There’s no cricket on the horizon, yet, for Pakistan’s players, but lockdown or no lockdown, they’ll have to keep their fitness levels up. That’s the message from the PCB, which will conduct fitness tests for over 200 of its contracted domestic and international players, via video link, on April 20 and 21.
All cricket in Pakistan has been suspended since March 15 due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. Contracted players were due to undergo fitness tests on March 23 and 24, but they were also called off. That assessment will now take place in modified form, with the tests designed keeping in mind the restrictions on players’ movements with all grounds and PCB facilities shut.
ESPNcricinfo understands that these restricted tests have been designed as a means of monitoring how players have been spending their time during the nation-wide lockdown.
Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s coach and chief selector, and the trainer Yasir Malik sent out a message earlier this week reminding players of their fitness obligations.
“To maintain your fitness level you need to be disciplined and keep working hard,” the message reads, in Urdu. “With all the limitations and lack of resources at the moment, we have chalked out this new fitness battery with everyone given an equal opportunity. We have to make sure that we are giving our hundred percent. You have been informed well before time to make sure you are mentally and physically ready for it. All the tests will be carried out on video link by your team’s trainers.”
Pakistan has six provincial teams, each of which has 32 contracted players – 16 each in the first and second XIs. The contracts, signed in August 2019, mandate that players maintain their fitness levels and undergo periodic assessments. During the tests on April 20 and 21, each provincial team’s trainer will assess their respective players, while the national-team trainer will assess the 19 centrally contracted Pakistan players. Each player will have to complete a number of fitness tasks – including timed sets of push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, burpees and Bulgarian squats – as well as have their weight measured.
The message also confirmed that, if the situation allows for it, the next round of fitness assessments, scheduled to be held in the first week of June, will return to its conventional module, which includes gym, skinfold tests, running, and other outdoor assessments.
Pakistan players have often been the subject of criticism over their lack of fitness, but during his time as head coach, Waqar Younis instilled a sense among his players that they need to raise their levels. His successor Mickey Arthur took that idea forward, and Misbah, since taking over the reins in September 2019, has sought to impose strict standards not just among the national-team players but also in domestic cricket, with each provincial side required to monitor its players’ fitness levels on a quarterly basis.
Sri Lanka’s Shehan Madushanka suspended for alleged possession of heroin
Sri Lankan fast bowler Shehan Madushanka has been suspended from all forms of cricket with immediate effect for alleged possession of illegal drugs, SLC announced after he was arrested and later put in remand custody.
Madushanka was allegedly in possession of a little over two grams of heroin when arrested on Saturday, Sri Lanka Police’s media division had confirmed to ESPNcricinfo. According to an SLC statement, the decision to suspend will stand until the board conducts a full inquiry of the matter.
The 25-year-old Madushanka has played one ODI and two T20Is, all between January and February 2018, and has not been in the frame for national selection after that. He has, however, been active as a cricketer and was playing in Sri Lanka’s domestic competitions before the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect.
More to follow…
Queensland opposed to Cricket Australia cuts despite job losses
Queensland’s chairman Chris Simpson has confirmed the state association remains allied with New South Wales and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) in questioning Cricket Australia’s chosen remedy for the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as all three organisations continue to push the governing body for more information.
While Queensland Cricket announced on Monday that it would be cutting 32 staff from its books in anticipation of a 25% funding cut from CA, Simpson said this move was necessary largely because his state was in a far weaker position than NSW, the other dissenter. Queensland’s most recent annual report listed reserves of A$7.6 million among total assets worth A$18.3 million, far less than NSW or Victoria, to name two states, can call upon.
At the same time, Simpson outlined that, as reported by ESPNcricinfo, Queensland’s board was trying to ensure that its agreement would see any reduction in distribution for 2020-21 revised back upwards if the summer produced a more favourable financial result than CA is currently forecasting.
“We have not signed the agreement,” Simpson told News Corp. “We are trying to learn how long their proposed cuts run for. It is a bit ambiguous how they have presented it. We want clarity on the term and we also want to make sure 25% is the ceiling.
“We also want to make sure that should things be better than what they are modelling – and every day we are getting more positive about the prospect of serious cricket content this season – we don’t want to lock into something that is to the detriment of the states.”
Simpson’s words are similar to those conveyed by the NSW chairman John Knox and his chief executive Lee Germon to staff and stakeholders earlier this month. “As a result of the Cricket Australia proposal, some states have already reduced their commitment to community cricket, potentially impacting the long-term future of the game,” they said in an email. “We believe that any decision to reduce the agreed state distributions should be delayed until there is a better understanding of whether international cricket will be played next season.”
The ACA has contacted states and indicated a willingness to preserve community staffing and programs via financial assistance from the “grassroots fund” carved out of MoU cash and overseen by both the ACA and CA. The fund has dished out almost A$4.5 million in funding for equipment and facilities since 2017, and is expected to have about A$3 million available this year. CA is due to give its latest indicative forecast of Australian Cricket Revenue – from which the players’ fixed percentage of revenue is derived – by Friday.
Queensland’s cuts have included a major downsizing of the Brisbane Heat’s operation and the exit of the long-serving selector, coach and manager Justin Sternes. They have also seen community cricket programs significantly affected, but Simpson said the state had been left with little option.
“We have been told for a long time how big a deal the Indian tour is, so to hear that optimism brings the depth of the cuts into focus,” Simpson said. “Eighty percent of our funding comes from one source [CA] and they have said they potentially have solvency issues, so it is our duty to act on that information. We disagree with a lot of the information provided but we still had to act. NSW have a very big book and they can ride it out. We can’t.”
The Australia and NSW fast bowler Mitchell Starc, meanwhile, has given his strong support to the state’s own decision to push back against CA. “In terms of NSW they’ve been pretty strong in holding their position and I think from the little updates I’ve read from NSW, it’s a big part of their plan – to be part of growing the game in the state,” he said
“That’s obviously where we have all come from, as international and elite cricketers, we’ve come from the junior clubs to grade clubs all the way to international cricket. Full credit to the NSW board in trying to, at this stage, hang onto all of their staff and their grass roots at the moment.
“Cricket hasn’t lost any games yet in this country, obviously the Bangladesh [tour] has been postponed but there hasn’t been any cricket lost yet. So it’s going to be an interesting few weeks with state contracting then us all returning to training – I guess we’re going to see what staff we’ve got.”
Rahul Dravid says bio-secure bubbles not a foolproof route to resuming cricket
Rahul Dravid believes sport across the globe will need a controlled lifting of restrictions if it is to thrive again, and playing in a bio-secure bubble will not always be a viable solution even as governing bodies grapple with the prospect of resuming behind closed doors in the Covid-19 era.
“A lot of these things are going to be dictated by the situation and how it evolves,” Dravid said on a webinar organised by YUVA, a non-profit organisation for underprivileged sportspersons in India. “In case of the bio-bubble, you do all the testing and quarantine and then on day two of the Test match, what if one player, for example, tests positive? What happens then?
“The rules, as they stand now, will see the Public Health Department coming in and putting everyone in quarantine, that ends the Test, that series, even though they may have incurred a lot of expense to create that [secure] environment.
“So we have to work with the health authorities and governments to work out ways in which, if someone tests positive, you don’t cancel the full tournament. If we are talking of the environment of sport, given the rules that exist now, it will be difficult for sport to resume.”
Dravid also felt quarantining players for a set period before and after the event in a crowded cricket calendar may not be entirely practical. He was responding to a question on the possibility of West Indies playing in England in a “bio-secure” environment, with lengthy preparation times.
As things stand, West Indies are prepared to travel to England a month in advance to acclimatise and complete their quarantine before playing a three-Test series. England players, as per reports, may need to be away from their families for up to nine weeks, until the end of the three-Test series against Pakistan in August.
“With the kind of calendar that we have, the kind of travelling involved for the players, it’s virtually going to be impossible to do that.”
Rahul Dravid on long quarantine periods
“A lot of these rules will have to keep changing. It is a bit unrealistic to have things at the level the ECB is talking about for every series [14-day quarantine period before and after every series],” Dravid said. “Obviously, the ECB is very keen to conduct these couple of series because they have had no other cricket and it is right in the middle of the season, and they’re keen to do this so they are potentially creating the bubble and managing it that way.
“It’s going to be unrealistic for everyone to be able to do that all the time. With the kind of calendar that we have, the kind of travelling involved for the players, it’s virtually going to be impossible to do that. We’re hoping things will evolve and we will find a better way.”
Football leagues in Germany and Korea have resumed behind closed doors. There have been talks within the BCCI of the IPL adopting a similar route, too. Dravid felt such a possibility could only benefit richer boards or leagues.
“The Bundesliga, Korean League or specific leagues where players live and train in one city, that can be managed at an elite level where there is money and infrastructure isn’t a problem,” Dravid explained. “As you go down where sports don’t have the kind of money some of these football leagues or other leagues have, it’s going to be difficult to do that. You have to find a balance to this situation. If we want to stick by the rules we’re talking about now, it’s unrealistic to start sport. There has to be easing of certain restrictions, even when people test positive, for sport to fully resume.
Dravid also underlined how crowds were integral to the sporting experience and equated elite sportspeople to “performers” who thrived on the big stage. While he didn’t think player performance would be directly affected by playing behind closed doors, he said athletes wouldn’t have the “stage to perform”.
“Elite sportspeople will adjust at a professional level,” he said. “They will find a way to not let it affect performances to a large extent. They all take pride in their performances, so they will find a way to deal with it. I don’t think there will be a dip in performance because of this but, as a whole, the experience won’t be the same.
“Players are like performers, they like to play in front of big crowds. They’re used to engaging with the fans. That adds an incredible complexity to the game. The interactions between fans and players will be missed, like the experience of playing in front of a packed house in Kolkata or anywhere in the world. As players, you want to perform. There’s a sense of wanting to perform as an artiste or actor or performer, and the players would miss that.”
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