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Young India players have ‘very less guys to look up to’ – Yuvraj Singh

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Yuvraj Singh believes the big difference between players of his generation and the ones today is how they dealt with seniors in the team, specifically in the “sense of respect towards seniors” and appreciating their work.

“The youngsters say anything to anyone now,” Singh told Rohit Sharma during an Instagram chat hosted by the latter on Tuesday.

According to Singh, the other key difference between the two generations is that the current India team has a very small group of seniors – captain Virat Kohli and Sharma in the main – so the youngsters “have very less guys to look up to”.

Singh opened up on the subject after Sharma asked him for an appraisal of the current Indian team, not as a player but as someone watching from the outside. “Can you tell us what you find that we are doing good, what we are doing bad, where we can improve as a team,” Sharma asked.

Singh, who retired last June, was blunt in his assessment: “See, I will tell you the difference what I felt in this generation and our generation. I felt that our seniors were very disciplined. Obviously, at the time there was no social media, so there were very few distractions. There was a certain behaviour that we boys had to carry watching our seniors – how they play, how they work hard, and how they actually talk to people, how they talk to the media. Because they were great ambassadors of India.

“So I learned a lot that way. And that’s what we tried to do and that is what we told you guys that if you have to play for next ten years, after playing for India you have to be more careful about your image.

“[It’s the] starting of their [young players’] careers, they are not even playing for India and they are getting such big contracts. So they don’t know how to handle the money so they’re easily distracted.”

Yuvraj Singh

“But I feel in this generation, I feel the seniors that are there are only you and Virat Kohli are there, who are playing three formats. I just feel there are very less guys to look up to. And I feel that the sense of respect towards seniors to say something or that respect of how these players have become great, like it has become a thin line now, ki hum kisi ko kuch bhi bol dete hain ab (the youngsters say anything to anyone now).”

As a consequence, Singh said, incidents like the one that led to Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul being suspended in 2018 took place, because there were not enough seniors to guide the younger players. “Because of social media and party scenes and the incident that happened with KL and Hardik, these kind of things during our time we could not even imagine of such things happening during our time because we respected the seniors a lot. We knew that if we did some mistake our seniors would tell us ‘yaar, don’t do these things, this is not nice’. I feel the atmosphere is not the same. The boys (juniors) do what they want to now.”

Singh, however, didn’t want to blame the youngsters entirely, saying that they did not know how to “handle” the fame and money that came on the back of big IPL contracts. During his time, seniors like Sachin Tendulkar were in his ear, to caution him at the right time, something that might not be case right now.

“Even after a little bit of success, it’s not their fault also because at a young age you get distracted (and) because IPL contracts are so big,” Singh said. “[It’s the] starting of their careers, they are not even playing for India they are getting such big contracts. So they don’t know how to handle the money so they’re easily distracted.”

“So you need seniors, you need coaches, you guys (seniors) have to talk to the youngsters and explain to them what is important to them – playing for the country and working hard on the field and then all these things follow. Tendulkar always told me that, ‘if you perform on the field, everything will follow’.

‘They don’t want to play Test cricket’

Singh suggested that some of the younger lot were too keen on the limited-overs formats, and not interested in long-form cricket at all. “I was at the National Cricket Academy (in Bengaluru) recently. I was observing (some) boys there don’t want to play Test cricket,” Singh said. “They don’t want to play four-day cricket for their own state. They are happy playing one-day cricket because of IPL.

“Except you guys, I don’t think the second generation really wants to play Test cricket. And Test cricket is the real test of a cricketer. So I want the next generation to tell them these things.”

Sharma agreed with Singh, recollecting his early years with the Indian team when barring a few youngsters like Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla, the dressing room was full of seniors. He did, however, point out that he was doing his bit to help the newbies, and presented a recent example of putting an arm around young Rishabh Pant‘s shoulders after the youngster came under intense scrutiny for his performances in front of and behind the stumps since the 2019 World Cup.

“I keep trying to talk to the guys as much as I can. I talk a lot to Rishabh Pant,” Sharma said. “He came under a lot of scrutiny recently. He’s just 20 and he became really worried. Apart from Pant, there are five-six people I regularly talk to about these things. This (criticism) will be there as long as you’re playing, it’s not going to go anywhere.”

‘Every innings should be the like the last of your career’

The two players also spoke about how they developed the mindset to dominate opposition for longer periods of time, to convert their starts into big scores and play in the zone where they stood out for their excellence. Sharma wanted to know from Singh, the Player of the Tournament at the 2011 World Cup, how he developed that mindset.

“To come into that zone, you need to go through a lot of experience in games. You need that experience,” Singh said. “Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, [Shreyas] Iyer and whoever comes as soon as they come we expect them to play like we did, because we have learnt early. That won’t happen. It has to be over time when they play certain amount of games. Then they fail, they play domestic cricket and they come back and they play a number of games and with that experience when they have a few knocks like that they get into that zone where they know how to make a big score. Like you and Virat probably know how to convert 60s into hundreds. It will not happen with a lot of younger guys because they don’t have that experience.

“Whenever they are not playing international cricket they should be playing domestic cricket or they should be playing any form of cricket where they keep on getting experience of playing a lot of games getting into different kind of situations on different wickets.”

Singh called Sharma a good example for the youngsters to follow: “When you were playing in the middle-order, you had some exceptional innings of 70, 80, 90 not out, 65 not out. People were saying, ‘wah, Rohit was very good’. But after now that you are opening you have made 200 not out, 260, 200 and 150… so you have taken your game to the next level. That has happened after you playing seven-eight years of international cricket.”

Although he agreed with Singh, Sharma stressed that he didn’t want the young players to “lose those seven-eight years, and, which is why I keep talking to them and make them understand that you should start learning these things now itself. I make them understand to try and make sure that every innings you play should be the like the last one of your career.”



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Sri Lanka cricketer arrested for possession of heroin, remanded for fourteen days

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A Sri Lanka cricketer has been arrested for the possession of heroin and remanded for 14 days by a local magistrate in Pannala, northeast of the city of Negombo.

The cricketer has not appeared for Sri Lanka in the last two years and has not been in the frame for selection recently. He is, however, an active cricketer and was playing in Sri Lanka’s domestic competitions before the Covid-19 curfews came into effect.

The player had been in possession of a little over two grams of heroin when arrested on Saturday, Sri Lanka Police’s media division confirmed to ESPNcricinfo. He was then produced before a magistrate on Sunday, and is currently in remand, awaiting a High Court appearance. He is not understood to be among the players required to begin training in June with the national squad.

Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Ashley de Silva said the board had been made aware of the arrest on Monday morning, but had not made any decisions on the player’s future. The board is expected to discuss the issue at their next meeting, on Wednesday.



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Shannon Gabriel: ‘I’m just taking my body back into it easy’

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Even as Cricket West Indies continues to figure out whether the three-Test series in England – in a bio-secure environment – can take place or not, few people are more eager for a bit of on-field action than Shannon Gabriel. The 32-year-old quick underwent a surgery on his right knee in November last year, and has just completed a six-month rehabilitation programme, and is now hoping to get on that flight to England.

“It’s a good feeling always to represent West Indies. It’s good to be back out on the park,” he told i955FM. “The plan is right now to try to make it to the tour to England – hopefully that comes off. I’m just trying my best to stay positive and I hope everything goes well.

“It has been a long journey since November when I did the surgery on my ankle. Everything is going well, it has been a long process in terms of getting back to running and bowling and stuff like that.”

Gabriel’s last international appearance was in September 2019, against India, in a two-Test series in which he picked up just four wickets at an average of 56.90. Then his short county stint with Gloucestershire was unimpressive too, as he picked up two wickets in three innings. This was around the time the right knee started troubling him.

Now, having eased himself back in slowly, Gabriel hopes to be fully ready by July, when the tour is slated to happen. As things stand, the West Indies players are scheduled to leave the Caribbean in the first week of June for a preparatory camp.

“I am trying my best to be as fit as possible so I’m really working hard in terms of my fitness and managing my weight, trying not to get too heavy to put too much strain on my ankle,” Gabriel said of his fitness sessions. “So I know once I put in the hard work everything will be ok in the end. I just want to stay positive.

“There has been no high-intensity work, I’m just taking my body back into it easy, taking it one day at a time and not trying to push too hard but it’s still long while before the first Test in England and by that time I’m sure I’ll be fit and ready.”

The process of becoming match ready has also involved reworking his action and run-up to ease pressure on his ankles. “My run-up has probably just tweaked a bit, in terms of my running technique and stuff like that, but I don’t think there are many changes,” he explained. “Obviously that ankle was getting most of the pressure and obviously I don’t want that type of injury to happen again, so I’m trying my best to stay fit so I can stay on the park [longer].”

With the ICC having introduced guidelines with regards to shining the ball and several other physical-distancing measures, Gabriel also expects things to be “mentally taxing” when they return to cricket in the post-Covid-19 era.

“It’s going to take a lot. It’s going to be mentally taxing on the brain but you have to stay positive. Keep your mind fresh,” he said. “I know they [England] are going to be coming at us all guns [blazing] at us, but I know the guys

“Plus plenty of the guys haven’t been playing any cricket, so it is going to take us a while to get back there. On the positive side, you’re still getting the opportunity to play cricket and represent your country so that in itself should be enough motivation.”



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Sophie Ecclestone: ‘I want to be one of the best that’s ever played women’s cricket’

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She may be the youngest woman to take 50 T20I wickets, but Sophie Ecclestone holds loftier ambitions.

Having just celebrated her 21st birthday – in socially distant fashion, of course – left-arm spinner Ecclestone has enjoyed spending time since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown working on a different aspect of her game, which she hopes will help her achieve her goals.

Largely confined to a general fitness regime as opposed to batting and bowling, however, she does look forward to the time when England Women can return to cricket training, as their male counterparts began to do last week, and playing for her country again.

ALSO READ: England Women could return to training within weeks

Ecclestone jumped to the top of the ICC’s T20 bowling ranks with her eight wickets at the World Cup earlier this year in Australia, where her average of 6.12 and economy rate of 3.23 were particularly eye catching. In taking 3 for 7 off 3.1 overs during England’s final group game against West Indies, she claimed her 50th international wicket in the format.

“I didn’t really realise until one of the girls told me before the game,” Ecclestone told ESPNcricinfo. “It was a big achievement for me … the batters will go after you in T20 cricket and I think if you can get them out and win the battle then you’ve done really well as a spinner.”

Ecclestone showed just how much she thrives on the battle with a nerveless display in bowling the Super Over as England defeated Australia in a T20 match in Canberra in February, in the lead-up to the World Cup, restricting Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner to just eight runs before Heather Knight and Danni Wyatt took their side over the line with the bat.

Last year, Ecclestone became the first player to retain the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Women’s Player of the Summer award, having topped England’s wicket-taking charts in both the white-ball series against West Indies, and in the Ashes. In 2018, she won the award after taking 20 wickets across six ODI and five T20 appearances for England.

Asked to name her greatest ambition in cricket, having achieved so much since making her international debut at the age of just 17 in a T20 against Pakistan in Bristol, Ecclestone’s response makes it sound easy.

“Just to become one of the best players that’s ever played women’s cricket really, and be one of the best spinners and be remembered by that,” she said.

Keeping fit during lockdown has been helped by the energy required to look after her new 10-month-old puppy, Rex. But Ecclestone has also been in contact with Lisa Keightley, the England Women’s head coach, conducting reviews and setting goals, which include the aim of improving her batting.

With England Women still hopeful of hosting India, who postponed their June-July tour when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and South Africa, who remain scheduled to visit in September, Ecclestone and her team-mates will be looking to test themselves ahead of their planned ODI World Cup defence, due to start in New Zealand in February.

As a tailender, Ecclestone averages 9.60 with the bat in T20Is with a strike rate of 104.34 and has an ODI average of 6.90 with a strike rate of 64.95. While spin has been her first love since bowling in an under-11s game, she saw no reason why, at her age, she couldn’t develop into more of an allrounder or, at the very least, force her way up the order a little.

“It would be really nice to know that I can bat as well as bowl and give seomething else to the team, not just my bowling,” “Ecclestone said.

“I definitely feel the England team are going in the right direction. As the years go by everyone’s getting fitter and stronger and everyone’s trying to improve different aspects of their game, so hopefully we can go to the World Cup in New Zealand and win it again. I hope we can get some international cricket in at the end of the summer.”



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