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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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Wil Parker dreams of meeting Shane Warne after ‘special’ debut

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Wil Parker, the 17-year-old Victoria legspinner, had never been to the SCG before being handed a Sheffield Shield debut this week.

It has been a wide-eyed experience: presented his cap by Peter Siddle – who is his room-mate for the Sydney trip and made his first-class debut when Parker was three – to be the state’s fourth-youngest debutant (behind team-mate Jake Fraser-McGurk), followed by a day watching Nathan Lyon go about his work and then a maiden first-class wicket of a batsman who scored a Test century a little over a year ago.

Kurtis Patterson, batting confidently on 54, advanced down the pitch and got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Seb Gotch although he would have been out stumped anyway.

“I didn’t think I got the wicket because Gotchy’s reaction was if he’d missed but he ended up taking the catch which was pretty special,” Parker said. “Kurtis Patterson, not a bad wicket to get first up. Over the moon.”

Did him with the wrong ‘un? “Nah, it just slid on,” he admitted. “I like to say I have a wrong ‘un and a toppy, still working on the flipper.”

Naturally for an Australian legspinner, especially one from Victoria, the next part is fairly obvious. The mention of Shane Warne. “Oh, yeah, my idol,” he said. “Let’s be honest, every young legspinner, let alone a Victorian, should have Shane Warne as their idol.”

He has yet to meet Warne. “That would be a dream to have a chat with about legspinning, specifically, and just life as well.”

For a moment consider that Warne played his last match for Australia in 2007. A lot of highlights have been watched on YouTube. On Parker’s bedroom wall, the memories are of more recent Australian vintages: the 2013-14 Ashes-winning side and the 2015 World Cup team.

While a debut at the MCG may have ticked every box, striding out at the SCG is a heck of a way to see a ground for the first time. “I’m actually a Sydney Swans fan so it’s actually not bad debuting here, pretty special. I’ve never been here, so first time to play here is pretty special.”

A (non-alcoholic) drink with Lyon after this match would cap things off. “Yesterday [Friday] was pretty special to sit back and watching from the changing rooms…that would be something special, just to sit down with him.”

The AFL mention moves neatly onto another major part of the Parker story. He is a hugely talented dual sportsman – tipped to have a chance of a professional football career – with the choice that will bring before too long, but not quite yet.

“There will have to be a time where I make a decision but at the moment I’m just trying to take each season as it goes. At the moment it’s cricket season, I’m loving cricket, and when it’s footy I love footy. There will be a time to make a decision but that’s not just yet. Just trying to enjoy cricket at the moment, representing my state at the SCG is pretty special.”

At the moment he balances cricket training with Monash Tigers and football with NAB League side Eastern Ranges. “Currently I’m trying to get to some pre-season sessions at the moment, juggle it all. Still keeping fit, kicking the footy around,” he said.

Victoria team-mate Will Sutherland had the same decision to make and went with cricket. “He reckoned he was always going to play cricket, whereas I don’t really know yet,” Parker said.

There is strong sporting linage in the family. His uncle, Geoff, played 37 first-class matches for South Australia and Victoria between 1985 and 1999. In 1988 he captained Australia Young Cricketers at the Youth World Cup and also played football in the late 1980s. He now works in AFL recruiting with Port Adelaide.





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Australia strong favourites, but will expectation derail them?

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Overview

Australia are again the powerhouse of the women’s game after a two-year period where they have taken their performances to a new level following the disappointment at the 2017 50-over World Cup in England when they fell at the semi-finals with Harmanpreet Kaur playing one of the greatest innings in World Cup history. They have a squad chock full of allrounders – a significant tactical switch over the last few months with coach Matthew Mott believing specialist batters in the middle order did not have enough chance to make an impact in T20 – and a bowling attack with plenty of variety, from the point-of-difference pace of Tayla Vlaeminck to the sharply-spun leg-breaks of Georgia Wareham. However, they were inconsistent during the T20I tri-series against England and India with three key top-order players – Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and especially Alyssa Healy – not having the returns that would be expected. That tournament was their toughest challenge for a considerable period of time having swept away West Indies and Sri Lanka, so it could end up being viewed as a timely test. And, ultimately, they still found a way to win which in tournament play can be vital.

Squad

Meg Lanning (capt), Rachael Haynes, Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham (Coach: Matthew Mott)

Group fixtures

February 21: India, Sydney Showground

February 24: Sri Lanka, WACA

February 27: Bangladesh, Canberra

March 2: New Zealand, Melbourne

T20 World Cup history

Australia have dominated the event. Four-times champions, and the current holders, they have only once not reached the final – in the inaugural tournament in 2009. Between 2010 and 2014 they won a hat-trick of titles before being tripped by West Indies in 2016.

Form guide

Their Super Over defeat against England in Canberra was their first misstep since the final T20I in England last year – by when the Ashes were well and truly decided – and they were then overturned by India who again showed what can be achieved by taking the game to Australia. Since the start of 2018, they have won 26 of their 31 T20Is with their only defeats coming against India and England who are considered the closest challengers for the title.

Key players

Meg Lanning is an impressive leader and outstanding batter, the former quality may well be tested at times during the tournament if the team hits any bumps along the way. If she is holding aloft the trophy at the MCG it will be a defining moment of her career. Tayla Vlaeminck will vie for the tag of the quickest bowler at the tournament and has the ability to ruffle opposition with the short ball. Alyssa Healy had two prolific seasons in 2018 and 2019 but hit the buffers in the T20I tri-series with five single-figure scores. Australia will hope her runs are being saved for when it really matters.

What would be a success at the tournament?

Nothing beyond victory. Few teams across any global event have quite carried the expectation that Australia have heading into this competition, with so much pinned on their progression at least to the final at the MCG where it is hoped a new crowd record for a female sporting event will be set. Lanning and Mott are balancing the need to embrace that pressure and keep a perspective on things, but it may yet be a factor other teams can exploit if things get tight.



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Ishant Sharma set to fly to New Zealand after clearing fitness test

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Fast bowler Ishant Sharma has cleared his fitness test at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru and is set to join the India squad in New Zealand for the two-Test series. ESPNcricinfo understands Sharma will fly out on Sunday and join the squad in Wellington, the venue of the first Test starting February 21.

Sharma had injured his right ankle during a Ranji Trophy game against defending champions Vidarbha nearly a month ago and had been looking doubtful for the Test series in New Zealand, having been advised six weeks’ rest with a grade three tear. He later went to the NCA for rehab and was named in the Test squad subject to clearing his fitness. Sharma will join Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini in the pace attack. Sharma was also the leading wicket-taker the last time India toured New Zealand, in 2013-14, with 15 scalps from two Tests, and the only bowler to claim two five-fors in the series.

Sharma has been the leader of India’s pace attack in Tests in recent years, helping the team strengthen their grip at the top of the ICC rankings, and taking all 360 points in the ongoing World Test Championship. He has been India’s second-highest wicket-taker since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, only behind Shami, with 74 wickets from 19 matches at an average of 20.17 and strike rate of 43.7. He has played 96 Tests so far and could reach three digits in Australia later this year, subject to form and fitness.





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