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Rene Farrell, Kristen Beams join Alex Blackwell in announcing WBBL retirements

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Rene Farrell, the former Australia fast bowler, joined Alex Blackwell and Kristen Beams in announcing her retirement from the Women’s Big Bash League following the exits of their sides from the latest edition of the T20 tournament on Sunday.

Sydney Thunder’s Blackwell, Australia’s most-capped woman cricketer, and Beams, who turned out for Melbourne Stars since the tournament took off in 2015-16, had announced their decision to finish up earlier, and Farrell joined Blackwell in a post-match guard of honour after the Thunder lost to the Melbourne Renegades in their last match of the season.

Farrell, 32, made her Australia debut in an ODI against New Zealand in Darwin in July 2007 and played three Test matches, 44 ODIs and 54 T20Is over the years, her last outing in national colours coming in March 2017, again in an ODI against New Zealand, in Mount Maunganui. She finished with 114 international wickets.

Though she won’t play in the WBBL again, Farrell will continue to play for New South Wales Breakers.

“I still have 50-overs cricket with the NSW Breakers. Hopefully I can go out on a high there like we did for Alex’s career and winning that [after announcing her retirement from state cricket last year],” Farrell, who picked up 79 wickets in 66 games for the Thunder over the years, said. “I have a bit of cricket left, [but this send off with Sydney Thunder] was really special.”

The Thunder website said that Blackwell had invited Farrell to join her in the farewell, joined by players from her team, as well as from the Renegades, Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat, who were all in action at Melbourne’s Junction Oval.

“It was lovely of Al [Blackwell] to invite me to enjoy that moment… very special,” Farrell said. “My reputation is gone now, I had a few tears on TV, but it is special.”

It wasn’t a particularly memorable outing for Farrell on the field, though, as she conceded 33 runs in four wicketless overs before scoring 14* in 12 balls in a 29-run defeat. Blackwell, too, didn’t have a good time of it, run out for 1 in the failed chase for the Thunder.

“I couldn’t have that send off without sharing it with her,” Blackwell said of the joint farewell. “She’s been an absolute legend of the game; really valuable – especially in T20. She’s a big loss, a wonderful character. She’s been an incredible servant of the game and it’s easy to get emotional when you think of her contribution.”

Beams, too, had a bad day at work, conceding 14 runs in her only over as the Heat beat the Stars by eight wickets. She picked up just wickets this season in eight bowling innings for the Stars.

“I’ve loved the last five years with the Melbourne Stars and being part of the Stars family,” Beams told the team’s website. “To see the WBBL grow from the first year of competition to what it is now has been a fantastic journey.”

The 35-year-old legspinner played one Test, 30 ODIs and 18 T20Is for Australia since making her debut in an ODI against Pakistan in Brisbane in August 2014, last turning out for the national team in an ODI against England in Coffs Harbour in October 2017. She picked up 62 international wickets, and was a one-team player at the WBBL, having been with the Stars since the start of the league.



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Covid-19: PCB offers financial support to 25 unemployed Pakistan women cricketers

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To fight with the economic challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic, the PCB has announced a three-month financial support package for 25 unemployed national women cricketers. Under this scheme, the players who meet the eligibility criteria such as featuring in the 2019-20 domestic season, and are presently without a contract for the 2020-21 season as well as a day job or business, will receive a monthly stipend of PKR 25,000 (approx US$150) each from August to October.

In June, the PCB had announced a list of women’s contracted players, which included nine centrally contracted cricketers and as many emerging contracted players. These are 12-month contracts, which commenced on July 1. The latest PCB decision takes the count of women cricketers receiving PCB support to 43.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a halt to all women cricketing activities worldwide. This has adversely affected our women cricketers, some of whom are the sole breadwinners of their families,” Urooj Mumtaz Khan, the head of the PCB women’s wing, said in a statement issued by the board.

“As the women’s game is making steady progress, it was imperative that the PCB came up with this scheme to not only protect and support our players but to also make them understand and realise that the PCB values them and will look after them in difficult times.

“Forty-eight players featured in the 2019-20 national domestic season out of which 25 became eligible to benefit from the scheme. The remaining players are either contracted by the PCB or employed elsewhere.”

In May, the PCB had offered one-time support to 161 stakeholders through an identical scheme, including former men’s first-class cricketers, match officials, scorers and curators.



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Anjum Chopra wants BCCI to be ‘more specific in communication about women’s cricket’

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Anjum Chopra, the former India women’s captain and current television commentator, believes that the BCCI has a plan for women’s cricket but wants the board to communicate its ideas more clearly.

Speaking to PTI, Chopra said: “It’s not that the BCCI is not thinking about women’s cricket. I only think they need to be more specific in communication about women’s cricket.

“I firmly believe that they must be thinking about women’s cricket but the communication all this while has been very specific to men’s cricket.”

The BCCI has received criticism of withdrawing the women from a tour of England in September, owing to logistical issues arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Then there is the question of the Women’s T20 Challenge clashing with the WBBL.

Chopra said missing out on the England tour is “not nice” but Indian players’ participation in the T20 Challenge will still be useful preparation for next year’s ODI World Cup.

“It is heartening to see women’s cricket making headlines,” Chopra said. “They should have been a part of that England tour and it did not feel nice initially but the women’s IPL [T20 Challenge], irrespective of the format, will be helpful for World Cup preparations. Any form of cricket is good preparation.

“Missing out on a tournament is not nice, but logistically there may have been issues. And you can’t send an under-prepared team.

“If you see it in isolation, we may have missed out on an opportunity to play in England. The more the girls play the better it is, before playing a tournament of the stature of World Cup. [But] the assurance from the president [Sourav Ganguly] is a very good thing.”

ALSO READ: The issues facing India women’s cricket in the face of Covid-19

Chopra welcomed the decision to hold the women’s event in the UAE alongside the IPL, which will run from September 19 to November 10. The women’s T20 Challenge will coincide with the knockouts of the men’s league.

“I am definitely happy, it’s always nice to be part of any cricket anywhere across the world,” Chopra said. “They should have been nearing the final stages of the preparation for the World Cup by now, but because of the pandemic things did not go as planned.”



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Tournament hubs, Afghanistan Test and Boxing Day: where does the Australia summer stand?

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Having hoped that the 2020-21 Australian cricket season would escape the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it now looks likely the summer will be significantly impacted as a second wave hits Melbourne with concerns also hanging over New South Wales leading to extensive border and travel restrictions around the country. A lot remains up in the air with the season less than two months away, but these are some of the key issues that need to be resolved.

State cricket

In some ways, this is the biggest headache for Cricket Australia given the logistical challenges of competitions that are vital to the game’s ecosystem but do not generate revenue. Particularly problematic is how to formulate a Sheffield Shield – the ten-game season and final can’t be cut back without agreement with the Australian Cricketers’ Association as it’s part of the MoU – amid travel and border restrictions.

The hub concept is tougher and much costlier for a first-class competition but a whole range of scenarios remain on the table. A News Corp report said starting the tournament earlier and rushing through a set of matches ahead of the Test summer was one idea, to ensure players had a chance to prepare or push for selection, while at the other end there is the possibility of limited Shield cricket before Christmas with the season then back-filled after the BBL.

The men’s and women’s one-day competitions – the Marsh Cup and WNCL – would appear vulnerable at the moment although players have made it clear they are open to the idea of hubs. The WNCL is especially important this year if the Women’s ODI World Cup goes ahead as played next February and March in New Zealand.

Afghanistan Test

The international fixtures that had been scheduled early in the season have steadily dropped away with series against Zimbabwe and West Indies postponed. The T20Is against India scheduled for mid-October also won’t take place now the T20 World Cup has been moved and the IPL has its window. The next big question for CA is the one-off Test against Afghanistan slated for Perth on November 21 which they remain committed to staging.

However, the time frame created by the IPL and the need for players to quarantine for two weeks on return to Australia is very tight, especially for anyone featuring in the closing stages of the competition, unless those in contention for the Test from both sides leave the UAE early to allow 14 days in Perth ahead of the match. Even if that was possible there would need to be exemptions granted to allow players to train although with hotels very close to the grounds this could be feasible.

WBBL

This will be the first of the marquee competitions to be staged in the season with the tournament due to begin on October 17 but is likely to need some reorganisation. When the fixtures were announced, the competition had already headed towards a hub model with a three-week block of matches in Sydney, and weekend blocks of matches elsewhere, but with New South Wales at a crucial stage of trying to limit their Covid-19 numbers – and significant restrictions around travel into the state – it could be that Queensland or Western Australia become the major centres with Tasmania also putting their hat in the ring to host a hub.

There remains confidence that the overseas players will be able to take up their deals as planned although a potential curveball has been thrown by the BCCI’s announcement of the T20 Challenge in early November which came in for strong criticism from a number of players led by Alyssa Healy.

BBL

There is a little more time up Cricket Australia’s sleeve for the Big Bash, but with the tenth edition to be the longest tournament – running from early December to early February – it could be hugely demanding if Covid-19 restrictions remain. Unlike the WBBL, the initial fixtures featured the full home-and-away model which involves regular travel and, even in the extended tournament, quick turnarounds between matches which would not be possible under the current quarantine requirements imposed by the various states.

The need to hub the competition will have to be considered as well as the flexibility to change mid-tournament if Covid-19 cases spike in a state. If there arises a need to reschedule or move matches in the BBL, it will add another layer of complexity given it runs concurrently with the major part of the men’s international season.

India tour

This remains the crucial part of Australia’s season with A$300 million – the financial health of the game – riding on it taking place. The chances of a traditional Test series across four venues appears to be receding with the Boxing Day Test at the MCG looking under threat. To ease the biosecurity protocols that will be needed – and state-by-state requirements to quarantine – it could be that the matches are staged in fewer locations while there is likely to be consideration given to what size crowds are allowed. Fans have returned to stadiums for winter codes in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales amid various restrictions on capacity.

The Adelaide Oval will have its on-site hotel completed by October and has already been talked of as a training hub while Perth, who missed on hosting India in the initial fixture list, may yet be part of the series. Following the Tests there is a three-match ODI series pencilled in for mid-January which currently has games in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

The India Women’s team is also due to tour in January for three ODIs which are due to act as a lead-in to the ODI World Cup in February.



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