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‘Disappointed is an understatement’ – Liam Plunkett hits out at white-ball contract snub

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Liam Plunkett has said that “disappointment is an understatement” after he was surprisingly overlooked in England’s list of centrally contracted white-ball players for 2019-20.

Plunkett played a key role in England’s maiden World Cup triumph this summer, including three wickets in their victory in the final against New Zealand at Lord’s, and has claimed a total of 96 ODI wickets at 28.01 in the four years since the last World Cup in 2015, more than any other England white-ball seamer.

However, at the age of 34, Plunkett has been considered by the ECB management to be past his prime as they begin to gear their white-ball squads towards next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia and ultimately the defence of their 50-over title in India in 2023, by which stage he will be 38.

Explaining the decision at Lord’s on Friday, Ashley Giles, England’s director of men’s cricket, praised Plunkett’s contribution as a “fantastic servant” to the white-ball team, but pointed out that his pace had dipped in recent seasons and that a team with an eye to the future had a duty to prioritise a new generation of bowlers – not least Tom Curran, who was a non-playing member of England’s World Cup squad, and the Lancashire paceman, Saqib Mahmood, who is expected to be named in England’s T20 squad next week, for their five-match tour of New Zealand.

“Plunkett has been … one of Eoin [Morgan]’s go-to men,” Giles said. “But moving into a new cycle of four years, before the 50-over World Cup and two T20 World Cups, he probably didn’t fit those future needs for the next 12-24 months, which is tough.

“He’s one of the most physical men we have in our line-ups. He’s incredibly fit and strong, but in terms of the numbers, I guess his paces have been down a little bit for some time.

“His best came in that role in the World Cup, and the World Cup final. He should be really proud of that achievement, and what they did as a team, but everything moves on for all of us.”

Writing in his Independent column after the World Cup win, Plunkett conceded he had “definitely” played in his last 50-over World Cup, but had vowed to “stick around in the game for a little longer”.

He took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to express his disappointment at the decision, although he later clarified: “I am really happy for all the boys who got contracted. I am not having a pop at anyone just disappointed I didn’t get one.”

Giles added: “We’re not saying that the door’s closed, but just in terms of the core of that team, which is where those contracts are offered, he probably just misses out. It’s difficult to be the person who puts that pen through the name, but that’s cricket.”

Another player on whom the door is not closed is Alex Hales, despite being stripped of his white-ball contract in the wake of the positive tests for recreational drug use that led to his sacking from the World Cup squad.

Hales has a prominent opportunity to make his case for an England recall on T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday, where Nottinghamshire take on the defending champions Worcestershire in the first semi-final.

Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who were stood down from England Lions duty following inappropriate off-field behaviour, were also given a clean slate as Giles cited the recent example of Ben Stokes to show that players who make career-threatening errors of judgement can earn themselves second chances.

“The door isn’t closed on Alex, or certainly those other guys,” he said. “They’ve served whatever time they had to serve. It will come down to performance, and there is always an element of culture and team cohesion.”

In the short term at least, Hales might find his path back to the England squad blocked by the captain, Eoin Morgan, who was scathing in his assessment of Hales’ character when explaining the reasoning behind his World Cup axing.

“Eoin talked about that element of trust, and has there been enough time to make up for that?” said Giles. “Maybe, maybe not … that’ll come down to Eoin and the selectors, but the door is still open. He’s a fantastic T20 player and, you know, a mistake shouldn’t haunt you for life. As we’ve seen very good other example this year.”

After a period of reflection in the wake of the World Cup win, Morgan recently confirmed that he was ready to carry on as England captain, a development that delighted Giles, especially given that the concurrent departure of the coach Trevor Bayliss would have left the white-ball squad rudderless in the interim.

“We met about a month after the World Cup final, and he wanted some time to consider his future, which is just the way Morgs operates,” Giles said. “He’s very sensible, very logical. And thankfully, he rang me a couple of weeks after that, and said, I’m absolutely fully committed to going forward. And I’m looking forward to it, refreshed.

“That first month was probably a bit of a haze for him anyway,” he added. “But he’s probably dried out a bit and come around, and I’m delighted. He is a fantastic leader of men in that dressing room. And with us losing Trev, it’s important we maintain some consistency and that leadership going forward.”

Morgan’s role in moulding the England team post-2015 has been well documented. But Giles believes that, even if he is unable to take the side all the way to the 2023 World Cup (by which stage he will be 36), the groundwork already laid is such that Jos Buttler (or AN Other candidate) would be well placed to take over at shorter notice.

“To give Jos that responsibility now, I think, is a lot for him, given he’s playing across all three formats. But is he a future leader? Quite possibly. And given where the white-ball team is, perhaps we can manage that transition better.

“But just because we’re world champions, we can’t just keep doing the same stuff. When the new coach comes in, his relationship with the captains is going to be important. And we will need different things in both environments, because the white-ball environment is probably more mature in how they play their cricket than the Test environment. But both are really exciting opportunities.”



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ICC threatens to shift 2021 T20 World Cup from India over tax issues

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The ICC has told the BCCI it reserves the right to take away the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup from India, after the BCCI failed to secure a tax exemption for the tournament from the Indian government.

In a flurry of blunt e-mails over the past two months, seen by ESPNcricinfo, the ICC told the BCCI it was to provide an “unconditional confirmation” by May 18 this year that a solution had been found to a longstanding issue in coordination with the Indian government. Instead the BCCI wants the deadline extended at least until June 30, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as reason for invoking the force majeure clause in the agreement. The ICC has rejected the request.

“In light of the BCCI’s notification of force majeure, we would highlight the obligation on the BCCI… of the Host Agreement and that IBC (ICC Business Corporation) is entitled to terminate the agreement with immediate effect at any time from 18 May 2020,” Jonathan Hall, the ICC’s general counsel, wrote to the BCCI on April 29.

“The BCCI has clearly had many years to arrange the tax solution… which is why the agreement asks for it to be provided ….no later than 18 (eighteen) months prior…. and why the BCCI was required to provide it by 31 December 2019. In such circumstances IBC is not prepared to agree to the requested extension to June 30, 2020 or 30 days after the lockdown is lifted whichever is later.

“In the meantime, all of IBC’s rights are reserved in full including the right to challenge whether or not a valid force majeure exists.”

The issue

This is the not first time the ICC and BCCI have sparred over this matter. It has been an ongoing issue since the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, in which the ICC suffered between US$20-30 million losses after the BCCI could not secure a tax exemption. In February 2018 the ICC board first warned the BCCI they could lose out on hosting the 2021 T20 World Cup as well as the ODI World Cup in 2023 because the global cricket body could potentially lose US$100 million if it did not get a tax waiver in India.

In 2016 the issue was resolved when the Indian government eventually asked Star India, the ICC’s broadcaster, to pay 10% of its income from the tournament as tax. The subsequent shortage in revenue given to the ICC by Star was taken out from the revenues the ICC paid the BCCI. Unhappy with that solution, the BCCI raised objections and the matter was sent to the ICC’s Dispute Resolution Committee this March, where it currently remains.

‘This letter constitutes a notice of Force Majeure’

As a result, this time the ICC has been in constant correspondence with the BCCI administration, with the ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney writing to the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly at the end of January before Hall sent another email to board secretary Jay Shah in early April. Hall told Shah that as hosts, the BCCI had an “obligation” to “deliver a ‘tax solution'” where the tax “will be minimised, effectively waived or zero rated” in favour of the ICC.

Hall also reminded the BCCI that at a February 2018 meeting the IBC board had “resolved” that the BCCI would find a solution by December 31, 2019, a deadline the BCCI had “failed” to meet.

The BCCI was then given an extension until April 17 this year, 18 months from the tournament as stipulated in the host agreement. On April 13, after the Covid-19 lockdowns had been imposed, the BCCI told Hall that the deadline could not be met because they couldn’t approach the government as “sports events and permissions and approvals in relation thereto” were not “classified” as “essential services”. The lockdown began in India on March 24 and is set to continue to May 31 at least.

“While BCCI has been making all efforts to get a ‘tax solution’ for the event, in view of the current situation, which is beyond the control of the BCCI, it is not possible for BCCI to obtain requisite permission/consent from the Government of India before April 17, 2020,” the BCCI said. “In light of the above, the BCCI hereby requests IBC to grant an extension of time till June 30, 2020 or 30 days after the lockdown is lifted, whichever is later.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this letter constitutes a notice of Force Majeure under …Host Agreement.”

‘Alleged deadline of 31 December 2019 is of no relevance’

Since then, communication has become more tense. Hall asked the BCCI to provide evidence that it had made efforts towards a tax solution; earlier this month, the BCCI responded to Hall, that in the “spirit of cooperation” it was attaching evidence of its correspondence with the Indian government since 2018 requesting a tax exemption.

Four of the six letters attached were sent in 2018 – on February 27, July 12, August 24 and December 18; Two more were sent in 2019 – on July 3 and August 16. “As these actions will demonstrate, BCCI has been pressing for and continues to press the Government of India for a tax solution,” BCCI said.

The BCCI contested Hall’s claim that it was in breach of the December 31, 2019 deadline. “BCCI denies that it was required to procure a tax solution by this date,” arguing that Hall himself had noted in his previous email that it had to provide a solution by April 17 this year. “Therefore, the alleged deadline of 31 December 2019 is of no relevance.”

The BCCI also disagreed with Hall’s claim that the ICC could challenge the force majeure being invoked. “We disagree the BCCI could have avoided the effect of the FM (force majeure) event. As should be evident from the correspondence enclosed with this email… BCCI has been making efforts to procure a tax solution from the Government over a period of time. These efforts were ongoing at the time when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and have been interrupted by the significant restrictions imposed by the Government of India.”

What happens now?

Despite the ICC’s stance, officials believe it will remain open to discussions with the BCCI. The BCCI remains unperturbed. “The ICC can only do brinkmanship,” a BCCI official said. “The Star contract says the ICC has to deliver two events in India,” the official added, linking a resolution to the forthcoming change of chairmanship at the ICC – Shashank Manohar, the incumbent who has had a spiky relationship with the BCCI, is expected to step down in July.



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Sri Lanka’s Shehan Madushanka suspended for alleged possession of heroin

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Sri Lankan fast bowler Shehan Madushanka has been suspended from all forms of cricket with immediate effect for alleged possession of illegal drugs, SLC announced after he was arrested and later put in remand custody.

Madushanka was allegedly in possession of a little over two grams of heroin when arrested on Saturday, Sri Lanka Police’s media division had confirmed to ESPNcricinfo. According to an SLC statement, the decision to suspend will stand until the board conducts a full inquiry of the matter.

The 25-year-old Madushanka has played one ODI and two T20Is, all between January and February 2018, and has not been in the frame for national selection after that. He has, however, been active as a cricketer and was playing in Sri Lanka’s domestic competitions before the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect.

More to follow…



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Queensland opposed to Cricket Australia cuts despite job losses

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Queensland’s chairman Chris Simpson has confirmed the state association remains allied with New South Wales and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) in questioning Cricket Australia’s chosen remedy for the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as all three organisations continue to push the governing body for more information.

While Queensland Cricket announced on Monday that it would be cutting 32 staff from its books in anticipation of a 25% funding cut from CA, Simpson said this move was necessary largely because his state was in a far weaker position than NSW, the other dissenter. Queensland’s most recent annual report listed reserves of A$7.6 million among total assets worth A$18.3 million, far less than NSW or Victoria, to name two states, can call upon.

At the same time, Simpson outlined that, as reported by ESPNcricinfo, Queensland’s board was trying to ensure that its agreement would see any reduction in distribution for 2020-21 revised back upwards if the summer produced a more favourable financial result than CA is currently forecasting.

ALSO READ: Players’ association casts doubt on Cricket Australia’s financial warnings

“We have not signed the agreement,” Simpson told News Corp. “We are trying to learn how long their proposed cuts run for. It is a bit ambiguous how they have presented it. We want clarity on the term and we also want to make sure 25% is the ceiling.

“We also want to make sure that should things be better than what they are modelling – and every day we are getting more positive about the prospect of serious cricket content this season – we don’t want to lock into something that is to the detriment of the states.”

Simpson’s words are similar to those conveyed by the NSW chairman John Knox and his chief executive Lee Germon to staff and stakeholders earlier this month. “As a result of the Cricket Australia proposal, some states have already reduced their commitment to community cricket, potentially impacting the long-term future of the game,” they said in an email. “We believe that any decision to reduce the agreed state distributions should be delayed until there is a better understanding of whether international cricket will be played next season.”

The ACA has contacted states and indicated a willingness to preserve community staffing and programs via financial assistance from the “grassroots fund” carved out of MoU cash and overseen by both the ACA and CA. The fund has dished out almost A$4.5 million in funding for equipment and facilities since 2017, and is expected to have about A$3 million available this year. CA is due to give its latest indicative forecast of Australian Cricket Revenue – from which the players’ fixed percentage of revenue is derived – by Friday.

Queensland’s cuts have included a major downsizing of the Brisbane Heat’s operation and the exit of the long-serving selector, coach and manager Justin Sternes. They have also seen community cricket programs significantly affected, but Simpson said the state had been left with little option.

“We have been told for a long time how big a deal the Indian tour is, so to hear that optimism brings the depth of the cuts into focus,” Simpson said. “Eighty percent of our funding comes from one source [CA] and they have said they potentially have solvency issues, so it is our duty to act on that information. We disagree with a lot of the information provided but we still had to act. NSW have a very big book and they can ride it out. We can’t.”

The Australia and NSW fast bowler Mitchell Starc, meanwhile, has given his strong support to the state’s own decision to push back against CA. “In terms of NSW they’ve been pretty strong in holding their position and I think from the little updates I’ve read from NSW, it’s a big part of their plan – to be part of growing the game in the state,” he said

“That’s obviously where we have all come from, as international and elite cricketers, we’ve come from the junior clubs to grade clubs all the way to international cricket. Full credit to the NSW board in trying to, at this stage, hang onto all of their staff and their grass roots at the moment.

“Cricket hasn’t lost any games yet in this country, obviously the Bangladesh [tour] has been postponed but there hasn’t been any cricket lost yet. So it’s going to be an interesting few weeks with state contracting then us all returning to training – I guess we’re going to see what staff we’ve got.”



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