Nicholas Pooran will seek to banish memories of West Indies’ unproductive World Cup by staying on in England to play five matches for Yorkshire in the Vitality T20 Blast.
Pooran was one of several rookie players that West Indies’ captain Jason Holder had in mind when he called for them to become the heart and the soul of the team. That is what Yorkshire have in mind by calling up the Trinidadian with a view to improving a mediocre T20 record.
One aspect of the World Cup that has at least worked in Pooran’s favour is that he has reached the requisite number of international appearances (15 over the preceding two years) during the West Indies’ campaign to qualify for a visa as an overseas player in the tournament.
He has not had a bad World Cup, getting starts in four of his five innings, but his 63 against England at the Ageas Bowl is his only half-century for a West Indies side that is on the brink of elimination.
“It is hard work playing for different teams and still trying to be as professional as you can be,” Pooran said. “You’ve just got to adapt and learn about different people’s cultures and just try to be the best I can be for the team. It will be a new and exciting experience for me.
Pooran, who made his ODI debut in Bridgetown against England in February this year, will return to the West Indies setup in time for their home T20I series against India, which begins on August 3 in Florida. He has quickly established himself as one of the most explosive batsmen in limited-overs cricket with a strike rate of 140 in his 11 T20 internationals. He also top scored in the fledgling T10 competition in the UAE before Christmas, scoring 324 runs in nine matches for Champions Northern Warriors, including 33 sixes.
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, said: “Nicholas is an excellent young talent, although he is only available for a short period, we hope it will give us early impetus in the competition.
“Johnny Tattersall has been incredibly effective as a batter in limited-overs cricket, but he has played every game this season. He has now got three back-to-back Championship fixtures and only a couple of days between the end of the Somerset match and the start of the T20s.
“We’re mindful of the workload of Tatts and we have been leaving things open to see how he was going. There are other areas we feel we need for the T20s, so Nicholas has been on the radar for some time. At some point we needed to make a decision on which path to take, so we decided to go for him, albeit for a short five-game spell.”
Disappointing not to get picked for India – Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill has admitted to being disappointed at not being selected for India’s tour of the West Indies, saying he expected to be there in at least one of the squads.
India will play three T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests against West Indies, with the first T20I on August 3.
Gill, who is with the India A squad in the Caribbean, finished the one-day series as the top run-getter with 218 runs in four matches, averaging 54.50 with a strike rate of 98.19. He hit three half-centuries and was named the Man of the Series.
Gill had earned a call-up to the India squad for the New Zealand tour earlier this year, and played two ODIs, though he didn’t get into double digits in either game.
“I was waiting for the Indian senior team to be announced on Sunday and I expected to be selected for at least one of the squads,” Gill told CricketNext. “It was disappointing not to get picked but I am not going to spend time thinking over it. I’ll keep scoring runs and performing to the best of my ability to impress the selectors.
“It was a fantastic series for me and team as well since we won with a 4-1 margin,” Gill said. “Personally, I would have liked to carry on and score at least a couple of hundreds in those fifties. But I will learn from this experience. The biggest lesson that I have learned from my first West Indies tour is to try to curb my natural game depending on the match condition.”
But while he didn’t make it to the squad, Gill was discussed at the selection meeting, with chief selector MSK Prasad saying, “He went to New Zealand when KL Rahul was suspended and now Rahul has come back so he (Gill) is in the waiting list. Definitely he will be considered in the future.”
In his brief career, Gill has shown he has the game to adapt to different formats, and found success at almost every level he has played at. His first-class career is only nine games old but he’s already amassed more than 1000 runs, and has hit at least a half-century in each of those matches. His List A numbers are also good. In 47 matches, including 17 for India A, Gill has 1942 runs at an average of 47.36 and a strike rate of 87.51.
Most of his T20 career has come in the IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders, having batted at different numbers from 1 to 7. Despite that, Gill’s average (32.31) and strike rate (132.90) have been impressive.
Gill’s next assignment is the three four-dayers in the Caribbean, with the first match starting on Wednesday in North Sound.
CA chief Kevin Roberts concedes club cricket decline
Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has conceded that club cricket is in “gradual decline” and admitted that there is widespread disaffection in the game’s grassroots following numerous signs of anger manifest in reports in the nation’s two major newspaper groups.
In May, News Corp published a story revealing an old internal document in which Cricket Australia had called for a generational change in the leadership of clubs, spun to suggest that the governing body had “appealed for the dismissal of thousands of long-serving club volunteers”.
This week, following the publication of CA’s annual cricket census figures that habitually trumpet an overall increase in participation, the journalist and columnist Malcolm Knox wrote reports suggesting that the governing body vastly over-inflated its figures, making the contention that registered club cricketers number only about 250,000.
Roberts, who had declined to be interviewed by Knox before the publication of the story in the Sun-Herald on Sunday and instead asked to speak this week after his return home from the UK, conceded a problem area though disputing the precise nature of the figures. He did so in an open letter to all registered club players and volunteers around the country.
“Whilst I disagree with the conclusions reached and the figures provided by Malcolm, what came through clearly to me was the sense that some within the cricket community don’t feel they are being heard,” Roberts wrote. “We acknowledge that the number of registered players in traditional club environments has experienced a gradual decline over the past few years, even though total cricket participation continues to grow at a healthy rate.
“Cricket clubs, like all club sport, face retention challenges in an increasingly time-poor society. As a volunteer, I also appreciate that leading a cricket club is becoming harder and new volunteers are not always lining up to help the club stalwarts. The commitment to supporting volunteers and making sure the game has a successful and sustainable future is one of Australian cricket’s top priorities under my leadership.
“I understand it will take more than a letter from me to make everything better. It’s on me to lead ongoing consultation and action from all of us at Cricket Australia and the State & Territory Cricket Associations who serve their communities. We need to maximise the impact of the millions of dollars we’ve committed to improving community cricket facilities and the 68 new community cricket staff employed by State & Territory Cricket Associations to support clubs and volunteers.”
Following the announcement of the census results, ESPNcricinfo published a detailed breakdown of CA’s club participation figures, reflecting three consecutive years of decline in club cricket numbers – from 392,812 male and female, senior and junior players in 2016 to 365,076 this year.
There has been a renewed focus within CA upon making its own participation numbers more accurate so that funding and resources can be better directed towards problem areas. At the same time, CA’s community cricket chiefs Belinda Clark (currently acting as the head of team performance) and Kieran McMillan have openly acknowledged that more needs to be done to bridge the gap between burgeoning school programs and clubs.
“In recent years, we introduced modified junior formats to improve recruitment and retention, started offering free community cricket coaching programs and invested in growing cricket for girls,” Roberts wrote. “These commitments are starting to bear fruit. Providing improved digital support to reduce volunteer workload is another key focus into the future.
“Having spent most of my life in cricket clubs as a player, coach, volunteer and parent, I’m passionate about clubs being the heart and soul of their communities. The initiatives I mentioned above are a positive step in the right direction, and we will continue to engage and listen to cricket communities, even if we don’t like what we hear.”
Roberts also conceded that some players were counted twice on the way to reaching CA’s overall census participation figures – something he admitted was true even of his own daughter for the fact she plays both club and indoor cricket – but defended the wider methodology used.
“When combining school participation programs and registered players, we reach the total participation figure of 1.65 million. Whilst this does include some players more than once, like my daughter who plays club and indoor cricket, it’s simply not true to suggest that total participation is inflated by double-counting most or all registered players,” Roberts said. “We are proud of cricket’s deep connection with local communities and the fact that cricket plays a part in the lives of so many participants across the country.
“Like most organisations, we are working to improve our data. Junior clubs will have noticed this with all registrations being managed online this season, a process which makes it much easier for parents and players to register anytime, anywhere. I have had the privilege of meeting many of cricket’s employees, players and volunteers throughout my lifetime of involvement in cricket.
“Cricket has helped shape who we are, and in some cases, has seen us become friends for life. Your passion and commitment to the game are key reasons why cricket is such a strong part of our nation’s fabric.”
James Pattinson fights his way back to fulfill Ashes promise
To say James Pattinson has unfinished business in Ashes cricket in England would be quite an understatement. It’s six years since he played the first two matches of the 2013 encounter at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, tearfully withdrawing in the middle of the second match with a side strain that was to be only an early instance of the litany of injuries that would follow.
Foot, back, side, shin, stomach. All were areas where Pattinson experienced the pain of injury, though it was recurring back stress fractures that caused the most grief. It was something of a final gamble when Pattinson traveled to New Zealand in November 2017 for surgery previously undergone by Shane Bond, among others, a procedure he underwent with one goal in mind – to be in England for this Ashes series.
“I knew that if I was up and running, string a few on the pitch, that I would have every chance of getting picked in an Ashes team,” Pattinson said. “Going back to a year-and-a-half ago when I was contemplating whether to get back surgery and whether it was going to work. There was a month there where there was a bit of unknown and conjecture around whether I would get back to playing cricket. Sitting here now after going through all that is quite pleasing that I am here and bowling and putting myself in position to get picked in an Ashes series.
“You go through your career, you try different things, you get setbacks, you go through strategies and theories and you work out what’s best for you. You have to try things in cricket, some things don’t work and some things do. For me it worked in a way, with my action it’s sort of somewhere in between when I first started and when I tried to remodel it.
“I tried to let that evolve over the last few years and I am happy with where that is, my body is feeling good and more than anything I can relax and run in and bowl and not worry about where my back foot’s landing and if the front arm is high and that stuff. When you are trying to play Test cricket and you are doing that it is hard work, I’m in a good spot at the moment and I have come off a bit of cricket and that’s a bonus for me.”
Now Pattinson is here, and by dint of his proven ability to be highly destructive when fit and in rhythm, he appears certain to be one of the members of the final Ashes squad to be named later this week. And as those who have seen him bowl for Nottinghamshire know well, Pattinson has the ability to claim a lot of wickets in a hurry.
“If my body holds up I think I can challenge them over here,” Pattinson said in Southampton. “It’s pretty simple, you get wickets that can assist you and you get wickets that are quite flat so, to have the ability to bowl on a flat wicket or a wicket that’s seaming around hopefully I can do that. It’s pretty simple over here you try to hit the same area. You look at Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, they are always challenging the batsman, challenging the defence.
“If we can take something out of the series before is to be trying to always challenge the front foot, challenging the knee roll and trying to stay in one spot in the wicket and not release too many boundary balls. Over here you see a lot of boundaries hit, the run rate is often a lot higher if we can try and cut that down. Over the years we have managed to try and take wickets but a bit more expensive than what it would be in other places, so I think that’s a big push from bowlers.”
Since his debut in 2011 when he razed New Zealand at the Gabba, there has been nothing in Australian cricket quite like seeing Pattinson in full flight. It was a sight most recently glimpsed in this year’s Sheffield Shield final at Junction Oval, where New South Wales’ challenge was brought undone by a fiery Pattinson, screeching in aggressive delight at each one of his seven victims. Taking wickets “in clumps” is part of Pattinson’s gift, now allied to a more mature understanding of the pace bowler’s craft in England.
“Over the years I have been able to come on and take wickets in clumps so I suppose the selectors are looking for bowlers who can do a bit of that and bowlers who can bowl economically as well,” he said. “I’ve played enough cricket, I’ve been over here three months with Nottingham which is fantastic for someone like me who hasn’t had a great load of cricket over the last few years. I managed to play a fair few Shield games this year and obviously moved on into the summer here and the good thing is I’ve come off plenty of cricket.
“They’ve shown over here they can play swing bowling quite well, if it swings big and you’re not getting the right areas, it doesn’t really matter. So it’s about trying to get the ball in the right area, i think it’ll hopefully do it off the pitch. And obviously if the conditions are right it’ll swing. The hard thing over here is if the sun does come out it’s quite challenging to bowl, because your margin for error is quite low.
“So all off a sudden you’ve got to be on the spot, that’s when you try to work with training your positions on the crease and all that sort of thing, to try and work with it. I think it’ll be about thinking on our feet over here and during this next game as well, working together and bowling in partnerships. Hopefully that’ll bring some good success.”
Pattinson’s aggressive, unbridled approach to fast bowling is epitomised by how he talks about bowling in the nets to Australia’s leading players. In an era of workload management and careful preparation, Pattinson cannot help but admit that he always bowls a little faster to the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and now the returned Steven Smith.
“Throughout my career I’ve always tried to crank it up a little bit to the best batter,” he said. “I know when I first came into a Test match, in 2010 in India, and Ricky Ponting was there. I always made a conscious effort to bowl a bit faster to him then always to Michael Clarke too. You always try to get in with the best batters and bowl well against them, I think the selectors like that.”
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