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Rishabh Pant to join Indian squad as cover for Shikhar Dhawan

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Rishabh Pant will fly in this week to join the Indian squad as a cover for Shikhar Dhawan, who suffered a hairline fracture after being hit on the left thumb against Australia on Sunday. Pant was one of the five stand-bys announced by the selectors in April while announcing the 15-man squad for the World Cup.

The selectors have worked out that KL Rahul can perform Dhawan’s role should he fail to recover, which is the rationale behind choosing Pant, a middle-order batsman, as cover. Rahul was originally picked as the third opener in the squad, but sneaked into the XI last minute as No. 4.

Dhawan is also currently India’s only specialist left-handed batsman in the squad, and disrupted Australia’s bowling plans during his century earlier this week, negating legspinner Adam Zampa. This purported advantage against legspin in the middle overs is another significant reason the selectors have opted for the left-handed Pant.

On Tuesday, India had opted to retain Dhawan and monitor his recovery rather than name an official replacement for him. He has already been ruled out of the two matches India are scheduled to play later this week: against New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Thursday, and against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Dhawan had travelled to Leeds to consult specialists, where the fracture was ascertained. ESPNcricinfo understands the selectors have got a positive signal from the medical team that Dhawan is likely to be fit to play in the latter half of the tournament, closer to the June 30 match against hosts England.

It is believed that in addition to this week’s games, Dhawan will also sit out the Afghanistan match, which will be played in Southampton on June 22 as well as the game against West Indies in Manchester on June 27. He is likely to rest a few days after recovery before he starts batting. It is understood that the selectors don’t mind giving Dhawan extra time for recovery and ideally want him fit for the England match, which has been built up as probably the biggest game of the tournament.



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Ginn, Oliver to take on Pat Howard’s former Cricket Australia role

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Triple Olympic gold medal-winning rower Drew Ginn and longtime Justin Langer collaborator Ben Oliver have been formally commissioned as the new high performance executives for Cricket Australia, taking joint control of an area that sprawled into such vast territory under the former czar Pat Howard that the governing body deemed it too large for one person to run.

Howard was sacked by the new chief executive Kevin Roberts shortly after he replaced James Sutherland, in the wake of the damning Ethics Centre review of Australian cricket culture that was ordered after the Newlands ball tampering scandal last year. A lengthy search for Howard’s replacement has seen the role filled temporarily by the executive in charge of community cricket, Belinda Clark, as CA stopped and then redefined the recruiting process as being for two jobs rather than one. Ginn will be based in Melbourne and Olivier in Brisbane with the pair starting on July 29.

While Howard joined cricket “cold” in 2011, following a career in rugby union, pharmacy and property development, Ginn has moved across from his background in rowing and the Olympic movement via two years as the head of high performance with Tasmania. He will take control of a role primarily responsible for the running of domestic competitions, Australian youth teams, player, coach and umpire pathways including club cricket, talent ID and sports science.

“I am looking forward to joining Cricket Australia and having the opportunity to work more broadly across the National system,” Ginn said. “The past two years with Cricket Tasmania have been immensely rewarding.

“This is a chance to continue the work I have enjoyed locally and to now work closely with many great people involved in leading our domestic, national and youth competitions along with the leaders of our State programs, and those leaders in our Cricket Australia pathway programs, and our sports science and sports medicine areas.”

Peter Roach, the head of cricket operations, will report to Ginn. Roach has also taken over control of scheduling, an area of some difficulty for CA in recent times after India insisted on an ODI tour in mid-January next year. The Big Bash League, Sheffield Shield and domestic one-day tournament programs for next summer are still to be announced.

Oliver, a former first-class player for Victoria and Tasmania, held roles with CA, Cricket Victoria and the ICC before working closely with Langer as the high performance manager for Western Australia since 2012. Together, they established a program that was the envy of other states, notably by their use of a squad closely unified between the WA state team and the Perth Scorchers BBL club – a model subsequently used unashamedly by Tasmania and the Hobart Hurricanes.

“I have devoted most of my adult life to cricket, in both playing and high-performance roles, and I am extremely proud and humbled to continue that association as EGM, National Teams,” Oliver said. “I look forward to working with Justin Langer and Matthew Mott and their national men’s and women’s teams, as well as national selectors and all those involved in team operations and logistics.”

Among the first items on Oliver’s to-do list will be a look at the national selection panel, which will be shorn of the national talent manager Greg Chappell, currently with the Australian team on World Cup assignment, when he retires at the end of the Ashes series. Having already lost Mark Waugh, who was not replaced last year, that would leave only Langer and the chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, as formal members of the panel.

Howard’s tenure featured no end of issues, as he sought to work as a change agent to pursue goals outlined in the 2011 Don Argus-led review of Australian team performance, which followed the hefty loss of the Ashes 3-1 at home to England in 2010-11. His hard-nosed and confrontational style did not always go down well across the Australian system, particularly when added to his lack of a cricket background.

Alongside numerous issues of workload management for fast bowlers in particular, Howard’s term saw the 2013 homework scandal in India that contributed to the sacking of Mickey Arthur to be replaced by Darren Lehmann in 2013, the death of Phillip Hughes in 2014 and subsequent work to change concussion protocols in the game, winning the World Cup in 2015 on home soil and then suffering a dramatic Ashes defeat in England later that same year.

Another run of losses in late 2016, including Test series defeats by Sri Lanka away and South Africa at home, led to Rod Marsh’s resignation as selection chairman and a refocus on the demands for strong performance by the Australian team – Howard and Sutherland visited the team dressing room in Hobart to push that message directly. Results did improve, including a narrow series defeat against a highly fancied India in India in 2017, and the regaining of the Ashes at home in 2017-18, before the Newlands scandal in South Africa led to many changes, including the end of Howard’s time in the job.

Clark was left to run the department while a replacement could be found, and it was her opinion that the executive general manager’s role had to be split in two. “Australian cricket owes Belinda a debt of gratitude for the exceptional job she has performed throughout a challenging time for Australian cricket,” Roberts said. “She is one of our game’s greatest trailblazers and servants at all levels and we are delighted that she will resume her role as EGM of Community Cricket in late August after handing over to Ben and Drew and having a well-earned break. It is a critical role and a job she loves.”



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Bhuvneshwar Kumar out for 2-3 matches with hamstring injury

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In a big blow to India’s plans Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been ruled out of India’s next two or three World Cup matches due to a hamstring injury.

Playing against Pakistan on Sunday, Bhuvneshwar was forced to leave the field having bowled just 2.4 overs, after he suffered tightness in his left hamstring.

Indian captain Virat Kohli confirmed the injury took place after Bhuvneshwar stretched his hamstring off a foot mark during on the follow through. Although he described the injury as a “niggle” Kohli said Bhuvneshwar would not be available for selection for the matches against Afghanistan on June 22 and West Indies on June 27 and possibly the crunch clash against England on June 30.

“He has a slight niggle,” Kohli told the host broadcaster after the victory against Pakistan. “It was because of slipping on the foot marks. It doesn’t look too serious at the moment. We are going to give it some time. Hopefully he will be ready in a couple of games, if not max by three games from now.”

Bhuvneshwar, Kohli said, was confident of recovery soon and the team was not worried because there was a ready replacement in Mohammad Shami. “He himself feels that the niggle is not too bad. Just time (resting) will heal it. He is going to be a very important factor for us so he hopefully he can recover well in time. We have got Shami ready and raring to go so we are not too worried about where the situation stands.”

Bowling the fifth over of the Pakistan innings after India had ended on 336 for 5, Bhuvneshwar pulled up after bowling his 16th delivery, and left the field immediately. Vijay Shankar completed the over and, in fact, got India their first breakthrough with his very first delivery, trapping Imam-ul-Haq lbw.

Bhuvneshwar became the second Indian to pick up an injury during a match at the World Cup after opener Shikhar Dhawan suffered a hairline fracture to his left thumb during the game against Australia.



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Samiuddin: Pakistan need to first figure out what their best XI actually is

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Asif Ali made 51, 52, 17 and 22 and he made his way into Pakistan’s World Cup squad. These 142 runs came in four games against the top-ranked side in ODI cricket at their home. They came at a strike rate of 131.48.

Despite not having anyone with anywhere near that strike rate, he didn’t make the original World Cup squad. Once he made it, with runs and form behind him, Pakistan didn’t pick him for their opening tournament game against West Indies despite not having anyone else for a position which would otherwise be crucial to finishing off the big starts their top order was giving them.

In their second game against England they brought Asif Ali in and dropped Imad Wasim. Against England in the ODI series just before this game, Imad had taken six wickets and, in a very high-scoring series, conceded 6.37 runs per over. They also brought in Shoaib Malik who, at that time, was averaging 14 with the bat in England over his career. They wanted his experience and calm on the field. They dropped Haris Sohail who is considered by the Pakistan management to be the second-best batsman in the squad behind Babar Azam.

Then they took on Sri Lanka and, fortunately for their selection group, the game got rained off and they didn’t have to pick an XI.

Australia next, at Taunton, and the pitch looked green and friendly for fast bowlers. They brought in Shaheen Afridi to bolster their pace attack and dropped Shadab Khan. The latter is their best ODI player and absolutely essential to their bowling attack. They thought they’d be fine getting ten overs from Malik and Mohammad Hafeez. They went 11-0-86-1.

Shadab is also their best fielder, the one who sets the tone as much as he can in what is now the worst fielding side in the tournament. Pakistan dropped two catches – one as a direct result of Shadab not being where he would usually be – and were generally abysmal in the field.

Against India, Pakistan put Shadab back in the XI and also Imad, dropping Asif and Shaheen. They kept Malik in the side, despite his last three scores reading 4, 8 and 0. Experience, they reasoned, they needed his experience. He was out first ball.

Pakistan have made six changes over three games after their opening match. None of them have been injury induced. They have argued the reasons for each change, but whether they are tactical or strategic, it’s clear that they have little idea what their best XI is. Five games into this tournament.

Asked about the decision to drop a specialist bowler and batsman on Sunday, Sarfaraz Ahmed insisted it was the right move. “I think it was right. We were going with five bowlers and six batters. So I think our decision was right.” Similarly he had defended the decision to drop Shadab against Australia.

Imad, who’s been at the receiving end of these decisions, was suitably diplomatic when asked whether Pakistan knew what their best XI was. “I can’t give an answer to this. Only the captain and the coach can. Whatever XI we put on the field, the players try and do their best.”

That isn’t a surprise given that they weren’t all that sure about what their best XV for this World Cup should be. They picked Abid Ali on the basis of two innings in their provisional World Cup squad. Then, having allowed him just one game in the series just before this World Cup, they dropped him.

Mohammad Amir was always going to be a part of their plan, even if he wasn’t in the provisional squad but Wahab Riaz had not played an ODI in two years when he was suddenly pulled into the squad. He was nowhere on the scene or in their plans and yet here he is, one of their more successful players. Mohammad Hasnain, picked for his youth and pace, has not played a single game yet and is unlikely to until Pakistan are definitely out. There will be almost certainly be changes for the next game against South Africa too.

This is a tournament which they have been building up to for the best part of two years, for which they have actually had a very good run-in, for which they actually have a good, young core of players to work with.

“We need to win our next four matches now, we need to play well,” Imad said. “Other results are not in our hands but we need to win those four games.”

For that, they will need to first figure out what their best XI actually is.



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