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Darren Stevens to leave Kent but wants to play on

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Darren Stevens will leave Kent at the end of the current season after 15 years with the club but has no intention of retiring from the professional game.

Stevens, 43, joined Kent from Leicestershire in 2005 and has enjoyed an outstanding career with bat and ball, scoring 11,718 first-class runs and claiming 487 wickets for his second county.

He is currently on loan to Derbyshire for the T20 Blast, but had continued to be impressive with the ball in the County Championship with 28 wickets at 24.21 in eight matches although runs had been harder to come by with an average of 20.36.

“It’s been an amazing 15 years,” Stevens said. “So many wonderful memories both on and off the pitch and many strong friendships made along the way. This is not retirement for me as I think I still have a lot to offer on the pitch, both as a player and a coach and am excited by the next stage in my career.

“I believe I can still do it at the top level, as my recent form shows, and I am looking forward to the remainder of the T20 season with Derbyshire and finishing the season successfully with Kent. I will look back at my time with Kent with nothing but happiness and pride but must now look forward to the next challenge.”

Kent have an eye on the future and want to invest in their younger players while also hoping to bring in an overseas fast bowler next season.

“When you look at his record, it is a travesty that Darren Stevens did not receive the international call-up he so richly deserved whilst in his prime,” Paul Downton, Kent’s director of cricket, said. “It’s now time for a new chapter at Kent with a number of young bowlers, and hopefully an overseas fast bowler next year, all demanding the new ball as the club seeks to keep raising standards and compete for the Division One Championship title.”



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Sri Lanka mull playing Test cricket in Pakistan

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Test cricket might just return to Pakistan later this year. Sri Lanka could be open to playing at least one Test in the country, after a security delegation visited Lahore and Karachi, and gave SLC “very positive feedback”. If everything goes to plan, Pakistan could host its first Test match since the Lahore attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in March 2009.

The series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s first of the World Test Championship, was originally supposed to be played at a neutral venue, but the PCB made SLC an offer to play in Pakistan. With the offer in mind, SLC sent a security delegation headed by Mohan de Silva to assess security arrangements.

The security report, ESPNcricinfo understands, was tabled on Friday in Colombo. “The feedback we got from the security team was very positive,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said. “We’ll be talking to the PCB about some alternatives before we arrive at a decision. The government will be consulted as well.”

The biggest concern is understood to be obtaining the players’ consent to tour Pakistan. A Sri Lanka team played one T20I in Lahore in October 2017, but did so without a number of its prominent names. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera, and the then SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour was successful, and was a major stepping stone that paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.

If Sri Lanka do play Test cricket in Pakistan, it will be a reciprocal gesture of sorts. The PCB was the first board to send a team to Sri Lanka following the April 21 bombings in Sri Lanka this year, a Pakistan Under-19 team touring the island a month after the attacks.

There was no top-rung international cricket in Pakistan for six years, following the 2009 Lahore attack, but since 2015, the country has hosted limited-overs games featuring Zimbabwe (2015), World XI (2017), Sri Lanka (2017) and West Indies (2018) apart from a number of Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches. A number of high-profile players have been part of these tours; the World XI side, for instance, was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa – including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla – three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

These matches have made some headway towards changing the perception of Pakistan among potential visiting teams, and recently the PCB managing director Wasim Khan presented the country’s case before the MCC World Cricket Committee. He emphasised the importance of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan, and invited the MCC to visit.

“It was a very positive meeting with the MCC,” Wasim said. “Shane Warne, Kumar Sangakkara and Mike Gatting, the chair of the committee, were present there. They wanted to me to present on the current security in the country, along with what impact playing no international cricket here has had, and what can be done to restore it.

“I am very, very confident that we will have an MCC team touring us in the near future. But, there are some matters related to security that need to be covered before they send their team. We will work very closely with the MCC to make sure that the tour happens.”

The MCC World Cricket Committee, headed by Gatting, expressed its support to see the resumption of tours to the nation after 10 years, and said the MCC would be interested in sending a touring team of its own by way of re-opening the door – final security checks pending as ever.

With additional reporting by Andrew Fidel Fernando



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Mashrafe Mortaza asks BCB for time to ponder ODI future

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Mashrafe Mortaza has asked the BCB for two months to decide when he wants to retire from ODIs, according to board president Nazmul Hassan. On Saturday afternoon, Mashrafe was seen entering Nazmul’s BCB office, for what was probably his first official discussion with the board about his retirement. Other board directors were present during the meeting too.

“Because we don’t have any ODIs until next March, Mashrafe has said that he needs another couple of months to be fully ready for a decision,” Hassan said. “We will respect that.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCB was exploring the possibility of holding a one-off ODI between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe next month, soon after the T20I tri-series.

There are also plans for a fitting farewell for the country’s most successful limited-overs captain, but those will now have to wait until March next year when Bangladesh are, according to the latest Future Tours Programme, scheduled to play a home series against Zimbabwe.

Speculation about Mashrafe”s retirement has been strong since he became a member of parliament in December 2018, but he has continued to lead the ODI side since then, in New Zealand, Ireland and then the World Cup in England. He missed Bangladesh’s last ODI series – in Sri Lanka – due to a recurring hamstring injury. Mashrafe has already retired from T20Is, while his injury issues have kept him away from Test cricket since 2009.



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‘Smooth transition’ and a lasting legacy on Ravi Shastri’s mind

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Overseeing a “smooth transition” and integrating youngsters into the national team is among Ravi Shastri‘s primary objectives as he looks ahead to the next 26 months of his coaching tenure.

On Thursday, Shastri was appointed for a second successive term, with the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) headed by Kapil Dev deeming his international experience, track record and vision for the team superior to those of his nearest challengers Mike Hesson and Tom Moody.

“The [goal] for the next two years is to see a smooth transition happening. You will get a lot of youngsters coming in, especially in the white-ball set up,” Shastri told BCCI.tv in Antigua, where India are preparing for the two-Test series against West Indies starting August 22.

“There will be youngsters coming into the Test match set-up as well. We need to identify another three-four bowlers to add to the pool, those are the challenges so that the team at the end of my tenure in 26 months is in a happier place.

“The game has taught us to never back away from a challenge, you want to embrace it, that’s our mental framework. Look at it straight in the eye, go out and compete. We believe wherever we play, it is home, just go and think in that fashion.”

This is Shastri’s fourth stint with the Indian team, since he first took on duties as a cricket manager in 2007, immediately in the aftermath of Greg Chappell’s resignation following a first-round exit from the World Cup.

He joined India’s backroom staff as team director during the 2014 tour of England, and remained director in the absence of a head coach, when Duncan Fletcher’s tenure ended after the 2015 World Cup. Shastri was out of the set-up when Anil Kumble became head coach in June 2016, but returned as head coach after Kumble’s resignation a year later.

Since then, Shastri has overseen Test match wins in South Africa and England, and a maiden Test series win in Australia, in 2017-18. Under Shastri, India most recently reached the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup in the UK, topping the round-robin table before exiting with a loss to New Zealand. Now, he wants to carry forward from there to establish a legacy for teams to emulate.

“The reason why I came in here because I had the belief in this team, that they could leave a legacy that very few teams have left behind in years to come,” he said. “Not just for the moment, but also at the end of it all, the kind of legacy other teams going down decades will want to try to emulate. That is the desire, we’re on track, there’s always room for improvement, and with youth coming in through the ranks, it’s a very exciting time.

“Over the last four-five years, the biggest improvement has been the fielding, and the endeavor is to make this the best fielding side in the world. It is a clear diktat to whoever wants to play for this team, the standard of that particular player will have to be of the highest standard, especially in white-ball cricket.”



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