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‘Wouldn’t be surprised if he takes over after Faf’ – Nkwe on Bavuma’s South Africa future

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Temba Bavuma is not among the 12 South Africa players who have assembled in Port Elizabeth to prepare for the third Test against England, but he remains close to the conversation. So close, that assistant coach Enoch Nkwe has indicated that if Bavuma finds form, he could be candidate for the national captaincy in future.

That may seem like a long way away for a player with 39 Tests to his name and only one century, scored more than four years ago, who averaged 19.84 in 2019 and has scored 9 and 17 in his last two domestic first-class innings but Bavuma is no ordinary player. He is South Africa’s only only black African Test batsman and has accepted the pressures of being a flagbearer and leader for millions.

Bavuma has chosen not to engage in the debate at the moment, posting on social media that his silence is “full of answers”. Instead it was Nkwe, himself a black African batsman, who spoke extensively on the expectations and challenges Bavuma faces and the reasons why the South African administration believes he will be back in a big way.

Are you comfortable with where South Africa is in terms of transformation targets and how things are progressing?

“There’s been a different approach, but that will come over time. We’re keeping very close with Temba Bavuma, for example. I strongly believe he’s a good player, and he’s in the process of making sure that — from a mental, emotional and skills point of view — when he gets an opportunity to come back, whether it’s in the next Test match or in a different format, he takes ownership of his position and does 10 times more than what he has done. We’re confident and believe in him. [Mark] Boucher is the same, and the rest of the team. All I’m going to ask is that we are more patient. We’re trying to put a few things in place so that we can shape things in the right direction.”

Do you think the weight expectation on Temba, being the first black African Test batsman in South Africa, has been detrimental to him?

“Knowing Temba, no. There is always going to be pressure in this environment but if you look at it, he has been unlucky. Let’s be honest. There’s been times where he got 95 not out and he was probably one big hit to get over the line and he was unfortunate. There’s been times where he got 70, 80. But also sometimes people tend to forget that the situations he has come in for South Africa have been challenging and he has been able to take the team from that position and put them in a much healthier position. Sometimes he gets out for 60, sometimes he gets out for 50 and if you look at the batting positions over the last couple of years – Nos. 4, 5 and 6 – he has been able to make those massive contributions. They might look small in terms of numbers but his contribution has been very powerful for the team and put them in a winning position. He has had good partnerships with Quinny [Quinton de Kock] and obviously Quinny has been more explosive. If maybe a bit of luck had gone his way, he would have got two or three more hundreds but those things we’ve put behind us.

“I know that having spoken to him recently, he is someone that actually looks forward to getting an opportunity. He is going to do everything in his power to make sure that when the next opportunity comes he is ready for it. He wants to be in this environment and hopefully in the future he performs well enough and he can lead the team because I know having worked with him, he is a strong leader, very smart and he is able to lead a massive group to greater heights.”

Do you see him as a future captain?

“In my mind, yes. I can see that happening. But he does understand that he needs to put in some performances. The future could be in a year’s time, it could be in two years’ time, we don’t know. Having worked with him in the last year-and-a-half, he has got the qualities, there’s no question around that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Faf, he takes over. That will be great for South African cricket.”

Was it the right decision to send Temba back to franchise cricket?

“From a coach’s hat and a high-performance point of view, it’s not healthy just to sit around and not play. If you are not playing, you really need to go and find some game time and fortunately, we have some franchise cricket taking place at the moment and we saw that opportunity for him to go there and stay in the game. Some of the challenges we have when we go on tours, is we have a 15-man squad and only 11 can play and the challenge of those individuals to try and get some game time is massive. It’s not only him; it’s a couple of other guys we have released as well.”





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Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez back for Bangladesh T20s

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The experienced pair of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will return to the Pakistan side for the T20I series against Bangladesh next week. Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have been left out, with pace bowler Muhammad Musa keeping his place in the shortest format, while batsman Ahsan Ali and fast bowler Amad Butt were called up.

For the second T20I squad in succession, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq rung in the changes as Pakistan look to break a streak of seven T20Is without a win. Pacer Shaheen Afridi returns to the side for the first time since May, having sat out the T20s against Sri Lanka and Australia as he recovered from about of dengue fever, while Usman Qadir keeps his place and may finally be in line for his debut. Haris Rauf has also been called up after his impressive season in the Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars.

Squad: Babar Azam (capt), Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Iftikhar Ahmed Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Musa, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir

More to follow



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BCCI drops MS Dhoni from central contracts list

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MS Dhoni is no longer a centrally contracted player with the BCCI. His name didn’t feature in the 27 contracts handed out by the Indian board on Thursday. He last played for India during the World Cup in 2019 post which there has been a suspense around his future. He had been awarded a Grade A contract, which brings a retainer of INR 5 crore, in 2019. Top-order batsman KL Rahul made the jump from Grade B to A, an incentive of INR 2 crore.

ALSO READ: ‘Good IPL, he puts himself into contention’ – Ravi Shastri reiterates Dhoni still in the mix

While Dhoni has not played any professional cricket since the World Cup, India coach Ravi Shastri has said more than once that Dhoni could throw his name in the ring for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year if he does well in the IPL. Others to lose contracts were Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Khaleel Ahmed.

Otherwise, there weren’t many massive changes from the contracts list from last year. Test opener Mayank Agarwal, who made his debut in Melbourne in a delicately poised series and immediately impressed, was the big gainer, entering the list at Grade B, which comes with a retainer of INR 3 crore. Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who had dropped to Grade C thanks to injuries, came back to join Agarwal in Grade B.

Other new names in the contracts – as of now – included limited-overs specialists: Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer and Washington Sundar. They all entered the system at Grade C, which comes with a retainer of INR 1 crore.

The A+ grade, which includes players who feature in all three formats, remained unchanged with Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah retaining their INR 7 crore fee. The injured Hardik Pandya, who has played only T20Is since the World Cup, retained his Grade B contract.

These contracts are for October 2019 to September 2020. The total number of retainers has come down from 29 to 27. The recommendations for these contracts are made by national selectors based on a combination of performance in the previous year and the roles players are expected to play in the contract period. If someone out of this list gets an India cap during the period, he automatically gets a retainer.



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R Ashwin joins Yorkshire as overseas Championship player

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R Ashwin will join Yorkshire for most of this year’s County Championship season. The club said 33-year-old Ashwin would become their “frontline overseas spinner” playing at least eight Championship matches once his IPL commitments with Delhi Capitals end and following a seven-day break immediately afterwards, requested by the BCCI.

He will come in for South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj, who enjoyed a successful stint with Yorkshire in 2019 – taking 38 wickets in five matches and scoring two half-centuries – and who will re-join the club for the first two fixtures of this year’s season in April, at home at home to Gloucestershire and away to Essex.

India’s fourth-highest wicket-taker, Ashwin is a veteran of 70 Tests which have netted him 362 wickets at an average of 25.36 and he recently claimed his 27th five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

Ashwin’s latest county stint follows five matches with Nottinghamshire in 2019, when he claimed 34 wickets at 24.58 and scored 339 runs at 37.66. During that time he claimed four five-wicket hauls and 12 wickets for the match in a losing cause against Surrey. Ashwin also played four matches with Worcestershire in 2017 when his 20 wickets while averaging 42.50 with the bat contributed to their promotion to Division One. He was due to re-join Worcestershire for the last two matches of the 2018 season as they attempted to avoid relegation but withdrew after aggravating a groin injury during India’s fourth Test against England which ruled him out of the remainder of that series.

In joining Yorkshire, he said he was happy to be “following in the footsteps” of Sachin Tendulkar who, at the age of 19 in 1992, became the county’s first-ever overseas player.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Yorkshire, a club with a wonderful history and a fantastic fan base,” Ashwin said. “I think our team looks extremely talented with some superb pace bowlers and exciting batsmen. Hopefully my role as the spinner will be a key feature in helping the team achieve success.

“Headingley has always been a fantastic venue to play at. People speak about the overhead conditions playing a big part so let’s hope for plenty of sun. I love playing first-class cricket and have enjoyed my two previous spells with Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire. My role will be to score runs and take wickets but it will be a collective effort if we are to win the title.

“I’m a deep thinker about the game and bowling in particular and will be researching my opponents carefully to ensure I have the edge. To follow in the footsteps of Sachin, who played for the county many years ago is a wonderful feeling for me.”

Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale said that after years of budgetary constraints, the county had managed to blood young players and could now fill in the “voids” with signings such as Dawid Malan, lured from Middlesex, Nicholas Pooran for their T20 campaign and Ashwin, who would also act as a mentor and coach to his young spinners during the English domestic 50-over competition.

“Ashwin is available for the rest of the season after the IPL” Gale said. “Short-term signings haven’t worked, we want someone who can come in for a longer period of time who can make an influence.

“With Kesh [Maharaj] doing so well last year, it shows the importance of having a spinner who can attack and defend. He can contribute with the bat as well. Ashwin ticks every box, he did well for Notts in a team that was underachieving with both bat and ball. To get a guy of his experience in and around the group will be great for us.”



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