and conditions offer CA made to players on Tuesday, a proposal that included a very significant, and potentially divisive, financial hike for female players (PTG 2081-10537, 22 March 2017).

The ACA, or players’ union, admits there are some positives in CA's offer but dismissed the broad thrust as “unsatisfactory”, accusing CA of lacking “respect” for domestic cricketers and of using money owed under the current contract to fund the next payment period.  The standoff between the two groups is multi-layered but essentially gets back to moves by CA to break the power of the ACA and take away the revenue-share model that has underpinned previous contracts (PTG 2084-10560 below).

In a ‘confidential' e-mail to ACA members obtained by 'The Australian’ newspaper, their chief executive Alistair Nicholson said "most questions [players have] consistently [put forward to the ACA have been]: ‘Where does all the money go?’ and, ‘What are financial forecasts for the game?’ On your behalf, we continue to pose these questions and continue to wait for the answers; due diligence demands that we have answers to both questions as soon as possible”.  He added: “the lack of financial transparency available on CA projections is clearly unsatisfactory".

In 2015, CA projected revenue of $A1.32 bn (£805,100 m) from 2013-17, up from $736 m (£449 m) in the four-year cycle before that (PTG 1675-8221, 30 October 2015). The next four-year cycle, which is supposed to start at the end of June, will include an anticipated large growth in revenue from new broadcast deals on the back of the success of the Big Bash League, hence the ACA’s $A2 bn revenue estimate (PTG 2061-10439, 28 February 2017).

So far the very attractive pay increase for female players has not tempted them to break ranks in negotiations, that is if an interview Australian all-rounder Erin Osborne gave to Fairfax Media on Friday is a guide.  She is quoted as saying CA’s proposal “is a big step forward” as there were some "really good improvements" in its offer, however, she went on to indicate there remains plenty of room for negotiation with the ACA.

"I think it's a fantastic time to be growing up in Australia if you're a young girl who wants to play sport”, Osborne said.  "It's really pleasing to see and it's nice to know that current players are trying to look after the game and leave it in a better position than what we found it.  [But it’s] really important to note, that the playing group really believes in the revenue model and giving back to the grassroots cricket, and ensuring that the future of cricket in Australia is well looked after”.

As yet here its no indication as to just when the ACA plans to provide CA with its formal response to Tuesday's offer which was sent directly to players in what one report suggested was as deliberate attempt to circumvent the ACA.

CA offer places the weight on ‘revenue’ and none on ‘share’.

Gideon Haigh.

The Australian.

Saturday, 25 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10560.

The way Cricket Australia (CA) plans to dump its 20-year-old revenue-sharing model with players indicates to its way of thinking only international players deserve to benefit directly from revenues, because only they contribute to their generation (PTG 2084-10559 above).  CA’s argument is simple: it wants more money. Broadcast rights deals impend. Allocating a fixed proportion to first-class domestic cricketers cramps its style.

It wishes, for example, to ­apportion more to women ­cricketers. Indeed it has invited female internationals into its newly plush and exclusive revenue-­sharing penthouse suite on the grounds that, in CA executive general manager Kevin Roberts’ catchy phrase, “a cover drive is a cover drive, no matter who plays it”.

It has even mooted, as a “landmark commitment”, a “gender pay equity model” under which all players will “earn the same hourly base rate of pay”. This sounds great, until you appreciate that women only play 20- and 50-over cricket, so that equity is not exactly a synonym for equality. Nor does the idea of cricket-by-the-hour reconcile readily with the general trend towards shorter games being of disproportionately high commercial value. Rather it has the makings of a cartoon in which a captain remonstrates with a fast bowler standing by a set of broken stumps. Caption: “Stop taking wickets you fool — the quicker we win the less we’re paid”.

CA’s other worthy cause is ‘grassroots cricket’, which it has worked out receives just 12 per cent of its revenues — a damning statistic which, perversely, it can now roll out almost as a boast. Now, everyone can unite in the name of ‘grassroots cricket’, including me, whose club is on Saturday pursuing a B-grade premiership flag that’s personally every bit as important and more than what might occur in the fourth India-Australia Test in Dharmsala.

But CA’s plans on this front remain compellingly vague, save for another stat Roberts has tossed off that “more support for junior cricket communities” was essential in the light of the Australian Football League having “450 people on the ground to support its grassroots compared to just 170 people in cricket”.

All this does is confirm CA as an organisation more concerned with processes than outcomes. If you were a bunch of cricketers being asked to sacrifice tens of millions of dollars of upside, moreover, you might want to know a little more about how and where it will be allocated. The proposition deserves a fair hearing, even if CA chief executive James Sutherland’s comment that negotiations now contain “a fair degree of ­urgency” sits uneasily with CA’s months of dickering about this proposal, and the release of it on the eve of a crucial Test match in India seems strange after all CA’s “the-players-must-not-be-distracted” pieties ahead of the Boxing Day Test (PTG 2008-10150, 20 December 2016).

It’s true enough: cricketers have done well financially in recent years. Domestic Twenty20 worldwide has also offered them unexampled scope; women closing the gap on men is a heartening sight in any context.

But through the relevant ­period, cricket, especially in certain lucrative markets like Aust­ralia, has grown extraordinarily rich. To feed this beast, ever more has been asked of players at all ­levels, from premier and grade cricket upwards. They have attained unexampled standards of versatility, innovation, athleticism, organisational flexibility and public responsiveness. Nor is it a small matter that Australia cricketers have remained remarkably, perhaps even a tad boringly, scandal-free, even David Warner stepping out from the behavioural shadow seemingly cast by the first five ­letters of his surname.

Players have done this willingly, even eagerly, partly because of the sense they have developed of a direct stake in the game’s expansion.  Despite that Sutherland calls the exisiting model “out of date” on the basis that “international cricket actually funds the game”. But nobody is born an international cricketer. And in progress to that goal, merit and dedication are hardly the only factors. Opportunity, fashion, prejudice, luck and general standards exert huge sway.

For five of the last 10 years, for example, former Australian opener Chris Rogers scored more first-class runs than any other player in the world. But when he turned 35, it seemed likeliest that he would remain a one-Test wonder. Industrial logics have decidedly limited application to a game so full of complexities and caprices.

In threatening to kibosh the revenue share, furthermore, CA places all the weight on ‘revenue’ and none on ‘share’. The sense of Australian cricket being a shared enterprise has been hard-won and valuable, containing and diffusing many of the tensions inherent in a fast-changing game increasingly distorted by the dictates of consumer capitalism. Kevin Roberts makes a fair point: there isn’t much to pick between cover drives. Which is why privileging internationals over domestic players is such a retrograde step.

Why is CA so far ahead in its promotion of women's cricket? 

Oliver Brown.

London Daily Telegraph.

Friday, 24 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10561.

Nothing, for this Pom who is visiting Melbourne at the moment, feels like more of a portal into a parallel universe than the discovery this week that Cricket Australia (CA) is proposing very significant increases in the annual salaries of its female cricketers (PTG2081-10537, 22 March 2017).  A major sporting body, rejecting the revenue-sharing model that perpetuates vast earning inequalities between men and women, has instituted a system where life as a professional female athlete becomes a legitimate means to draw not just a living wage, but an attractive one (PTG 2084-10559 above). 

CA's proposal is more than double the figure on offer to their English counterparts. When Charlotte Edwards, erstwhile captain of the England side, learned in 2014 via her car radio that she and her team-mates would be offered central contracts worth £UK40,000 a year ($A65,570), she was so shocked that she almost swerved off the road. It signified a level of progress she had never expected to see in her lifetime (PTG 1292-6227, 15 February 2014). But even this unexpected moment of enlightenment at the England and Cricket Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been left in the dust by CA’s latest action.

Australia is a land that has already turned elite female cricketers into fully-fledged television stars. Alyssa Healy, the Australian wicketkeeper, is a poster-girl here not so much because of her marriage to fast bowler Mitchell Starc but in recognition of her explosive power-hitting. In one T20 international, she lashed 90 off 61 balls.  Her manifest talent gives the lie to the patronising sneer that women’s cricket far too often invites in England. 

When the women’s Ashes series was elevated to live coverage on ‘Sky' in 2015, some reactions were uncomfortably belittling. How dare Lydia Greenway be so useless, one critic thundered, as to make 10 off 137 deliveries? Well, perhaps try asking one of the men – say, South Africa’s AB De Villiers, who, in the ultimate exhibition of defensive cricket against India in the same year, scored 43 from 297. As ever, the condescension towards Greenway took no account of the circumstances of the match. It was motivated purely by a desire to paint the women’s game as unwatchably awful and to suggest, by extension, that the players were not ready for primetime.

This is, and always has been, fatuous logic. Women’s sport does not suffer in the TV ratings as a consequence of any intrinsic inferiority, but of failures in promotion that deprive it of the exposure and enthusiasm it requires to thrive. In Australia, the sporting status gap across the gender gap is mercifully narrower. The Women’s Big Bash League has flourished in tandem with the men’s equivalent, rather than in its shadow.

Now, women are poised at last to reap a greater share of the riches. They still trail their male colleagues by a colossal margin – Test perennials such as Steve Smith and David Warner stand to amass £690,000 ($A1.1 m) apiece this year, plus endorsements – but there is no impression that they are a downtrodden afterthought. This week’s extraordinary pay offer had “gender equality at its heart” and that it was time for sport to “walk the talk” on matters of equal pay, said CA chief executive James Sutherland.

The pace of change in Australia has been giddying. Barely 15 months ago, it was considered acceptable that of a £40 million annual windfall from TV rights and sponsorship, not a penny should go to women. This was in a year when Australia's men had just lost an Ashes series, which included the shattering ignominy of being skittled for 60 at Trent Bridge, and when the women had won their version, en route to reaching number one in the world. Finally, the executives have resolved that such gross discrepancies can no longer stand.

For the ECB, it is time to wake up to the precedent Australia has set. At the T20 World Championship last year, the International Cricket Council stirred outrage by demanding that the women flew economy, while the men stretched out in business class (PTG 1783-8901, 17 March 2016). Who were the one team to cover the cost of the upgrade themselves? Yes, Australia. Equality here, more than ever, is a clearly-defined ambition. Back home in England, sadly, it is an excuse for an endless talking shop.

Beer sponsor pulls stumps on Australian cricket.

Mark Hawthorne.

Fairfax Media.

Saturday, 25 March 2017.

PTG 2084-10562.

Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) has pulled up stumps on its 20-year sponsorship of the Australian cricket team.  CUB has been a sponsor of Cricket in Australia since the 1996-97 cricket season. Its 'Victoria Bitter’ (VB) brand had naming rights to the domestic Australian One Day Internationall team and domestic one-day series, as part of a deal estimated to be worth $A65 million (£UK39.6 m) over the past five years.

The deal has come under increasing pressure from doctors, lobby groups and politicians in recent years, who have questioned the impact of sponsorship deals between alcohol companies and sporting bodies, given levels of violence and harm in society linked to alcohol abuse (PTG 2024-10244, 13 January 2017).  Company insiders say the brewer is not walking away from sports sponsorship. Instead, the company will focus on other brands, and is not considering ending its deals with Australian Rules Football or the National Rugby League.

Last year, the then top politician in New South Wales, Mike Baird, publicly criticised the CA-CUB sponsorship deal at a dinner for a youth foundation named in honour of an 18-year-old who died after being 'king hit' in an unprovoked alcohol-related attack in Sydney in 2012.  "I find it quite an incredible position where the captain of our cricket team sits there with a big VB in [the] middle [of his chest]”,  Baird said. "We all love the captain of our cricket team, but I find that an incredible position.

Baird said at the time CA had given him assurances they had taken action, and pointed out that the domestic Big Bash League did not feature alcohol-related advertising.  News of CUB's decision to disassociate from the national cricket team comes as Australia takes on India in the crucial deciding Test match of the Border-Gavaskar series. "I guess they will have to drink something else if they win”, said a CUB insider on Friday (PTG 2050-10391, 16 February 2017).

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,085

Sunday, 26 March 2017

 

• ECB ready to dance to the tune of Twenty20 [2084-10563].

• Coach seeks changes to BCCI revenue sharing structure [2084-10564].

ECB ready to dance to the tune of Twenty20.

Simon Wilde.

The Sunday Times.

Sunday, 26 March 2017.

PTG 2085-10563.

Cricket in England is about to be transformed. The battle for the sport’s centre-ground is over. Twenty20 cricket has won.  Over the coming days, more English players than ever will head to the Indian Premier League (IPL), including the two biggest stars at the tournament’s recent saleroom spectacular which made millionaires out of Ben Stokes and Tymal Mills. The arrival of the IPL in 2008 changed the global game forever, but English cricket is only now feeling the full consequences. 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) opened itself up to the IPL a couple of years ago because it had to. Once Jos Buttler signed for Mumbai Indians for almost £UK400,000 ($A654,250) in 2016, others were bound to follow. Now, six of the 18 players who hold central contracts with England have IPL deals; had Alex Hales and David Willey been fit at the time of auction, the number might have risen to eight. 

This year Ben Stokes signed up to the IPL for £1.7 m ($A2.8 m), Tymal Mills £1.4 m ($A2.3 m), Chris Woakes £500,000 ($A81,780), Jason Roy £120,000 ($A196,275), and Chris Jordan £60,000 ($A98,140).  In September last year, England contracts were awarded to 18 players. Test contracts are worth up to £700,000  ($A1.1 m) and one-day contracts up to £190,000 ($A310,770). Joe Root, Stokes, Moeen Ali and Woakes were awarded both.  When central contracts were first awarded in March 2000, the top band was worth £60,000 ($A98,140). 

English cricket has never been so immersed in the IPL, or Australia’s Big Bash League, and given the life-changing amounts of money that the top players are securing, there can be no turning back now.

The players want to play in a format that earns them great money and enhances their skills. In a survey published last year by FICA, the international players’ association, 49.1 per cent of respondents said they would reject a national contract if they were paid significantly more to be a Twenty20 freelance (PTG 1917-9622, 6 September 2016). Among English and Australian players, whose boards are among the best payers, the figure was 39.3 per cent, still strikingly high. Players from India and Pakistan were not part of the survey as they do not have players’ unions (PTG 1918-9632, 7 September 2016), or the overall proportion would have been greater.

It is not only the minds of players that have been won over. Tom Harrison and his ECB board have sought over recent weeks to persuade the 18 first-class counties to back their plans for a radical new tournament with the help of data provided by ‘FutureBrand', the agency that handled the London Olympics and the 2015 Cricket World Cup, and 'Two Circle', a market research company previously used by the ECB and the counties.

‘FutureBrand’, whose web site refers to it as a ‘Creative Future Company’, is advising where best to locate the eight teams for the new tournament and what names the teams should be given in a five-week event due to launch in 2020. The expectation is that the teams, owned by the board, will represent regions — hence the need for the counties agreeing to a change in the ECB constitution — rather than specific centres, even if they are based at major stadiums leased to the ECB for the tournament (PTG 2072-10492, 12 March 2017). Players will be recruited from the existing 18 counties through a player draft.

‘FutureBrand' and 'Two Circle’, “a data driven sports agency”, have interviewed thousands of people in an effort to arrive at the right product. A central theme is creating a tournament distinct from existing teams and competitions that will attract a new audience.

Once the stakeholders agree, Harrison can talk to interested parties about a broadcasting deal, which will bundle together the domestic Twenty20 and England’s home internationals for 2020-24. Where there have been seven Tests each summer, that figure will drop to six, possibly fewer. This means England’s early season Tests will no longer clash with the IPL and allow the easier release of players to it.

Test cricket may be the ultimate in terms of the technical and temperamental challenges it presents, but it is the Twenty20 leagues that drive the market, bringing in the deals and paying the bumper wages.  Because of the success of the IPL and International Cricket Council global white-ball events, Indian broadcasters are no longer willing to pay as much as they were for rights to bilateral international cricket. The ECB has done well selling rights for home internationals to Indian markets, as well as international cricket in general, but those days are over.

The new rights deal is set to bring live English cricket back to UK terrestrial TV for the first time since 2005. The ECB is also looking at new revenue streams. A lot of recent ECB decisions anticipated the new landscape, notably the introduction of white-ball contracts and the appointment of a white-ball specialist in Trevor Bayliss to coach the national teams. Nobody in authority seems concerned about Bayliss having presided over more Test defeats than victories because the one-day teams have improved.

The Ashes will always be box office, and England’s Tests with India are big business, but not much else can be safe.

Coach seeks changes to BCCI revenue sharing structure.

Vijay Tagore.

Mumbai Mirror.

Sunday, 26 March 2017.

PTG 2085-10564.

India coach Anil Kumble has written to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) Committee of Administrators (CoA) seeking what would amount to a 300 per cent hike in players’ salaries.  The proposal has not been discussed as yet, but sources within the BCCI say it is related to the players’ share of the Board’s earnings, which currently stand at 26 per cent, although not from every BCCI earnings stream.  Players in Australia are currently batting their board over revenue sharing issues (PTG 2084-10560, 25 March 2017).

The main bone of contention is television income for the BCCI deducts 70 per cent of it to obtain a figure from which the 26 per cent is calculated, and it is only remaining 30 percent from which the players’ share comes. In short, what Kumble has proposed is that 26 per cent of every source of BCCI income, including TV revenues, goes to the players.

For example in 2015-16, the BCCI’s total income from media rights was 6.48 billion Rupees ($A130 m, £UK79.5 m).  Therefore under Kumble’s formula 1.7 billion Rupees ($A34.1 m, £UK20.9 m) of that would have gone to the players, however, it is understood they only received 500 million Rupees ($A10 m, £UK6.1 m) of that.   The Board’s total income from all sources was 13.7 billion Rupees ($A274 m, £UK167 m) which means that under Kumble’s model the players’ share would have been 3.54 billion Rupees ($A71 m, £UK43.4 m). 

Also, under the prevailing arrangement, players get nothing from the Board’s share of income from the the International Cricket Council which is being projected at 30 billion Rupees ($A602 m, £UK368 m) over the next eight years. Kumble has proposed that the players get a share of this income too. If the same 26 per cent formula is applied to such  a figure, it would boost the players’ share of BCCI’s income by a massive 7.5 billion Rupees ($A1.5 bn, £UK920 m), or one billion Rupees ($A20 m, £UK12.3 m) for each of the next eight years.  All that means that should Kumble’s proposals are accepted, player returns are likely go up by a minimum of 300 per cent.

Kumble could not be reached for a comment on Saturday night, but BCCI and CoA sources have confirmed receiving a proposal from him.  Preliminary discussions took place in Bengaluru on the sidelines of the BCCI’s annual awards night two weeks ago. Subsequently, Kumble sent a detailed note to the Board detailing his proposals

News of the proposal comes at the end of week in which on the one hand concerns were raised about the pay and conditions of Indian domestic first class players (PTG 2083-10547, 24 March 2017), and on the other the BCCI announced it was doubling the annual retainers it pays to its international players (PTG 2082-10544, 23 March 2017). Unlike other countries India does not have a players’ union to represent such stakeholders, although the establishment of such a body was sons of the recommendations made by the Indian  Supreme Court’s Lodha Committee.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,086

Monday, 27 March 2017

 

• Should cricket remove the ‘Cxxxxxxx’ word? [2086-10565].

• Dangerous pitch sees umpires call off CSA play-off game [2086-10566].

• ECB set to trigger formal vote on new T20 tournament [2086-10567].

• Cash concerns means support for ECB T20 extravaganza [2086-10568].

Should cricket remove the ‘Cxxxxxxx’ word?

Chris Rattue.

New Zealand Herald.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2086-10565.

Okay, if you insist. This is the second-to-last time ever I will write the word Chinaman.  The ‘Chinaman' (the last time), in case you missed the debate, is the cricket term for the delivery of a left arm wrist spinner. Bowlers of this type are so rare - New Zealand has never had one - that it's hard to remember ever using it in the first place.

Supposedly, the term derives from an incident during a game between England and the West Indies in 1933. A left-arm Windies spinner of Chinese origin, Ellis Achong, took earned a stumping with a surprise deliver which spun from left to right during a Test at Old Trafford. The English batsman, Walter Robins, is said to have made reference to being dismissed by a 'Cxxxxxxx'.

Then along came Kuldeep Yadav, the Indian who has baffled the Aussies with this type of bowling, and a thought-provoking comment by an Australian cricket writer.  Andrew Wu, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, wrote on Twitter on Saturday: "My challenge to cricket: get racially offensive terminology out of the game”.

From my (mainly) white man's perspective, it feels like such a humourless position on a very petty matter. But I have lived a cosy life as part of a dominant culture, and not experienced the pain of being a person from a minority group receiving regular racial slurs. And let's be honest, Asians in our societies are on the receiving end of constant put-downs.

And Wu is right in a way. The C word is generally regarded as having derogatory connotations, however explainable or unexplainable that might be. And if the Robins story is true, there is something of a put-down of Chinese people in his reaction, although very mild it has to be said.  No offence was intended however. The word became a quirky term for a quirky delivery, and it always seemed like a fondly-regarded, weird and wacky part of the game.

Removing a term which is hardly ever used won't change a thing in the world, and there are so many more important and real issues to fight for. Losing it, even for a good cause, feels disappointing.  But I can't be bothered debating it further, or trying to line it up against other terminology such as the French cut, a cricket term for a poor shot which involves a lucky escape.

There isn't an answer to satisfy both sides of the debate on this. I'm not even happy with my own solution.  Anyway, first world problem solved, by taking Wu's word for it, and taking the word out.  An offended Australian gave me ticking off a few years ago about using 'Ocker', which sounds like quite an endearing term to these ears. Ooops. Word gone. Life moves on.

Dangerous pitch sees umpires call off CSA play-off game

PTG Editor.

Media reports.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2086-10566.

The Free State Cricket Union (FSCU) has apologised after a Cricket South Africa (CSA) one-day play-off match between the Knights and Warriors at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein was abandoned after 28 overs on Sunday due to what was deemed a dangerous pitch.

The Warriors won the toss and elected to bat, struggling to 3/88 before umpires Adrian Holdstock and Allahudien Paleker, in consultation with match referee Barry Lambson, decided to stop the game.  The FSCU later “sincerely” apologised “to the visiting team, [CSA], the sponsors, our loyal supporters and team sponsors” over the matter.  

That means all those involved in the match will have to do it all again at the same ground on Monday, which is the reserve day, this time in a day-night format.  Before then though the event technical committee will meet to decide what will happen should the pitch again be deemed dangerous.  The winner of the match is due to meet the Titans in the final of the competition in Johannesburg on Friday.

ECB set to trigger formal vote on new T20 tournament

Ali Martin.

The Guardian.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2086-10567.

Colin Graves, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), will brief the 18 first-class counties on Monday with what he has described as “compelling evidence” for the creation of a new domestic Twenty20 tournament that will run from 2020.  Graves and ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, will outline their vision for the game and ask the counties, as well as representatives from the non-first class game and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), to back changes to the ECB's articles of association that will allow a competition played by eight newly-created regional teams (PTG 2085-10563, 26 March 2017).

Monday’s briefing will be followed by a ECB board meeting on Tuesday at which Graves, as chairman, will formally trigger changes to the constitution that will allow the creation of a tournament with the 18 first-class counties not involved.  The 41 members of the ECB – the 18 counties, the 21 non-first class boards, MCC and the Minor Counties Association – will then have 28 days to return their postal ballots on the issue. The ECB needs 31 in favour to get the changes ratified and would then be clear to negotiate with broadcasters. A free-to-air television element is part of the proposal.

The ECB was cleared to explore the tournament’s viability by a 16-3 show of hands from the counties and MCC last September (PTG 1926-9674, 18 September 2017), and opposition now is expected to be reduced further still with Sussex, who voted against it along with Kent and Surrey, recently stating they are on board (PTG 2009-10159, 21 December 2017).  A recent report indicated the Minor Counties favour the proposed constitutional change (PTG 2072-10492, 12 March 2017), while another suggested the preposed new series will lose £UK15 ($24.5) in its first year (PTG 2076-10511, 15 March 2017).

The ECB’s existing T20 ‘Blast’ series has been a growing success story in recent seasons, however, with a ‘YouGov' poll last year showing it is more popular that football’s FA Cup and advance sales for this summer up 35 per cent. There are fears that by introducing a second, more high-profile tournament, it will be relegated in status and undercut by both cheaper tickets and a much greater marketing push (PTG 2065-10459, 5 March 2017).

Graves said: “We don’t want to alienate any members and supporters – but this new tournament will be aimed at new supporters and if the existing ones want to come along, then great. There is a role for the ‘Blast' as the tournament for the counties and we will build on that too. But this new one will be totally different”.

Cash concerns means support for ECB T20 extravaganza.  

Vic Marks.

The Guardian.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2086-10568.

The panacea of English cricket, the new Twenty20 competition scheduled to start in 2020, will be significantly advanced at the start of this week with the representatives of the counties meeting in London in advance of the formal triggering of the voting process (PTG 2086-10567 above). At Lord’s they are poised to wave through a change in the constitution that will allow the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to create a tournament that does not include all the counties. Thus the way will be open for the promised T20 extravaganza.

The majority of the counties do not really have a choice even though several of those voting in favour of it have grave reservations about its ultimate success. Forget the arguments or a measured analysis of the pros and cons. They desperately need the money and must snatch at any straw. While the ECB is sufficiently rich it can happily spend a couple of hundred grand or more on the North and South teams playing in front of 15,000 empty bucket seats in Abu Dhabi (PTG 2083-10549, 24 March 2017), the bulk of the counties remain impoverished and fearful for their futures, which applies as much in mighty Leeds as lowly Leicester (PTG 2083-10548, 24 March 2017).

The minds of the chief executives and chairmen will have been concentrated by this sentence in the proposals for the new T20 competition: “Each first-class county, which has signed the media deed, would receive a guaranteed minimum annual sum of £UK1.3 million [$A2.1 m]”. So here – let’s be polite – is the inducement for the counties to back the ECB. Even those clubs with some financial independence are now inclined to fall into line to ensure that they do not miss out on their share of the ECB booty. “Hang the arguments; give us the money” is not the best backdrop for a measured debate. In 2020 several clubs will, in effect, be paid not to host cricket matches, a new twist akin to farmers receiving their Euro set‑aside payments.

It is all about marketing rather than delivering a balanced domestic schedule and the marketers will surely find the figures to assure us that the new T20 competition will be a rip‑roaring success. Say it often enough and it will happen - a sort of Trump approach. This past week Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, even suggested it is more important for England to entertain than to win, which left many fans young and old scratching their heads (PTG 2081-10536, 22 March 2017). In our naivety we thought it was all about the contest (PTG 2083-10552, 24 March 2017).

Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League has been the source of envy for the ECB and its inspiration. That competition has indeed captured new followers, in particular women and young children, and it has been a spectacular success. In Australia, with its balmy early evenings and spacious cricket grounds conveniently situated in the middle of their cities, those women and children, as well as their menfolk, have walked up in abundance, many inspired by what they have seen on free‑to‑air television.

In 2020 in England, after a new television deal, the plan is to guarantee that ten of the T20 games will be shown on free-to- air TV, which is an interesting development. More than a decade ago, when cricket was lost to terrestrial audiences, there were assurances from the ECB that viewing patterns were changing so rapidly that this would not affect the accessibility of the game to the public. Now comes the tacit admission that this was not the case, which has been demonstrated by the recent impact of rugby union and racing on free‑to‑air channels. There are no “floating” viewers among the subscribers.

In contrast to the Australian model, there will be two T20 competitions rather than one in the 2020 season. The new one, which is designed to be the premier tournament, with three overseas players per squad, will take place in the last week of July and throughout August without the presence of any of England’s Test players. The existing ‘Blast' is scheduled for the end of May and June and will inevitably be devalued. Some may even come to regard that competition as “mediocre”.

Clearly there is a place for a major T20 tournament in the UK with all the trimmings, but is there really space for two? The current ‘Blast' risks becoming an increasingly irrelevant sop for those counties that do not host matches in the new competition. Meanwhile, a decent county cricketer will now be required to play more than 20 T20 matches per season without ever participating in a 50-over game.

Last summer the ‘Blast' was less “mediocre” in terms of attendances than Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, might have expected. This year advanced ticket sales are up by 35 per cent, which raises the question of whether a spectacularly successful ‘Blast' over the next two years might encourage the ECB to change tack over its T20 plans for 2020.  The answer is “No”. This would be the equivalent of reneging upon a manifesto commitment. The loss of face among those in charge would be too much to bear.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,087

Monday, 27 March 2017

(Second edition)

 

• Mid-match, on-field murder, stops play [2087-10569].

• Instead of ‘Chinaman’ why not call it an ‘Achong’ [2087-10570].

• Batsman ends his season on an unfortunate note [2087-10571].

• Association deals quickly with match incident [2087-10572].

• Get cricket back on UK terrestrial TV: Vaughan [2087-10573].

• ECB researchers focusing on lower back pain issues [2087-10574].

Mid-match, on-field murder, stops play.

PTG Editors.

Media reports.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10569.

A player was murdered when two masked men ran on to the ground and shot him at close range during a St Kitts and Nevis Cricket Association match on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean on Sunday.  Reports indicate that Rondell Chapman, 23, who was playing for the Empire Cricket Club against Pioneers at the Cotton Ground Playing Field, died immediately, the whole incident playing out in front of players and spectators.  

Police are said to have recovered a firearm at the scene and an investigation into the matter is underway. Local media say Chapman’s murder is the fifth homicide on the dual-island nation, population 55,000, this year, two being on Nevis and three on St. Kitts.

Instead of ‘Chinaman’ why not call it an ‘Achong’.

Andrew Wu.

Fairfax Media.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10570.

'PC f***wit', ‘idiot', 'f***ing idiot', ‘ponce', 'attention-seeker', ‘snowflake', ‘cancer’, 'pretend victim', were some of the responses I received on ’Twitter’ after I made clear my concern about the use of the term ‘Chinaman’ (PTG 2086-10565, 27 March 2017).  Now that the name-calling's out of the way, let's have an adult discussion about the ‘Chinaman’ issue.  Not a major problem, perhaps even what social media types like to call a first-world problem. But a problem nevertheless.

Cricket has many quirky and whimsical terms, the origins of which even many tragics of the game would struggle to explain. Fielding positions like silly mid-off, third man, fine leg and cow corner (in an unofficial capacity) are but a few.  They are part of the rich fabric of the sport, and may they live on for as long as cricket is played. With the exception of one - the "chinaman".

It's not a term that is commonly heard in cricket, but one that will get a lot of air play this week after spinner Kuldeep Yadav's dream start to his Test career for India.  Why? Because he is what is known in the game as a "chinaman" bowler - a left-arm spinner who turns the ball back into the right-handed batsman.

Uncomfortable at how often and insensitively the term was being used after Kuldeep's efforts, this correspondent challenged cricket to get rid of the racially offensive term. It met a mixed response on ‘Twitter', which fell broadly into three categories: support from those who can see its racist overtones; curiosity from those wanting to learn; and streams of abuse from those outraged that I was upset by something they deemed innocuous.

It wasn't long before the accusations of double standards -  due to my failure to condemn other cricket terms like short leg (it supposedly upsets amputees), flipper (dolphins), swinger (monogamous married men) and yorker (apparently Yorkshire is up in arms about it) - began to arrive.  I'll put my hand up and say I have used the term "going Irish" to denote reverse swing, but no longer do after receiving a complaint a few years back. And I'll happily say 'Je suit resole' (I am sorry) if there is justifiable cause to shelve the "French cut".

Others told me to concentrate my energy towards worthier causes like ending world poverty and stopping ISIS, though I am humble enough to accept I do not have the expertise to solve those issues.  There were also calls for ‘Chinaman' to be seen as a term of endearment due to the difficulty of the delivery, except its origin in cricket came not out of respect but disbelief that an Englishman could lose his wicket to a Chinese.

The term joined the cricket vernacular after a Test between England and West Indies at Old Trafford in 1933, when Ellis Achong, a left-arm finger-spinner (orthodox) and the first Test cricketer of Chinese ancestry, dismissed English batsman Walter Robins with wrist-spin.  According to legend, as Robins walked back to the pavilion, he said ,"Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman". It has stuck ever since.

The term ‘Chinaman' has historically been used in a contemptuous manner to describe the Chinese, whereas its equivalents - Englishman, Frenchman, Dutchman - have not. Hands up those who would dare call their Chinese colleague a "ching chong Chinaman”?  Similarly, it's why an Australian can be called an Aussie, but a Pakistani cannot be referred to as a "Paki" or an Australian Aboriginal as an ... I think you catch the drift.

It's worth noting there are some of Chinese descent who do not find it objectionable. Fine, but that does not mean others should not, either.  The term is not used in a disparaging manner in the context of cricket, but that alone is not justification for its continued use. It's just as well Robins did not bemoan being dismissed by a "chink".

A simple solution would be for the craft to be known as left-arm wrist-spin, in recognition of it being bowled with the left arm and the wrists being used to generate the spin.  Or how about re-naming the delivery the Achong, in honour, rather than dishonour, of the bowler who has not been given due credit in cricket folklore?  Now to find a path to world peace.

Editor’s note: Wu was born in Australia but says he is proud of his Chinese heritage.

Batsman end his season on an unfortunate note.

YouTube and medias reports.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10571.

A batsman playing in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association's (VTCA) North-West B2 Grand Final on Saturday ended his season on a particularly sour note, smashing all three of his stumps out of the ground after being given out caught behind, his effort, which included a gesture to the umpire, ending up for all to see on YouTube.  The player’s side, Newport-Digman trailed by 140 when they began their second innings in the season decider, but the pressure of runs proved too much as their opponents Point Cook secured an innings victory.

Point Cook bowler Owen Doolan turned to the umpire after the incident but the team huddle kept the home side on track.  "Our captain just wanted us to worry about getting the next four wickets and not worry about what just happened”, said Doolan.  While the batsman Liam Collins is understood to have been cited for his actions, Doolan said his opponent was not keen to relive it at the end of the match.  "Nah, (we) just shook hands”, the bowler said.

The VTCA, who have been in the news recently because of player behaviour (PTG 2075-10504, 15 March 2017), have had a busy season, the ‘Penalty Cards Issued’ page on its web site for 2016-17 showing 67 cards were issued: 21 Greens, 40 Yellow and 6 Red.  The previous 2015-16 season saw bans worth a total of 40 matches given to 14 players, plus another who was given a two-year ban.

Association deals quickly with match incident

Rod Thompson.

Singleton Times.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10572.

New South Wales' Singleton District Cricket Association (SDCA) says it “has acted quickly, and decisively”, to send a message to players that no form of hostility will be tolerated in the competition. Their move, which followed "an incident" during the first grade semi-final between JPC and Glendon two Saturday’s ago, led to one JPC player being banned for eight matches, four of which were suspended, and two Glendon players given two week suspended suspensions.

“While no official complaint was made by either team, the confrontation was verbally reported by umpire Dave Paget to the association”, said the SDCA's Daniel Storey.  “With rumours spreading throughout the area [that a player hit a rival], we asked him for a written report [and then] discussed it with [him in person].  While many players were involved in the argument afterwards, it was deemed that three of them were the cause and continuation of the incident.  As a result, the executive decided to cite them”.

Storey, who said the behaviour of the trio was “against the spirit of the game”, went on: “We offered them the choice of accepting a sentence [determined by the executive from precedence] or the opportunity to have a hearing heard by a judicial committee.  It’s not a good look for cricket, which is currently promoting many juniors through the hard work of a dedicated committee. The executive believed the issue needed to be dealt with swiftly – and acted in accordance with the rules”.

As a result the unnamed player were given their bans, but one of the Glendon players opted to take his case to the SDCA's judicial committee, however, they upheld the original decision.  “All clubs need to realise there is no tolerance for violence in the game of cricket, and that all players show a level of respect to all other players and officials”, concluded Storey.

Get cricket back on UK terrestrial TV: Vaughan.

Dean Wilson.

London Daily Mirror.

Monday, 27 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10573.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan reckons English cricket is playing catch up with its rugby counterparts as it gets ready to change its structure forever.  And after spending 12 years behind a 'Sky Sports' subscription paywall, he believes the time has come to put part of English cricket back on terrestrial TV.

Vaughan understands why the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took the money back in 2005, but laments how the game is now in a battle for the hearts and minds of the younger English public.  “I just get really jealous on a Six Nations [rugby] weekend and I hear that eight million people are watching a rugby match and cricket isn’t getting that kind of audience”, said Vaughan.

“I guess in time we may get that and I think the people in charge are trying to get the right visibility for the game, but it is a different era. I think they’re playing a bit of catch up.  It is dead easy to point the finger at the people making the decisions back then but there were minimal bids on the table and there was one bid on the table that was big. So what are you going to do? Just ignore the big bid? No.  I just think that over the 12 years, probably there could have been more done in between to make the game a bit more visible, and now it is a fresh start”.

New programs like ‘All Stars Cricket’ for 5-8 year-old boys and girls is part of the plan to make the most of what the ECB hope will be a new audience of kids and their mums who will get along to what it hopes will be their new Twenty20 tournament in 2020.  But “right now”, said Vaughan, "cricket has a problem because [new England captain] Joe Root can walk down his street and not get hassled. We need to make the game more visible and for Joe to get pestered!”

ECB researchers focusing on lower back pain issues.

Tim Wigmore.

The Independent.

Saturday, 25 March 2017.

PTG 2087-10574.

This northern summer 91 county cricketers, from eight sides, are taking part in a pioneering study to reduce back injuries.  Lower back pain has for many years been “probably the biggest cause of pain and injury in cricketers”, says Steve McCaig, a senior physiotherapist for the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB), who is overseeing the study, 

The aim is simple: to track players both before and after they are injured, and get a better idea of what causes back injury. “Before you'd only be able to make guesses as to what the causes are”, explains Raph Brandon, the ECB's Head of Science, Medicine and Innovation.

Over the 2016-17 British winter, the group - 45 fast bowlers, 18 spinners, 20 batsmen and eight wicketkeepers, including both previous sufferers of lower back pain and those who have been pain free - have been profiled by the ECB’s medical team on factors related to lower back pain. With the aid of wearable sensors, players’ posture, joint mobility, muscle flexibility, muscle endurance, aerobic fitness, hamstring length, ankle mobility and shoulder mobility have all been measured. Even their sleeping patterns.

Now the ECB and their counties will monitor the players during the season ahead, tracking their workload, any discomfort they pick up in their lower back and how they respond to treatment. The ECB has, for many years, been investigating bowling workloads and tried to tweak, or even remodel, bowling actions to make quicks less susceptible. 

But perhaps by focusing on those who avoid injury, as well as those who get injured, there will be a great leap forward in keeping cricketers free of back pain. It is not only fast bowlers who should benefit; while it is rarer that back pain cause others to miss matches, it can still undermine performance.  “At the end of the season we’ll compare those who develop persistent and recurrent low back pain to those who don’t”, McCaig explains. “From our statistical analysis we'll be able to identify how those people who developed lower back pain were different”.

In its research, the ECB is not only leading the way within cricket, but also learning from other sports. “They've done a lot of work in baseball on why pitchers get pain throwing”, McCaig says. “We looked at this and said 'does this apply to cricket?' I've taken those principles on board”.  Studies of how to prevent hamstring injuries in football have also informed the ECB’s thinking.

Research is also being undertaken into concussion injuries, the relationship between injuries and fast bowling workloads and how a young fast bowler’s spine adapts - the spine is notorious for producing career-debilitating injuries. In partnership with Catapult Sports, the ECB has developed micro-sensors, which most national players wear on the top of their backs under their shirts, in matches and training. 

An algorithm detects when a bowler bowls a delivery, tracking the player’s run-up speed and delivery stride, enabling the ECB to monitor the intensity of their training - particularly useful when a player is returning from injury. Results from the micro-sensors informed the decision to declare Mark Wood fit enough to play in the recent North-South series in the United Arab Emirates.

More than anything, the aim is to reduce the salience of fallible gut instinct in managing injuries and judging when players return, and replace human judgement with science. “That's the beauty of this study. You just let it play out, and see what the data tells you”, says Brandon. “This is all for optimising our support to players and ensuring we are best informed to be best prepared”. In the case of lower back pain and other research, a good result is helping an affected player to play a few more days of cricket a year free from injury.

That might not sound like much. But if it is the difference between Wood making the Champions Trophy final or not this summer, and if he can help England to their first ever victory in a 50-over world event, the ECB’s investment in sports science at England’s National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough University, will seem vindicated.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

NUMBER 2,088

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

 

• New T20 series 'will put cricket number one behind football', says ECB [2088-10575].

• Yet another player shows his ‘respect' to the game [2088-10576].

New T20 series 'will put cricket number one behind football', says ECB.

Nick Hoult.

London Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017.

PTG 2088-10575.

English county chiefs were told on Monday the new Twenty20 tournament will help cricket compete with football to be the country’s number one sport as the game gears up for its most radical overhaul in generations. Officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), backed up by presentations from one day captain Eoin Morgan and England director Andrew Strauss, outlined their vision for the future of English cricket in a meeting with all 18 counties and the Marylebone Cricket Club (PTG 2086-10567, 27 March 2017).

Those at the meeting say the message was the new Twenty20 league can help cricket be the top “challenger” to football and attract a new audience to cricket. Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said the tournament will “future proof” cricket. “It is very clear we are not currently talking to as big an audience as we should be, because our tournaments are not as relevant as they should be”, he said. "We have to think differently if we're going to be successful at attracting family audiences to our competitions” (PTG 2085-10563, 26 March 2017).

The ECB has contracted ‘Futurebrand', a marketing company that worked on the 2012 Olympics, to help with the identities of the eight teams in the new event as well as the tournament's name.  They described how they can differentiate between the new Twenty20 and the existing ‘Blast' and county championship.

The analogy with a BMW car was put forward. BMW was traditionally a car bought by men. To change this BMW bought Mini to appeal to female drivers and then Rolls Royce to buy into the luxury market. It is the same car company using different brands to widen its reach. The message was cricket can market its different tournaments to separate audiences to grow its support base.

County chairmen were shown a video designed to shock them into realising how cricket has failed to attract new audiences (PTG 1925-9671, 16 September 2016). School children were shown pictures of England cricketers. One thought Strauss was a football manager, another that Alastair Cook worked for former England team sponsor ‘Waitrose'.

Strauss told the meeting he believes the new tournament will help produce England Test players. With only eight teams, and three slots in each of the 15 man squads filled by overseas players, competition for a contract among England’s 300 professionals will be fierce. Players that miss out initially will have to perform in county cricket to try and win a contract, which will encourage them to improve, and Strauss believes, this will help them become better players. 

Morgan gave a “passionate’ presentation about playing in the Indian Premier League as the ECB rolled out one of its big names. He revealed how battling with players like Jacques Kallis in a short tournament where every match matters helped his development. Harrison said: “We wanted to give a number of different perspectives, and it was definitely valuable to have the perspective of a player who has experienced the leading T20 competitions around the world. He’s a passionate English cricket fan”.