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Queensland opposed to Cricket Australia cuts despite job losses

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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.

ALSO READ: Players’ association casts doubt on Cricket Australia’s financial warnings

“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.”



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Tony Irish ends interrupted tenure as PCA chief executive

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Tony Irish, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, has stepped down from his role with immediate effect, and will return to South Africa for personal reasons.

Irish, who is also executive chair of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), started his role at the PCA at the beginning of the year, but has struggled to settle with his family in England.

In his absence, Daryl Mitchell, the organisation’s unpaid chairman, has been left to shoulder a significant burden as the game attempts to navigate its way through the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Irish did return to his role briefly in June, initially on a shortened working week, but has since informed the PCA Board that the new arrangement is untenable.

“It’s an honour to have served as Chief Executive of the PCA but it’s also been a very challenging time for me and my daughters in England,” said Irish. “I have made a decision based on what’s best for us as a family.”

Rob Lynch, the PCA’s commercial director, has been appointed Interim CEO, having joined the organisation in February after a stint as chief operating officer at Middlesex.

“I wish Tony and his daughters the very best on their return to South Africa,” said Mitchell. “Tony has had a big influence on the management team, especially in these very testing times.

“Having worked in our Oval office during the winter and an increased day-to-day involvement over the past few months, I have full faith in our excellent and dedicated team, led by Rob Lynch to continue championing the ongoing interests of professional cricketers in England and Wales.”

Irish’s predecessor as PCA chief executive, David Leatherdale, was also obliged to take several months away from work due to a stress-related illness in 2018. As a result, Mitchell was left at the helm as the PCA negotiated pivotal issues regarding the Hundred and the new County Partnership Agreement.

Recognising the huge workload taken on by Mitchell, the PCA recently announced the appointment of two new vice-chairs, Heather Knight and James Harris.

Julian Metherell, the PCA non-executive chairman, added: “It is a great disappointment Tony has had to leave the PCA and I want to thank him for all of his hard work during incredibly challenging times.

“Tony led the PCA expertly through the initial stages of the Coronavirus crisis which has caused many unforeseen challenges. I am pleased he can now fully prioritise his family, he departs with our understanding and we all wish him well for the future.”



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Joe Denly facing final curtain as England prepare to bounce back again

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Joe Denly looks set to pay the price for England’s four-wicket defeat in the first Test against West Indies, but Jos Buttler can expect to be given “the best chance to succeed” despite his own flat-lining Test form, as the head coach Chris Silverwood prepares to lift his squad ahead of Thursday’s second match at Emirates Old Trafford.

With England’s captain Joe Root set to slot back into the side at No. 4 following the birth of his second child, the obvious fall-guy is Denly, 34, who once again failed to capitalise on a pair of solid starts with scores of 18 and 29 at the Ageas Bowl.

After 15 Tests in a row dating back to England’s tour of the Caribbean in early 2019, those latest innings epitomise a flatlining career in which Denly’s average has now slipped back below 30. Moreover they contrast increasingly starkly with the efforts of Denly’s Kent team-mate Zak Crawley – 12 years his junior – whose second-innings 76 at the Ageas Bowl completed the fifth consecutive match in which he has posted a Test-best score.

“That’s what we are looking for,” Silverwood said. “If we can create an environment where these guys can learn and continually improve then we will end up with some very good cricketers on our hands.

“Zak is improving constantly. He certainly showed maturity and the innings he played was very good. We have some young players in that side that seem to have good heads on their shoulders, and he’s one of them. We’d have all loved to have seen him go on and get up to three figures but what we did was very good and helped us get into the position that we did.”

After debuting at No. 6 in New Zealand and playing as an opener in South Africa, Crawley’s selection at No. 4 was a sign that he had been the likelier player to make way for Root’s return in that position in Manchester.

However, when pressed on Denly’s continued presence in the side, Silverwood struggled to give his player much solace, and confirmed that his place would come under discussion when he and Root sit down with Ed Smith, the national selector, this afternoon to finalise England’s squad for the second Test.

“We’re all desperate to see Joe do really well,” he said. “We can see he’s trying hard, he’s training hard. He’s a great bloke hence why we all went to see him do well, but obviously he’s under pressure a little bit, yeah.”

POLITE ENQUIRIES: Does Ed Smith wear Jos Buttler pyjamas

Another player who might expect to feel the pinch is Buttler, England’s vice-captain in Root’s absence, whose scores of 35 and 9 at the Ageas Bowl continued a fallow run of form in which he has scored a solitary half-century in his last 21 Test innings, going back to the tour of the Caribbean.

With Ben Foakes now confirmed as the Test squad’s wicketkeeping understudy following Jonny Bairstow’s selection in the white-ball squad to face Ireland at the end of the month, Buttler would appear to be running out of opportunities to translate his world-beating one-day form into the Test arena, where he averages 31.46 with one hundred in 42 appearances.

Silverwood, however, indicated that the selectors’ patience had not yet run out, and despite the hugely worthy claims of Foakes – who made a hundred on his debut in Sri Lanka and averages 41.50 in five Tests – he backed England’s incumbent to live up to his indisputable talent.

“I’m not going to go down that road yet of putting Jos under pressure, because I don’t think it’s going to help him,” he said. “So, first and foremost, we want to give Jos the best opportunity to succeed. But you’re right, we have got a very, very good gloveman in Ben Foakes out there, which we’re lucky to have.

“[Jos] looked brilliant coming into this game, in practice and everything. He looked very good in the first innings. He just needs to go and make those big scores now, doesn’t he? Which he knows as well.

“From our point of view it’s just making sure that he feels confident in the environment he’s in. We’ll give him the best chance to succeed really. The rest of it is, he has a good day out, gets some runs, hopefully the rest will be history – he’ll go on from there.”

England are at least in familiar territory going into the second Test, having lost the opening match of a series for the eighth time in ten campaigns, dating back to the Ashes tour in 2017-18. Most recently in South Africa they bounced back from a heavy defeat in the first Test at Centurion to win the series 3-1, and Silverwood was hopeful that the same spirit would come to the fore now.

“It is something that’s been spoken about, and it’s something that we keep managing to do,” he said. “We have to address and it look at how we get out of the blocks a little bit quicker.

“We had a good chat in the dressing room afterwards – as you always do, you sit down and you look at areas where you missed opportunities here, you’ve built well there.

“I tend to try and find the positives in everything. And South Africa was used as an example of how well we can bounce back. But what I don’t know want to do is take any credit away from the West Indies because I thought they played very, very well.”

Another key issue for England will be the management of their bowling resources, with Stuart Broad champing at the bit to get involved after being controversially omitted from the opening Test, a decision that ended his run of 51 consecutive home appearances.

Broad voiced his displeasure at that decision in a mid-Test interview, but Silverwood echoed Ben Stokes’ post-match sentiments and welcomed his determination to continue fighting for his place.

“I think Stuart handled himself very well during that interview, to be honest,” Silverwood said. “What I did love about it, and subsequently the conversations I’ve had with him, is that passion. That drive is still there and to see that in someone who’s done as much in the game as he has, I find very exciting to be honest. And Stuart still has a big role to play within this team. I’ve made that very clear to him.”

With six Tests to be played in the space of seven weeks, attrition among England’s fast-bowling ranks is inevitable, but Silverwood was optimistic of a clean bill of health in the build-up to Old Trafford.

“We have one or two stiff bodies this morning as you can imagine,” he said. “I’ve been to see the guys already. But they all seem to have come through well. We will know more after training tomorrow. We will put them through their paces and see where we are at. Nothing is a given in this team as we’ve seen and people will be playing for their spots. Everything will be considered.”



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Jason Holder on Jermaine Blackwood: ‘I know when he crosses the line he’ll give it his all’

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Jermaine Blackwood played the innings of the match to set up West Indies’ win in the first Test against England, but he might not have been in the side had Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer not opted out of the tour.

West Indies captain Jason Holder admitted he was “not sure” if Blackwood would have been picked, with the Jamaican having not started a Test since 2017. But he said the batsman, whose 95 took West Indies most of the way towards their 200-run target at the Ageas Bowl, was the “kind of guy you want to step on to a field with”, and praised his team-oriented approach.

Blackwood has an excellent record against England, averaging 55.00 from seven Tests, and was selected for the touring party after leading the way in West Indies’ domestic first-class competition. However, his path to a recall was smoothed by the absence of Bravo and Hetmyer, who joined Keemo Paul in declining to travel to the UK over concerns about Covid-19.

ALSO READ: Gollapudi: Blackwood writes history in his own way

“Not sure, he had an outstanding first-class competition,” Holder said of Blackwood’s case to play. “I’m not going to get into selection but his case was pretty strong to get back into the team, he scored a double-hundred this year in a first-class game. Unfortunately for me I haven’t been able to see him bat but his numbers speak for themselves. He’s no slouch with the bat at this level either in comparison to our players that we’ve got, he’s averaging above 30 and he’s done well for us. I just hope he can kick on and make a few more hundreds.”

Five more runs would have given Blackwood only his second Test century (his first came against England in 2015), but he said after the game that personal milestones were a secondary concern and he was just aiming to implement a plan to spend more time at the crease than previously.

“I wasn’t thinking about the hundred at no point in time, I was just looking to get the score going and to get the team across the line,” he told Sky Sports.

“Once I can go out there and I bat time, bat over 200 balls an innings, even 180, for sure I think I will score runs. I think all the hard work is paying off so far, so once I can go out there and just be my natural self and then just mix it with a bit of patience. I think that will certainly boost me for the next game and right through my career.”

Asked about Blackwood’s desire to put the team first, Holder said he was the sort of player who wants to “carry everybody on his shoulders”.

“Jermaine Blackwood, man. If I had 12 Jermaine Blackwoods, those are the kind of guys you want to step on to a cricket field with. These are team guys, through thick and thin. I’ve played lots of cricket with and lots of cricket against [him], we played all our youth cricket together and played a youth World Cup together, so I know the player.

“That’s why when things happen like how they did in the first innings, yeah you’re disappointed, but you can’t put a player like that into his shell. So it’s more about trying to manage him and help him try to understand the different passages of play, where he can be a little bit more collective, where he needs to settle and hang in for a bit before going on the attack again. He is an attacking player, but it’s giving him that confidence and support.

“He’s a humble team man, I know when he crosses the line he’ll give it his all. I’m not surprised by the comment he made because he is a team man. Sometimes he feels as though he can carry everybody on his shoulders. He’s that confident of a player.”

Blackwood eventually fell driving to mid-off, in much the same manner as he had done in the first innings, when he managed just 12 off 22 balls. Holder was reluctant to curb the attacking style of his No. 6, but urged him to “give yourself a good chance” second time around.

“After his first-innings dismissal I said nothing to it. He knew what he had done. And he knew that he’s a better player than what he did in the first innings, so there was no need to talk to him. I thought he was a very crucial guy for us in this run chase. Him and probably John Campbell – these guys when they get going score relatively quickly, and can really swing the tide for us, when they form partnerships, but obviously we lost John [retired hurt] up front.

“I just said to Jermaine, give yourself a chance. Give yourself a good chance – see a few balls and then play your game. If you see a ball in your arc and you feel you can put the ball away, put it away, because that’s the way he plays. I don’t like to get into players’ heads and congesting their brains with too much information. They’re all responsible enough, they all know themselves well enough. We’re all just here to help one another. Lots of these guys in the dressing room help me in significant ways.

“I don’t need to speak to Jermaine seeing how he got out in the first innings. He knew what he had done wrong – for him it’s just to go and give himself a chance and play the game he knows.”



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