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I could have played more for Team India, says Kaif

Former cricketer Mohammad Kaif, while sharing his journey from Allahabad to the Indian dressing room, says he didn’t get chances to play despite doing well.

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Former cricketer Mohammad Kaif

Q. How are you paying attention to fitness during Covid-19?

 A. The first thing is I got a lot of time with my family like never before since I started playing. I got involved in commentary in February, in coaching and then travelling has always been a part of our life, so during this lockdown I have found time to be at home. The children are very happy as they have mummy and papa with them for 24×7. The school and the academy are all closed, so it is necessary to keep the children busy at home. So, I put a tennis ball in the socks and tied it up like we all used to do in childhood. As you know my father and brother have played cricket, so we too started.

Q. Going on your excellent track records, do you think you played less ODIs?

A. Every player is never satisfied with his career or himself. I am not satisfied but I am also very proud of myself that I played for all these years. Every year I played a cricket match, it was very good. Even when I played for India, it was also very good and it was also very memorable. I also toured many countries and visited Pakistan in 2004 and then a great South Africa moment. I have left an impression in the minds of people and people will remember that thing.

 Q. Sometimes, it felt like you didn’t get a chance even after doing so well.

A. It happened many times. I scored and I did not get a chance to play continuously. I did not get a chance to play again and again. This hurts everyone because you want that when you are in form and also when you are trying your best. It did not happen to me because the rest of the players who were with me were very great. They were very big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Virendra Sehwag and playing with all these players, making a place with them is great in itself. It was a competition to make a place with them, so when I played, I always supported them.

Q. You played during the golden era of Indian cricket. This was the pride moment for all of you because it was very difficult to form a team that would take everyone along. How did this happen for the players?

A. Yes, it was a transitional time. Around 2000-01, when we were playing, there were many new players in the team and there were some old players. Things had become very difficult at that time, after which our fans were very upset. It was disappointing, but we made a team of our own and strengthened it.

Q. Do you ever miss Allahabad’s gol gappe, tikki chaat?

 A. Absolutely! Allahabad is such a place where you forget about your health and dieting. Go to Allahabad, visit all the malls, eat all the foods and because Allahabad is a small city, then there is a lot of time left even after roaming there.

Q. When we talk about best fielders, Mohammad Kaif’s name invariably comes up. How did you earn this?

A. There will be a mention of Allahabad here. It is said that if you want to learn, you have to fall and it happened to me in the same way. Any fielder has to suffer a lot of pain. So that feeling of pain was reduced to me because I had fallen and slipped so much during rains in Allahabad. I had not felt so much pain and then I achieved that point.

Q. Matches are not happening in Covid-19 and we all know that you are very fond of movies. Tell us about that.

A. Yes, I am very fond of movies and now there is also a lockdown. Many such new apps have come where we can watch movies including Netflix.

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‘SKY IS THE LIMIT’, SAYS SKIPPER BRATHWAITE AS WEST INDIES RISE IN TEST RANKINGS

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West Indies Test skipper Kraigg Brathwaite praised his players and support staff following his team’s good show in the latest ICC Test rankings.

The West Indies team made a significant move up in the ICC Test match rankings, following the release of the latest list on Thursday. The side moved up two places to sixth place, leapfrogging South Africa and Sri Lanka. West Indies are on 84 points ahead of the Proteas on 80 and Sri Lanka on 78. Brathwaite said this is the beginning of the climb towards higher rankings.

“I’m very proud of the team to jump two places in the Test rankings. I think this is just the beginning of good things to come,” said Brathwaite while speaking to Cricket West Indies (CWI).

“As a group it shows that we can climb up the ladder and it’s just important for us to work hard and keep the belief and attitude to doing things right – in the preparation and the execution on the field. Once we continue to do the small things right, and have the right attitude … because Test cricket is never easy… the sky is the limit,” he added.

The West Indies’ growth and progress came after their memorable 2-0 win away to Bangladesh and the hard-fought 0-0 draw in the Sandals Test Series at home against Sri Lanka.

“I am pleased to see the improvement from eighth to sixth in our Test ranking. This comes on the back of good cricket played earlier in the year against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” said Jimmy Adams, CWI’s Director of Cricket.

“Firstly we should recognize the efforts of the players and support staff on the ground who have delivered results under pressure and secondly to the large number of people working tirelessly in the background to support them in the face of multiple challenges. We continue to work hard towards our strategic goal of top 3 rankings across all formats,” he added.

Meanwhile, the ICC WTC finalists India and New Zealand are the top two teams respectively in the ICC Men’s Test team rankings after the annual update carried out on Thursday.

India gained one rating point for an aggregate of 121 and New Zealand are only one point behind after gaining two points in Thursday’s update, which eliminates results from 2017-18.

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JOFRA ARCHER ‘HOPEFUL’ OF PLAYING IN IPL 2021 IF IT GETS RESCHEDULED

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England pacer Jofra Archer is hopeful of playing for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) if the tournament gets rescheduled later this year.

The IPL governing council (GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season. The BCCI is keen to tap the September window before the T20 World Cup to finish the league. Archer didn’t play a single game in the IPL 2021 but the pacer is hopeful of featuring in the tournament if it gets rescheduled.

“If I did go to India probably would have home early anyway. Hopefully, if it (IPL) does get reschedule for this year, I will be able to go again. It was a hard decision not to go to India, it was really unpredictable, I could have gone but I don’t know how many games would I have played,” said Archer on Sussex Cricket YouTube channel.

“Rajasthan Royals and England supported me in my decision. You obviously build a good relationship as I have been the Royals for the last three years. Stokes too suffered a bit, I think going over his hand and I don’t even know if he going to be ready for these Tests against New Zealand,” he added.

Archer had suffered a cut to his hand while cleaning at his home in January shortly before flying to India to prepare for the Test series.

The ECB’s medical team managed the injury throughout the tour, and it did not impact his availability. A fragment of glass was removed during the operation to his middle finger on his right hand in March.

Archer had played two Tests and all the five T20Is against India, and then he was ruled out from the ODI series and the first half of the IPL.

Earlier this week, Ashley Giles, the managing director of the England men’s team hinted that England’s centrally contracted players are likely to miss the remainder of the IPL 2021 wherever and whenever the tournament resumes.

Giles said England’s schedule for the summer is “incredibly busy” and the management wants to look after their players.

“None of us knows what a rearranged IPL looks like at the moment; where it’s going to be or when. But from when we start this summer against New Zealand, our programme is incredibly busy,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Giles as saying.

“We’ve got a lot of important, high-profile cricket including the T20 World Cup and the Ashes. And we’re going to have to look after our players,” he had added.

Meanwhile, Archer made a comeback as he played his first-class match for Sussex since September 2018 on Thursday.

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South Africa to tour West Indies for first time in 11 years for bilateral series

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Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Friday confirmed the Proteas men’s tour to West Indies following months of positive engagement with Cricket West Indies (CWI).

It will be the South Africans’ first bilateral tour to the Caribbean since 2010, followed by a tri-series in 2016 that also featured Australia. The tour, which had to be rescheduled from 2020, will include two Test matches and five T20s, from June 10 to July 3 this year in St. Lucia at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground and Grenada at the National Cricket Stadium, respectively.

CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith said he is delighted to have the team return to the Caribbean and expressed his gratitude to CWI and the governments of St. Lucia and Grenada for their helpfulness in ensuring the tour takes place.

“We are extremely pleased to have the men’s team’s tour to the West Indies officially confirmed. COVID-19 has played havoc with the ICC Future Tours Programme and we are thankful to Cricket West Indies and the governments of St. Lucia and Grenada for ensuring that the tour goes ahead as planned,” said Smith in a CSA release.

“The hosting nations, in particular, came to the party at very short notice and Cricket South Africa would like to extend its immense gratitude to them for their enthusiasm and willingness to host us,” he added.

In their last bilateral encounter in the Windies in 2010, South Africa won the three-match Test series 2-0 (the second fixture was drawn) and produced a white-ball sweep, winning the T20 and ODI series 2-0 and 5-0 respectively.

“Tours to the West Indies are always one of the most highly anticipated tours of them all, not only because of the beauty of the venues, but the quality and competitiveness of the cricket that is in store,” said Smith.

“We are looking forward to explosive displays of cricket and entertainment on our screens for fans around the world to consume as the two evenly matched countries come together for both Test and T20 cricket,” he added.

The Proteas are scheduled to arrive in St. Lucia on June 1.

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JAPAN’S ENTRY BAN WILL NOT AFFECT INDIAN ATHLETES, SAYS IOA CHIEF BATRA

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With Japan restricting entry of people from India, Pakistan and Nepal due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, questions have been raised on whether the Indian athletes will also face issues in entering the country for the Tokyo Olympics. But Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra has made it clear that all protocols will be met and there will be no restriction to the entry of Indian athletes in the country for the Games. Speaking to ANI, Batra said he was aware of the rising doubts among athletes after the new restriction in Japan. But he went on to clear them and said there was nothing to worry as far as India’s Olympic contingent is concerned.

“We have to understand that Olympics is different from regular people entering the country from India, Pakistan or Nepal. Olympics has guarantees from the hosts and from the International Olympic Committee that you cannot stop any athlete from any country from coming and participating. All the accredited athletes in the contingent and officials — around 210 people in total — will not come under the restriction. That is the way I understand the protocol.

“Yes, we will also follow all the protocols that have been put in place. Athletes and para athletes have been vaccinated. And about 90-odd officials have also been vaccinated out of which some have also got the second shot. We have met the vaccination protocol, 24 hours before the departure we will also do the RTPCR tests. So, in my view, there is no reason for them to stop us as we are not violating any regulation. Every single athlete and official who has been accredited will be there,” he pointed.

There have also been recent cases where qualification tournaments were cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation. While the IOA chief does feel for the athletes, he says these things need to be looked into by the federations.

“The situation over the last one year is beyond anybody’s control. Nobody knows when a place will get affected by the COVID-19 situation. These are all political decisions and not sporting ones. If a country has taken a decision that I will not allow, you cannot do much. The example of Australia is right in front of your eyes. Thailand and Malaysia also said the same and you cannot do much about it.

“In case of Olympics it is clear that if qualification isn’t there, world rankings will then be considered. I know it is unfortunate but you cannot do much to change the situation at this point in time. I feel for the athletes who could not go but certain things are even beyond everyone’s control,” he said.

Batra wants the Indian athletes to focus on the road ahead with the Tokyo Games just over two months away. “Athletes won’t be stopped and that is an assurance. They shouldn’t have any worry,” he signed off.

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TEAM HAS SHOWN STEELY RESOLVE AND UNWAVERING FOCUS TO BE CROWNED NO. 1: RAVI SHASTRI

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India head coach Ravi Shastri has praised his boys for showing grit and determination to finish as the top-ranked Test team after ICC released the team rankings on Thursday.

Taking to Twitter, Shastri wrote: This (India flag) team has shown steely resolve & unwavering focus to be crowned No. 1. It is something the boys have earned fair & square. Rules changed midway but #TeamIndia overcame every hurdle along the way. My boys played tough cricket in tough times. Super proud of this bindass bunch.”

The ICC World Test Championship (WTC) finalists India and New Zealand finished as the top two teams respectively in the ICC Men’s Test team rankings after the annual update carried out on Thursday.

India gained one rating point for an aggregate of 121 and New Zealand was only one point behind after gaining two points in Thursday’s update, which eliminated results from 2017-18.

India’s 2-1 win over Australia and 3-1 win over England over the past year and New Zealand’s 2-0 series wins over the West Indies and Pakistan helped them keep ahead of the pack.

The latest update, which rates all matches played since May 2020 at 100 per cent and those of the previous two years at 50 per cent, also saw England overtake Australia to the third position as England’s 4-0 defeat to Australia in 2017-18 was dropped from the rankings.

Pakistan gained three points but remained in the fifth position while the West Indies, who beat Bangladesh 2-0 and drew 0-0 with Sri Lanka in series played this year, moved from eighth to sixth, their best position since 2013.

South Africa was in the seventh position, equaling their lowest in Test ranking history, while Sri Lanka was next on the list. Bangladesh lost five points but remained in the ninth position while Zimbabwe gained eight points but was still nine points behind Bangladesh.

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India gearing up to play two teams at the same time

In the era of Covid-19, the concept of two teams can prove to be helpful in improving the economic conditions of cricket boards. But will it be viable for teams other than India, England and Australia?

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Sourav Ganguly.

BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly has started a new tradition by announcing a tour to Sri Lanka. Now one team will be on a tour of England and the other team will be seen playing limited overs cricket in SL. This will allow a large talent pool in India to showcase its skills. At the same time, some questions related to this have arisen as to how effective this experiment can be for the future.

Actually, till now only teams from England and Australia have done such experiments in the recent past. Teams from India and Pakistan conducted such experiments in 1998 when one team from these two countries were playing the Friendship Cup in Toronto and the other team kept their challenge in the CWG. The team that went to the CWG had players like Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and V.V.S. Laxman, with Ajay Jadeja as the captain of the team. The other team was led by Mohammad Azharuddin against Pakistan at Toronto. On behalf of Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar participated in the CWG.

Four years ago, Australia’s team did a similar experiment. One of their teams was playing T20 against Sri Lanka in Adelaide and the other team was playing a Test match against Team India in Pune. Australia did not even let India score 110 runs in both innings.

Australia won both these matches, which started with a difference of one day. Similarly, one team of England went out in a one-day match against Ireland last year and the other team in the match against Pakistan. Chris Woakes and Butler batted brilliantly in the lower order to lead England to victory in the Test, while England suffered a one-day defeat against Ireland.

Now the question arises here that if two teams of one country are formed, then there will be more star players in the one team only. Will the broadcaster be ready for this in the future? Actually, there is no such problem with Australia and England. If Joe Root is the star in England’s Test team, then Eoin Morgan is no less than a big star in the ODI team. Whereas Jos Buttler plays as a wicket-keeper in the Test team, Jonny Bairstow plays in ODIs. In fast bowling, where the Test team consists of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, their ODI team consists of David Willey, Saqib Mehmood and Tom Curran. At the same time, in the spin bowling department, where England has Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid in the ODI team, Dom Bais has played in the Test team. It is clear that England’s fast bowling is stronger in the Test team, while in the ODI, their spin bowling is much stronger. While Australia’s Test team consists of Steve Smith, Tim Paine, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Jose Hazlewood, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins and Jay Richardson play under the captaincy of Aaron Finch in ODI. It is clear that there is no dearth of star players in both teams.

The same situation can also happen for Team India in the coming times, because the recent Australian tour has given star identities to many net bowlers, so now if there is a second team, then it will also have more players who have made their own unique identity. The problem will come to the teams other than these three teams where the talent pool is not that big, nor is there any identity of the players other than 15 players.

Therefore, if the ICC includes the concept of two teams in its annual calendar, then the approach will be practical only in India, England, and Australia, whereas in the case of other teams neither the broadcaster nor the sponsors will be ready.

The rest of the teams will also have to learn a lesson from New Zealand, where the population is around the same of Gujarat or Rajasthan, but this team stands in the way of becoming the World Champion in ODIs and will play the final of the World Test Championship against India. However, in the era of the Covid pandemic, the concept of two teams can prove to be helpful in improving the economic conditions of cricket boards. Also, viewers will get to see more cricket throughout the year.

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