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Graeme Smith resumes director of cricket discussions with Cricket South Africa



Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has resumed discussions with Cricket South Africa over the director of cricket role, which he had shown an interest in before withdrawing last month.

Smith was interviewed for the post alongside suspended interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl and former national selector Hussein Manack, and was understood to be CSA’s preferred candidate. But he then made himself unavailable for consideration, citing a lack of “the necessary confidence” in the board.

Following a report in the Sunday Times , which said Smith had had a change of heart and was on the verge of agreeing to a four-year deal, Smith confirmed he was still in communication with CSA, but acknowledged that he still had his reservations.

“Contrary to media reports I have not been appointed Director of Cricket by CSA. As previously advised I withdrew my application for the role. I am, however, in ongoing discussions with CSA, but I still have real concerns, which I have reiterated to them,” Smith tweeted.

ALSO READ: 2019 – South African cricket’s annus horribilis

ESPNcricinfo understands that Smith has been in conversation with CSA president Chris Nenzani and has conveyed that his main concern was about the CSA’s senior management. But even if Smith does get on board, it is unlikely to be in time to have an effect on preparations for the upcoming home series against England, which starts on Boxing Day.

With just 24 days to go before the first Test, South Africa have neither a confirmed director of cricket nor a selection panel, although interviews for a selection convener have taken place. Patrick Moroney has emerged as the frontrunner for that, but there is no indication on if or when he would be appointed or when a squad would be announced.

In an interview with Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on Sunday, CSA CEO Thabang Moroe said van Zyl and Enoch Nkwe, the interim team director, make up the current selection committee.

Moroe’s statement came four days after CSA spokesperson Thamie Mthembu had told Independent Newspapers that CSA had a “technical team” in place to select the squad; Mthembu, however, did not name anyone but Nkwe. Given that van Zyl remains suspended for alleged dereliction of duty following delayed commercial rights payments to the South African Cricketers Association, Nkwe could have a significant, if not unilateral, say on the make-up of the squad. Most recently, Nkwe took South Africa to India, where they drew the T20I series and were whitewashed in the Tests.

Those Tests are the only red-ball cricket some national players have featured in, which means the squad must be picked on the basis of those results, and the performances in the first four rounds of four-day franchise cricket played in October-November, and the single round of fixtures that will take place on December 19. Some players who picked up injuries in India, such as Keshav Maharaj (shoulder injury) and Dean Elgar (concussion), have made recoveries and are playing in the ongoing Mzansi Super League (MSL), which runs until December 16, ten days before the first Test against England. Others, such as Aiden Markram (wrist fracture), Dwaine Pretorius (hand injury), and promising young quick Gerald Coetzee (hamstring injury), are on the sidelines, which may make selection trickier.

Nkwe is not involved at the MSL this year after coaching the Jozi Stars to the title last summer. His position with the national team remains temporary until a director of cricket, who will name the long-term team management, is appointed. Since Smith withdrew from the race, CSA has dragged its feet on making an appointment. Sources suggested that the delay could run well into 2020, with some suggesting CSA will readvertise for the post and look for options overseas.

All that leaves South African cricket mired in uncertainty ahead of an important few months for all its national teams. The men’s side play England in four Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is, before facing Australia and India in white-ball internationals to prepare for the T20 World Cup in October-November 2020. The women’s team will play in the T20 World Cup in February-March and the Under-19 side will feature in the World Cup, to be played at home, in January-February. Though the coaching staff for the women’s and Under-19 team is in place, the director of cricket was expected to roll out an overall national strategy for all cricket played under CSA’s umbrella and ensure continuity in the structures. That will have to wait.

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Kevin Kasuza stretchered off after copping another blow on the helmet



Zimbabwe opener Kevin Kasuza was taken off the field on a stretcher after being struck flush on the helmet for the second time in two Tests.

Kasuza sustained the blow on the third morning of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Harare when Kusal Mendis nailed a powerful back-foot pull, which hit the side of the helmet of forward short-leg fielder Kasuza, who immediately hit the ground even as the ball ricocheted to square leg, where Carl Mumba took the catch to send back Mendis for 22 off 73 balls.

Kasuza was in visible pain and was consequently stretchered off the field by the Zimbabwe medical staff. According to the broadcasters, Kasuza was then sent to hospital for scans.

Incidentally, it was a repeat of what happened in the first Test. Then, too, it was Mendis, who had struck Kasuza on the helmet when he was fielding at the same position on the third day of the match. In that game, Kasuza had not immediately felt the effects of the blow, but suffered a delayed concussion and was eventually substituted out of the match, which was his international debut. As a result, Zimbabwe named a like-for-like replacement in opener Brian Mudzinganyama.

While Kasuza has endured a tough time on the field in his first two Tests, he has shown promise with the bat, following up his 63 in the first Test with an equally solid 38 in the second. Kasuza helped see off the new ball in the second Test and set the base for Zimbabwe’s first-innings total of 406.

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Sornnarin Tippoch to lead Thailand at their first World Cup



Sornnarin Tippoch will lead Thailand’s first-ever team at a global tournament, after being named captain of the 15-member squad for the women’s T20 World Cup, which starts on February 21 in Australia.

While the core of the squad is largely the same as the one that won the qualification event in Scotland last year, Thipatcha Putthawong and Suwanan Khiaoto, who were part of the 14-member squad for the recent T20 quadrangular series in Patna, India, have been brought in. Khiaoto has yet to make her international debut.

Arriya Yenyuak, the right-arm seamer who was left out of the quadrangular squad, didn’t find a place in the squad either, but Phannita Maya has come back after missing the quadrandular.

Under 33-year-old Tippoch, who has led Thailand in all of their 35 T20Is so far, the team produced a record-breaking 17 consecutive wins in the format last year. In 2018, she led the side that notched up a historic four-wicket win over Full Member nation Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, in Kuala Lumpur.

Other experienced names in Thailand’s T20 World Cup squad include Naruemol Chaiwai, Nattaya Boochatham, Suleeporn Laomi, and the 2019 ICC Women’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year Chanida Sutthiruang, who have all played every single one of Thailand’s T20Is down the years.

Sutthiruang, the 26-year-old right-arm seamer, took 12 wickets at the T20 World Cup qualifier, while Boochatham was the leading wicket-taker in T20Is last year, and Chaiwai was the leading run-scorer in T20Is last year. Wristspinner Laomi, meanwhile, was a key performer in their qualifier campaign, her guile often outsmarting batters.

Thailand’s preparation in the lead-up to the world event hasn’t been ideal as they finished last in the quadrangular series, which also featured Bangladesh and the India A and B sides. They have ODI-playing nations as contenders in Group B, such as England, Pakistan, South Africa, and West Indies, and will play their tournament-opener against West Indies in Perth on February 22.

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KL Rahul, and not Virat Kohli, has to be your captain



January 29: New Zealand v India 3rd T20I, Hamilton

Our XI: KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Shreyas Iyer, Colin Munro, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Tim Southee, Mohammed Shami

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates

Captain: KL Rahul
You have to have done something special to be the first pick in a fantasy team ahead of Virat Kohli. And Rahul qualifies handsomely. Since the start of India’s post-World Cup season, Rahul has batted 11 times in T20Is, and never been dismissed for single figures. His run of scores reads 20, 15, 8*, 52, 62, 11, 91, 45, 54, 56, 57*. In addition, he’s keeping wickets too.

Vice-captain: Jasprit Bumrah
No Kohli as captain or vice-captain? Heresy? Too big a risk? Yes, not quite, and possibly. He doesn’t – yet – have the wickets to show, but Bumrah has been the standout bowler in the series so far, and there is no reason to think he won’t continue to be that way in the third T20I. Bumrah will net you a respectable number of points most days. On the days when all the stars align, he’ll net you a bounty.

Hot picks

Virat Kohli

Kohli has been solid, but hasn’t quite exploded. But it’s Kohli, and the last time he was out of form was about a million runs ago. Second, he’s been among the runs in the shortest format coming into this tour. Third, even if he doesn’t play a match-winning innings, it’s a rare day that Kohli doesn’t contribute some runs at least. A T20I average of 51.79 is enough proof.

Shreyas Iyer

Two matches, two valuable hands. Iyer has blossomed into an indispensable player in the Indian line-up, and responded beautifully to the faith put in him by the team management. He was Man of the Match in the first T20I, and first among the batting support cast in the second match.

Martin Guptill

So far, Guptill has had good starts, and he’s been stroking the ball freely too, as a strike rate of 161.53 indicates. He has gotten out when looking set for a big innings, and if he can pull through, he’s likely to end up with a sizeable score.

Value picks

Ravindra Jadeja: Remarkably, in the two T20Is so far, Jadeja has been the bowler with the best economy rate, going at a run a ball. That he has done so at Eden Park, with its short boundaries where spinners can be punished, shows how well he has bowled. Jadeja’s utility value is unmatched, and he’s one of the few players in world cricket who can make game-changing contributions with the bat, the ball, and in the field.

Colin Munro: He’s made runs in both matches, though perhaps not as quickly as he would have liked. But his naturally aggressive game and spot at the top of the order make Munro good value in your team.

Points to note

  • The last time India and New Zealand played here, a year ago, both teams scored more than 200. In general, totals have tended to be on the higher side, so you might want to tilt towards batsmen.

  • As for bowlers, since the start of 2019, quicks have averaged 19.74 while conceding runs at 8.30 at Seddon Park, and the corresponding figures for spinners are 29.03 and 8.67, which is why a Tim Southee makes it into the XI ahead of a Yuzvendra Chahal or Ish Sodhi.

  • Do check what the pitch report and conditions look like before the game and take a call on possibly swapping a pacer out for a spinner if warranted.

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