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Mandeep Singh questions Vijay Hazare Trophy rules, Shreyas Iyer also ‘disappointed’ by washouts



Mandeep Singh had the air of a man who has endured one too many swings of misfortune. Rain meant Punjab were denied a chance at a semi-final tilt through circumstances beyond their control. Their opponent, Tamil Nadu, had won more games (nine) in the league phase than Punjab (five) had, which meant it was Tamil Nadu who progressed past the quarter-final in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20.

The catch was, Tamil Nadu played in Group C which had ten teams, while Punjab were in Group B which had nine. So even if Punjab had won every single league game, they would have been eliminated at Tamil Nadu’s expense.

“Going out like this is very unfortunate and I think it’s a very bad rule, to decide something like that,” Mandeep said after the washed out quarter-final at the Alur 1 ground in Bengaluru. “Fighting it out in the A, B groups – the two groups that have the best 18 teams… Had it rained yesterday, Pondicherry would have qualified (ahead of Karnataka, in the tournament’s first quarter-final). Doesn’t make any sense, but cannot help it.

“Teams will prefer to play in groups C and D then, if the rules are like that. Very unfortunate and really not happy about this.”

While the quarter-final between Karnataka and Puducherry wasn’t rain-affected, if there had been a no-result, Puducherry would have gone through.

Both teams had seven wins each in the league stage, and in the absence of a head-to-head result, Puducherry’s net run-rate (3.523) was better than Karnataka’s (1.17) and would have carried them through even though both figures were the result of vastly different circumstances, achieved against significantly dissimilar quality of opposition.

Mandeep was also unhappy that the schedule didn’t keep a reserve day for knockout matches.

“For the knockouts, there should definitely be a reserve day,” he said. “For the league stage, it’s fine, though the BCCI did reschedule the games. But if there is a day [between the quarter-final and semi-final], then there has to be a reserve day for the knockouts.”

The Tamil Nadu-Punjab quarter-final was cut short when it was evenly poised. In the other one, Mumbai were utterly dominant over Chhattisgarh but they couldn’t see the job through because of the weather and were also knocked out. Shreyas Iyer, the captain, was in agony.

“It’s really disappointing. We gave our heart, soul and tears for this amazing tournament, and unfortunately, the way we started the season, rain was affecting every game,” Iyer said. “So we can’t blame anyone in this situation. We’ll take it in our stride and move forward. The boys are also very… disappointed from inside.”

When the downpour that would eventually lead to both games – played on neighbouring grounds at Alur I and Alur II – being cancelled arrived at 3pm local time, the Mumbai players on Alur II showed how keen they were to get a full 20 overs in by lending a hand to the groundstaff in pulling the covers on the ground. But it was all for nothing and disappointed as Iyer was, he also pointed out that the playing conditions for the tournament had been set beforehand and agreed to by all.

“We had our BCCI meeting before the tournament started and they had specifically said that these are going to be the rules and regulations if it rains,” he shrugged. “So we’ve got to take that into consideration and move ahead. Can’t think about it now.”

Mandeep admitted he hadn’t been aware of the rules governing washouts in knockout matches, but held that the playing conditions as they were, made little sense, while drawing fresh attention to the inequity of having teams in Groups A and B mapped onto the same points table.

“Honestly, I didn’t see it (the playing conditions). Maybe our association is aware because I am more focused on my team, my players,” Mandeep said. “And we never thought something like this would happen. Groups A and B are very tough. While being in Group A, you are competing with the teams in Group B and vice versa. Let’s say we had won all our eight games, even then we would have been eliminated. So there is not much logic there.”

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Melbourne Renegades chief to report to Melbourne Stars’ chief



A restructure of Cricket Victoria’s (CV) Big Bash League teams for next season will see the Melbourne Renegades’ general manager reporting to the equivalent figure for the Melbourne Stars. This is a consequence of the clubs having to deal with major downsizing at the state association that has cost 60 jobs.

Both the Stars and Renegades have seen enormous upheaval since featuring in the BBL final in 2018 at Docklands in Melbourne. Both clubs had their boards dissolved and chief executives – Clint Cooper and Stuart Coventry respectively – moved on ahead of the previous season.

In their place, Nick Cummins, the former Cricket Tasmania chief executive, was initially assigned to a BBL head of commercial role that oversaw both clubs. Despite Cummins’ best efforts, it was an inherent conflict that is understood to have caused more than a few furrowed brows over the course of a season in which the Stars reached the BBL grand final once again but the Renegades’ men’s and women’s team results dropped off alarmingly.

Now, the clubs have been restructured once again in line with a raft of staffing cuts at CV, this time placing Cummins in charge of the Stars and the state association’s head of commercial, David Lever, in nominal command of the Renegades.

However, Lever will still report to Cummins, who retains overall control of BBL commercial activities. Commercial returns are another area of considerable concern for CV, as the departures of Cooper and Coventry in particular hastened the exits of the Stars’ major sponsor Optus, hot on the heels of the Renegades’ major sponsor Mars.

The Stars remain coached by David Hussey and the Renegades by Michael Klinger, but there has been a significant reshuffle too in the coaching ranks, as the Stars farewelled their women’s team coach Tim Coyle and the Renegades their women’s coach David Hemp, who had also been the head coach of the Victoria women’s team.

Lachlan Stevens has subsequently moved from a role as Victoria’s men’s assistant coach to head coach of both the Renegades women and the Victorian women’s state side, while Trent Woodhill, who has acted in numerous roles at the Stars, will now combine his post as the club’s list manager with coaching the women’s team.

“It’s a great opportunity and one I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to. I’ve been involved with the Stars for many years now and know the environment and the ethos well,” Woodhill said. “We’re backing ourselves to bounce back from some of the results in recent WBBL seasons. The competition is only getting stronger and we need to be stronger too. I’d certainly like to see a maiden finals appearance this season and win the title but there is plenty of work to do first.”

Andrew Lynch remains list manager of the Renegades and CV head of selectors. Lynch and Woodhill also report into the CV general cricket manager Shaun Graf. “Trent is well known to everyone at the Stars and in the Big Bash more broadly. I’m pleased he’s accepted this opportunity to move into a Head Coach position with the WBBL squad,” Graf said.

“Trent brings a deep understanding of the game and has demonstrated an ability to think differently and outside the box in the way we prepare elite teams to deliver on the field. I know Trent will be working hard with the current squad and any future new signings to deliver a highly competitive squad ahead of this season.”

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Rachel Priest loses New Zealand central contract



Rachel Priest has been omitted from New Zealand’s central contract list, while keeper-batter Natalie Dodd and seamer Jess Kerr have been awarded their first deals.

Priest, 34, won back her national contract last year after impressing for Western Storm in the Kia Super League and Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, having been dropped by former head coach Haidee Tiffin after the 2017 World Cup in England, who cited fitness issues for her omission.

ALSO READ: Rachel Priest travels and plays cricket everywhere (but it’s not her choice)

But after a return of 60 runs in four T20 World Cup innings and no half-centuries since her recall, she has not been offered a contract for the 2020-21 season.

Priest’s fellow keeper-batter Bernadine Bezuidenhout has also made way, after being left out of the T20 World Cup squad, with Dodd – who debuted in 2010 and last played international cricket in 2018 – winning her first full deal following a year on a development contract.

Kerr, whose younger sister Amelia has been a New Zealand regular for nearly four years, has also been offered a national contract for the first time on the back of her tournament-record 20 wickets in last season’s Super Smash, which helped Wellington Blaze to the title. She was part of the squad for the T20 World Cup, playing in New Zealand’s opening game against Sri Lanka.

Bob Carter, New Zealand’s head coach, said that Kerr and Dodd’s contracts were “an acknowledgement of hard work and perseverance”.

“I’m happy the majority of our group can remain stable as we look for continual improvement and application from our players,” Carter said. “We have an experienced core of White Ferns and want to ensure our younger, less experienced players have the chance to learn from them over the next 12 months.”

New Zealand contract list, 2020-21: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Natalie Dodd, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu.

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South Africa cricketers could resume training next week after government nod



Subject to government approval, South Africa’s national and franchise cricketers could be back in training from next week, and may be involved in an exhibition event at the end of the month. The country moved to Level 3 of the five-stage lockdown today, which allows non-contact professional sports training and matches to take place, after consultation and approval from the sports ministry.

That means national sporting bodies are required to present the ministry with their return-to-train and return-to-play protocols which should include details around social distancing. Cricket South Africa (CSA) hope to submit their plans this week, with a view to resuming training next week.

In its first stage, the return-to-training plan will see franchise cricketers training at their home grounds, in accordance with set guidelines. That includes a prohibition on the use of saliva on the ball as well as regulations around the use of changing rooms – which will not be allowed – and the number of players and support staff who will train at the same time.

ALSO READ: South Africa’s June tour of Sri Lanka postponed

At a later stage, CSA will look into whether it is possible to obtain permits to allow for players to travel across provincial borders for camps and eventually matches. Currently, South Africans cannot move between provinces for any reason other than a funeral or the transportation of children between parents or to schools and even those trips require a permit. Inter-provincial travel will be allowed at Level 2 of the lockdown, but there is no indication of when that will be.

However, CSA still hope to be able to put on some live action at the end of June. An insider told ESPNcricinfo that the plan is to put on “something which we have not seen before,” which rules out a T20 festival or any other kind of franchise competition. CSA intend to reveal more in the next few weeks.

South Africa are not in a rush to return to training or playing as they enter the winter period. Their next assignment is a two-Test and five-match T20 series in West Indies in July-August, which is set to be postponed with West Indies due to be in England until the end of July. CSA and Cricket West Indies remain in talks about when to schedule the series and are considering all options, including playing it in South Africa later in the year.

South Africa are also due to host India for three T20s at the end of August and are looking at creating a bio-secure bubble for the series, which will take place behind closed doors. That series is particularly important for CSA finances, as it will help bolster their bank balance, amid forecasted losses of R645 million (approx. US $36.9 million) over the next four years. With South Africa’s Covid-19 cases expected to peak around July, it is possible the India series will have to take place later in the summer but CSA are confident it can happen before the end of the financial year in February 2021.

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