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Third umpire to monitor front-foot no-balls in India-West Indies series

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The limited-overs series between India and West Indies, which begin from Friday with a T20I, will have front-foot no-balls exclusively monitored by the third umpires. Announcing the development on Thursday, the ICC said that the on-field umpires would be responsible for all other decisions “in the usual way” while the third umpire would monitor every ball for overstepping. In case a bowler oversteps, the third umpire will inform the on-field umpire to signal a no-ball. Put simply, the on-field umpires will not be calling any no-balls without the assistance of the third umpires during this series.

In the scenario where even the third umpire finds it hard to call a no-ball based on the pictures, the ICC has said the “benefit of doubt” will be with the bowler. And in the case where a batsman has been ruled out on a ball that has been called a no-ball by the third umpire, he can be called back even after the ball has been called dead.

“It’s important to note that any benefit of the doubt lies with the bowler, and if a late no-ball call is communicated, then the on-field umpire will rescind a dismissal (if applicable) and call no ball,” the ICC said in a statement.

This is the second time that the ICC is trialling technology to monitor overstepping in international cricket, with the first one coming in a 2016 ODI series between England and Pakistan. The IPL is also considering an extra TV umpire for monitoring no-balls in its next edition.

“The outcomes of the trial will be used to gauge whether the system has a beneficial impact on the accuracy of no-ball decisions and whether it can be implemented while minimising disruption to the flow of the game,” the ICC said.

In August, the ICC’s general manager for cricket operations, Geoff Allardice told ESPNcricinfo that the technology to be used in these trials would broadly be the same as that trialled in 2016. A Hawk-Eye operator presented still images to the third umpire during that trial, where the average decision time to call a no-ball was found to be eight seconds. The idea is that those times will come down the more umpires get used to the system.

“The footage is shown on a slight delay, it goes to super slo-mo as the foot approaches the point of landing, and then it freezes,” Allardice had explained. “The routine works well, with the third umpire judging the no-ball off a picture that is not always shown on the broadcast.”

Umpiring, particularly with regard to front-foot no-balls, has been under the scanner over the last 18 months, with several high-profile errors being identified. For instance, In November 2018, broadcaster Sky had found that Sri Lanka’s Lakshan Sandakan had overstepped 12 times without penalty in a passage where he had bowled only 30 balls. Umpire S Ravi was officiating during that spell, as he was earlier this year during the IPL when he drew Virat Kohli’s ire for missing a no-ball in a tight match.

More recently, Pat Cummins appeared to have nothing behind the line after he dismissed Pakistan’s Mohammed Rizwan in the Gabba Test last month, but the wicket was upheld even after the third umpire had seen a reasonable amount of slow-mo replays.



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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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