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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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Zimbabwe series will be Mashrafe Mortaza’s last as captain – BCB president

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BCB president Nazmul Hassan has said the upcoming three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe will be Mashrafe Mortaza‘s last assignment as Bangladesh captain. He said that a new captain will be named “within a month” as Bangladesh plan the road ahead for the 2023 World Cup.

Hassan also said that the board will be “lenient” on the 36-year old Mortaza’s fitness levels in the lead-up to the ODI series against Zimbabwe, which begins with the first match in Sylhet on March 1. However, after the home series against Zimbabwe, Mortaza’s place in the squad will depend upon his form and fitness, according to Hassan.

“We have started to stress on beep tests so Mashrafe may not pass the beep tests, so we can drop him if he doesn’t pass it,” he said. “We also have to keep it in mind that Mashrafe’s leadership was vital in the turnaround in Bangladesh cricket. But, the time has come for him to decide how long he wants to play. I think Mashrafe will play the ODI series against Zimbabwe, pending fitness. We will be lenient about his fitness. But very soon, we have to decide on the team and captain for the next World Cup. We don’t have much time. We will take our decision after this ODI series.”

Hassan said that Mortaza had agreed on a retirement match at home during the 2019 World Cup, but the captain later changed his mind. Earlier in January this year, Mortaza had said that he will keep playing as long as he is enjoying the game, and not retiring just because the BCB president has said that they would throw a big party.

Before Bangladesh travel to Pakistan for a solitary ODI on April 3, the BCB is likely to name the new captain.

“Retirement depends on individual players,” Hassan said. “We know that top players retire on their own will. We also wanted to give him a good send-off. He can play if he wants to, but I am more concerned about the captaincy. Once we declare on the captaincy, he can enter the team on his performance.

“When I spoke to him during the World Cup, we discussed that if we can arrange a home ODI, he will retire. After returning, he changed his mind. And then he also said that he doesn’t want a send-off. He never told me. I saw it in the media. We have taken a month or a month and a half to decide our next ODI captain.”

Hassan was also critical of the Test side, saying he wasn’t hopeful of Bangladesh beating Zimbabwe in the one-off Test. After holding a meeting with the Test side on Wednesday, Hassan addressed the media.

“I have been seeing in the media in the last few days that things will be great after beating Zimbabwe. I don’t see it happening,” he said. “I have no hope. I told them, if you take them lightly, it will be a big disaster. Zimbabwe is where Zimbabwe was. We are not where we were. They have recently performed better than us.

“If someone asks me what was Bangladesh’s worst performance at home, I’d say losing to Afghanistan. It was unacceptable. If we lose to Afghanistan, we can lose to Zimbabwe. We need to have a new mindset. Our seniors must take the major responsibilities, and it has to be a team game.”

Hassan slammed the T20I side for losing 2-0 in Pakistan. He also called the Test captain Mominul Haque as “soft” and “shy”, and someone who would need help from senior pros like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim.

“I told them that it was unacceptable to lose to Pakistan in the T20Is,” he said. “Nobody would say that we played poorly in India, but I told them that I didn’t like their approach and mindset in the Pakistan T20I series. I spoke to them about these things, ones that I had mentioned in the media but I wasn’t finding time to speak to the players. I reinforced that we are almost unbeatable at home, and we must beat at least four or five teams in their home conditions.

“I told them, ‘don’t take Zimbabwe lightly’. We must work in a planned way. Mominul is new, plus he is quite shy. Soft. I told Tamim and Mushfiq must be involved fully to charge up the team.”

In a bizarre twist, Hassan also informed the media that he had ordered the Bangladesh players and management that they would have to inform him of the playing XI, down to the batting line-up, before the game.

“I want to know the game plan on the day before the game, and the playing XI,” he said. “Why? It started from the World Cup and then the Afghanistan series, there is a total change; nothing has happened the way I expected. Those who had never played in the top order were given those roles. It was experimentation. In Pakistan too, what was told to me didn’t happen.

“I have told them that they have to give me the batting sequence and cannot drop a player in one game and then pick him again. I understand that they want to try a few boys. Our coach, who is relatively new, wants to see the fast bowlers. But whatever happens, they have to let me know in advance.”



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USA allrounder Nisarg Patel banned from bowling due to suspect action

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Nisarg Patel, the USA allrounder, has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect after an independent assessment found his action to be illegal.

Patel, a left-arm spinner, was reported after his side’s ODI against Oman on February 11 in Kathmandu. He bowled seven overs in the game, returning figures of 0 for 37.

An assessment was then carried out by an expert panel, as per clause 4.7 of the ICC’s illegal bowling regulations, which concluded that Patel’s bowling action was above the permitted 15-degree level. His suspension will remain in place until he undertakes a review of his action by the ICC’s expert panel, or is cleared by an ICC testing centre.

It is possible that Patel will continue to be picked as a batsman alone. While he averages just 20.28 in ODIs, he made a maiden half-century in the game against Oman earlier in the month from only 32 balls, USA’s fastest ODI fifty.



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Dimuth Karunaratne back as captain, Niroshan Dickwella recalled for West Indies ODIs

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As many as ten players opted out of Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan last year, the last time they played ODI cricket, and Sri Lanka have included many of them in a strong squad led by Dimuth Karunaratne, who was one of the players to withdraw, for the three-ODI series against West Indies starting Saturday.

The 15-man squad also sees the return of Niroshan Dickwella, who last played an ODI in March 2019 before being dropped for the home games against Bangladesh in July. He also chose not to travel to Pakistan, as did Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews, all now back in the squad.

The seam bowling attack for the series comprises of Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara and Isuru Udana, but is without senior bowler Suranga Lakmal, who played in the World Cup last year, but has been omitted from ODIs since. There were no surprises on the spin front: Wanindu Hasaranga, who impressed in Pakistan, and Lakshan Sandakan, are the frontline options. The offspin of De Silva is also there as support. Dasun Shanaka and Mathews are the secondary seam bowling options.

Opener Danushka Gunathilaka, meanwhile, missed out on selection due to injury, with the selectors instead going with Shehan Jayasuriya.

Lahiru Thirimanne had led Sri Lanka in the ODIs in Pakistan, but he was dropped for the upcoming games after scoring 36 and 0 in the two completed games in Karachi, both of which Sri Lanka lost.

Minod Bhanuka, Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Angelo Perera were some of the younger players who made the trip to Pakistan but missed out this time, with the return of the high-profile players.

The three ODIs will be played on February 22 and 26 and March 1 in Colombo, Hambantota and Pallekele respectively, before the teams contest two T20Is.

Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara



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