The 2018 edition of Wisden has continued to break new ground, with three members of the England Women’s World Cup-winning team named among the Five Cricketers of the Year: Anya Shrubsole – who also becomes the first woman to feature on the cover – Heather Knight and Nat Sciver.
For the second year running, Virat Kohli is named Leading Cricketer in the World – matching Virender Sehwag’s achievement in 2008 and 2009 – while another of the competitors in the Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s, India captain Mithali Raj, wins the Leading Women’s Cricketer accolade. Afghanistan’s teenage sensation, Rashid Khan, is the inaugural winner of a new award for the foremost T20 player in the game.
Previously, only two women have won places among Wisden‘s Five – Claire Taylor (2009) and Charlotte Edwards (2014) – a tradition that dates back to 1889 and is judged on performances during the English summer, with no player able to be named more than once.
Alongside Shrubsole, Knight and Sciver, West Indies’ batsman Shai Hope, scorer of twin hundreds in a famous win at Headingley, and Essex’s Jamie Porter, the seamer who helped lead them to a first County Championship in 25 years, make up the Five Cricketers of the Year for 2017. Winners receive a commemorative edition of the Almanack, which is published on Wednesday.
Lawrence Booth, the editor of Wisden, praised Knight’s role in lifting the World Cup as “the culmination of a personal tour de force that helped change women’s cricket for ever” and said no stroke was more memorable in 2017 than Sciver’s flick through the legs, christened the “Natmeg”. On Shrubsole’s match-winning turn at Lord’s, he added: “She finished with figures of six for 46, the best in a World Cup final, and the status of a national hero.”
While the women’s game may enjoy a higher profile than it has ever done, Booth writes in his Editor’s Notes that there remains work to be done and calls for a statue to be erected of the pioneering Rachael Heyhoe Flint, who died last year. “If Barnsley and Hobart can honour Dickie Bird and David Boon, Lord’s can find room for Rachael Heyhoe Flint – preferably in the Coronation Garden behind the Pavilion, casting a mischievous eye in the direction of WG.”
Although Wisden has only singled out the world’s best male cricketer since 2003, Kohli is the third player to win it twice – after Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara – and the second to do so in consecutive years. The women’s award is only in its fourth year, with Raj the first Indian to be honoured.
“For the second year in a row, Indian captain Virat Kohli is Wisden‘s Leading Cricketer in the World,” Booth said. “In all formats in 2017, he scored 2,818 runs – more than 700 ahead of Joe Root in second place. Three of his five Test hundreds were doubles, and the other two unbeaten, and his 1,460 one-day international runs were unsurpassed.
“Mithali Raj made it an Indian double after she was named the Leading Woman Cricketer in the World. In the course of captaining her country to within a whisker of the World Cup title, she became the leading run-scorer in the history of women’s one-day internationals, and completed her seventh successive half-century, another record.”
Elsewhere in the Almanack, Booth describes England’s Test team as “going backwards” and is critical of the ECB’s handling of the Ben Stokes affair. There is praise, however, for increased engagement with the UK’s South Asian communities. “This is about more than doing the right thing, and bringing a passionate group in from the cold. It is a matter of survival.”
BCCI chooses not to renew contracts of 11 National Cricket Academy coaches
The BCCI has decided not to renew the contracts of 11 National Cricket Academy (NCA) coaches, four of them former India players, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, because of which there has been no activity at the academy in Bengaluru for the past few months and no plans for a restart in the foreseeable future.
These coaches – former players Subroto Banerjee, Shiv Sunder Das, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ramesh Powar, Mansur Ali Khan and Sitanshu Kotak among them – were on one-year contracts for salaries ranging from INR 30 lakh to INR 50 lakh [$40,750 to $67,900 approx.]. They were informed by Rahul Dravid, the NCA boss, that they would not be needed after the deals end on September 30. The other members of the coaching staff to lose their jobs are Rajiv Dutta, Apurva Desai, Atul Gaikwad, Subhadeep Ghosh, and T Dilip.
As such, no clear reason for the decision has been conveyed to them, ESPNcricinfo learnt after speaking to some of the coaches who will be without jobs after a week.
“It came as a shock, because there was no warning, when Rahul called me and said he had some bad news for me,” one of the coaches told ESPNcricinfo on condition of anonymity. “There is no cricket (because of Covid-19), so they probably don’t want to continue with us. The people who were on long-term contracts are still there, but we have been told to go.”
“It is unfortunate, but the contracts have not been renewed,” a senior BCCI functionary told ESPNcricinfo. “The idea was to engage them for a whole year, and not on a piecemeal basis, when the NCA got them to work when they were free. So they worked with the national teams – India women, India Under-19, India A, Women’s Under-19s, Women’s A team – and for our national camps, across age groups, for women and men, which are conducted at NCA throughout the year.
“A lot of good work was going on, with these coaches and all the other people, in the educational wing, where (former India cricketer) Sujith Somasundar is in charge. I hope we consider re-employing them when work resumes at NCA again.”
While Dravid was unavailable for comment, one of the coaches we spoke to explained how closely the former India captain had worked with the coaching staff to “try and take Indian cricket to the next level”.
“Rahul had handpicked all of us (coaches), and it was done with a plan in place. We have made plans and programmes together, to try and take Indian cricket to the next level, become the best in the world for a long period,” one of the coaches said. “We have had meetings twice every week through the pandemic too. Work has been going on.
“Maybe we will be taken back later, but there are no guarantees.”
The coaches in question were hired around a year ago by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, who were in charge of helming the affairs of the BCCI till October last year, on Dravid’s recommendation, with an agreement to work 120 days during the course of the year.
IPL 2020 RR vs CSK
Convinced that possessing an array of shots is a must to go with power-hitting, the Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson says he worked on these aspects during the coronavirus-enforced break.
The work done by Samson was there to be seen when he pulverised the Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday night, setting up a win with his blistering 32-ball 74, studded with nine sixes and a four.
That he is an impact player is a known fact but his clean and elegant hitting earned praise from one and all.
“I think range-hitting is what the game demands in this generation,” Samson said at the post-match presentation. “I had time to work out in these five months, and I think I’ve increased that ability.
“I’ve been working hard on my fitness, diet and training, and on my strength, because my game relies a lot on power-hitting.”
Samson, who was adjudged Man-of-the-Match, said his plan is to go and hit all the deliveries in his arc.
“My game plan is stand-and-deliver. If it’s in the arc, I go for it, and it’s very important to keep the intent to hit the ball if it’s there to be hit.”
With Robin Uthappa and Jos Buttler also in the squad, the Royals are spoilt for choice in the wicketkeeping department.
However, Samson, who executed two stumpings and as many catches against the Super Kings, said he is happy to play any role the captain and coach deem fit for him.
“Everyone likes to keep wickets and no one likes running around, but it’s up to the coach. We are happy to bring smiles on the fans’ faces and we hope to continue doing so.”
Australia Women v New Zealand Women, 2020
Beth Mooney‘s focus on greater self-belief and quicker adaptation to specific sets of conditions and match scenarios underlines why she will enter Australia’s first international assignment on home soil since the onset of Covid-19 as the world’s best T20 batter.
Far from sitting back contentedly on a dominant T20 World Cup, capped by the perfect anchor innings in Australia’s triumphant final against India at a packed MCG in March, Mooney has spent the intervening months working to build on her own levels of assurance and versatility when confronted by different situations at the top of the order alongside Alyssa Healy.
This emphasis was encouraged by the fact that, apart from the final itself, Australia’s road to the T20 World Cup was anything but smooth, with early struggles followed by an anxious passage through a rain-hit semi-final against South Africa and the looming threat of coronavirus before the competition decider ultimately played out as if in a dream.
“It’s not so much technical sides of my game but more the way I think about it,” Mooney said. “I’ve been working on that really closely with Shelley Nitschke up in Brisbane and [former Australia coach] Mark Sorrell, so that’s been really cool to work with different people and get different perspectives of what they think where I’m at, compared to what I think. Given we’ve just been training for four to five months I’m really excited about being able to put some things into fruition out in the middle and hopefully take the game on.
“There’s usually times when I’m pretty unsure of myself out in the middle and not necessarily backing my decision-making and the situation in the game. But to be put under different scenarios on the wickets at training and I guess learning to adapt quicker to what the wicket’s doing and what the situation might be. They’re only scenarios but to get some feedback from the coach directly is pretty important.
“I guess I needed a little bit more data to collect that what I was thinking was pretty accurate with whatever was happening with the wicket or the situation. That’s been really nice to be able to have those conversations and working closely with people who are highly respected helps as well.”
Memories of those hectic days in February and March, particularly after an opening loss to India in Sydney and then a nervous chase against Sri Lanka in Perth, where the team looked briefly to be on the cusp of elimination, have bolstered Mooney’s belief that the group led by Meg Lanning is not just a collective of frontrunners, but also fighters.
“We got ourselves in positions where we were put under the pump a lot more and I feel like we came out on top in a lot of those situations,” Mooney said. “We’ll be able to look back on that tournament when we’re under the pump or feeling under pressure and be able to get through those situations pretty nicely.
“It was a different tournament for us in the sense that we were challenged and put under pressure a fair bit, but at the same time that’s a really good indicator of where the game’s at around the globe, people are investing in women’s cricket. To be able to have contests like we did at the World Cup means this series against New Zealand will be no different and they’ll be really tightly fought.”
More broadly, Australia’s next major ambition is to reclaim the ODI World Cup, after they were eliminated in the semi-finals by India in 2017, leaving England to lift the trophy at Lord’s. “The easy part about playing in this team is everyone has a drive and ambition to be better and continually improve,” Mooney said. “We’re ranked No. 1 in the world and we have big ambitions to stay there for as long as possible and be one of the greatest teams that’s ever played.
“For us, we won the T20 World Cup so there’s a bit of a target on our back now, but New Zealand are a class side and this will be the first challenge that we have in making sure we can be as consistent as possible in these T20s, and then the one-day series, the carrot dangling for us is that world record of 21 straight ODI wins.”
Top-scorer in the final
Top scorer in the #T20WorldCup
Most runs in any T20 World Cup ever
Beth Mooney is the Player of the Tournament pic.twitter.com/Ny10TqFpis
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 8, 2020
As for the changes forced by Covid-19, Mooney said there had been plenty of sobering moments during the six months since the T20 World Cup final, all of which made the team’s first all-in training sessions since that tournament feel like even more of a privilege than usual.
“The biggest one for me is seeing the humans being impacted, whether it’s their job situation or challenges they’re facing in their families, being stuck in isolation down in Melbourne, it is pretty easy to be empathetic for humankind at the moment because everything’s difficult for everyone,” Mooney said. “There was a really great vibe at training yesterday because it was the first time we’d all been back together since that World Cup final, so to be able to do something we love and do it in the current climate is something we’re really excited about and passionate about and grateful as well.”
Among numerous adjustments for Mooney to make this season is the fact that, after making a significant move to the Perth Scorchers ahead of this year’s WBBL, she will turn out for the Perth team without ever setting foot in the west due to the state’s current hard border.
“I’ll just stay in Brisbane post this series and probably train with Shelley Nitschke and obviously Sophie Devine’s over here with New Zealand, so there’ll be a couple of us training up here in Brisbane,” she said. “Obviously we can’t get over to Perth, and we’ll join up with the squad in Sydney before we get stuck into that tournament.”
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