Steven Smith suggested that he would be willing to miss the early part of the Australian domestic season to take part in the IPL should this year’s T20 World Cup be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and leave room for a delayed edition of the world’s most lucrative domestic T20 event.
Contracted to Rajasthan Royals, where he was named captain for the 2020 tournament, Smith said that while international cricket took priority for him, he could see the sense in travelling to play in the IPL in October and November, should the event be postponed due to the complexities of hosting a global event this year. In a letter to the ICC revealed last week, Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings requested this year’s event be moved to 2021, with that year’s event, scheduled to be hosted by India, moved to 2022.
Returning to training with his New South Wales squad members in Sydney on Monday, Smith said the Australian team would be led by expert and government advice about their own resumption of play, with CA currently mulling over a request from the ECB to tour England in September for a limited-overs series originally slated for July.
“I think when you’re playing for your country at a World Cup, that’s the pinnacle for one-day or T20 cricket, so of course I’d prefer to play in that,” Smith said. “But if that doesn’t happen and the IPL’s there, and they postpone it, then so be it. IPL’s also a terrific tournament as a domestic tournament. So that’s out of everyone’s control at the moment, players are just doing what we’re told and going where we need to go and playing whatever’s on at that stage.
“I guess there’ll be some more news about it soon, probably some decisions to be made soon, so I’m sure we’ll all find out and know where we’re going to be. I personally haven’t really thought about it, I think it’d just be going off the advice of the professionals and the governments and essentially doing what we’re told. If that happens then great, if not then there’s just so much going on in the world right now that cricket kind of seems a little bit irrelevant. So we’ll get back when we’re told to and until then it is sit tight, get fit and strong and freshen up mentally.”
In terms of the shape of cricket when it does resume in a fundamentally changed universe, Smith said that he agreed new regulations restricting the use of saliva to polish the ball would affect the contest between batsmen and bowlers, noting too that his own habit of spitting on his hands for a bit of extra grip in the field virtually every ball would have to change.
“I’ve always been one to want a fair contest between bat and ball, so if that’s taken away, even as a batter I don’t think that’s great,” Smith said. “Whether they can find other ways with certain things, it’ll be hard. I actually spit on my hands most balls and that’s how I get grip and stuff. So that might take some adjusting to certain things like that, but that’s something for the ICC to figure out what they want to do going forward and different regulations. We’ll see how it all lands, everything is up in the air at the moment, but we’ll see where everything goes.”
State squads have returned to training amidst a raft of cost-cutting at CA and at every state association other than Smith’s NSW, and he said that a period of adjustment would be required for players if they found themselves tended to by a reduced gaggle of support staff. Certainly, Smith’s own habit of needing to face hundreds of extra throwdowns in order to find his ideal rhythm before starting a Test series may need to change.
“I think if that’s the case it’ll be about guys being able to help each other out as well, particularly senior players being able to take a bit of time off your own game and help someone else out at training or something like that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, there’s still a fair while probably until we get back out there playing again and plenty of decisions that the hierarchy needs to make and things like that. We’ll just wait and see and play it by ear at the moment.
“They [support staff] all have a role to play, particularly as the game’s evolved and got more professional, we’ve got people in different areas of expertise to help the team prepare and get ready to play. If that happens it’ll take some adjusting and guys might have to throw some balls to one of the other batters or help out the bowlers in certain ways and different things. It’ll take a bit of adjusting, but there’s still a while until we’re back out there and plenty of decisions to be made.”
One of those decisions will be around scheduling for the World Test Championship currently in limbo. Australia were originally scheduled to be playing a series in Bangladesh this month. With a victory over the hosts in that series, they would have been able to vault India and move into top spot on the table ahead of series against India at home and South Africa away prior to the final, originally set down for Lord’s in June 2021.
Smith said that he wanted to see the championship retained, but as the World Cup and IPL dilemma shows, space is growing more limited by the day. “It’d be ideal if we can keep that going,” Smith said. “It’s the first one we’ve had and we’re all working towards hopefully playing at Lord’s in mid-June , we were all working towards that, so it’d be good if we could carry on with that, but I don’t know, everything is sort of up in the air at the moment with everything going on around the world. So we’ll wait and see where everything lands.”
Jason Holder on Jermaine Blackwood: ‘I know when he crosses the line he’ll give it his all’
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.
“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.”
Amy Satterthwaite ‘disappointed’ to lose New Zealand captaincy
Amy Satterthwaite has expressed disappointment at losing the New Zealand captaincy to Sophie Devine on her return from maternity leave. Satterthwaite took a break from cricket last August as she prepared to have her first child with her wife and team-mate Lea Tahuhu. In her absence, Devine led New Zealand at the T20 World Cup in Australia on a temporary basis, before being named permanent captain last week..
“It was obviously disappointing not to retain the captaincy,” Satterthwaite said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to do it last year, It’s always a real a honour to lead your country.”
However, Satterthwaite, who is now vice-captain having led New Zealand in 19 internationals, said that she had turned her attention towards returning to international cricket, and as a senior player, offered her full support to her successor Devine.
“But I’ve got a different focus now in terms of getting back to being able to play cricket at the international level,” Satterthwaite said. “I’m really excited about the challenge that lies ahead. Looking forward as well to supporting Sophie (Devine), and I’ve always, I guess, been in and around the leadership group over the last few years, even when Suzie (Bates) was involved. So I think it doesn’t change in terms of offering that leadership, in that sense.”
With Satterthwaite, Devine, and former captain Bates, New Zealand feel they are in good hands.
“Yeah, absolutely, the three wise women, as we probably call ourselves,” Sattherthwaite said. “We’ve been around for a wee while now, and got a lot of experience. That’s sort of the beauty of the group we’ve got. People that we can lean on. I guess between the three of us, we’ve probably got different strengths that we can offer towards the group from a leadership point of view, that’s always a real asset, I think.”
Satterthwaite added that was she “loving the challenge” of motherhood despite “those sleepless nights”, and was slowly beginning to strike a balance between her new responsibilities and training.
“Loving it [motherhood]. It’s a big challenge, isn’t it?” Satterthwaite said. “But it’s been a lot of fun. Makes it worthwhile, those sleepless nights. That’s what brings a different challenge in trying to train as well. Starting to slowly learn the balance in trying to make that work.”
Satterthwaite returned to training as both the women’s and men’s squads assembled for a four-day camp at New Zealand Cricket’s High Performance Centre in Lincoln for the first time since cricket came to a standstill in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic in March. While admitting that the conditions at this time of the year posed a unique challenge, Satterthwaite said that she was slowly getting back into the groove.
“It’s nice to be back. Good to be back around the girls. The banter’s always good fun,” she said. “To get back to hitting balls, and feeling like I hadn’t left to a certain extent, but it’s always different to be back on grass too, it’s a different challenge.
“Yeah, it’s been going pretty well. I think I sort of took my time to ease back into it, and not rush it too much, and I guess let the body adjust back. Adjustments been going pretty well so far, thankfully. I was a bit nervous, to be honest, to be hitting balls for the first time, but somewhere deep within there was that sort of muscle memory of being able to do it, and thankfully it’s been going alright, and dusting off the cobwebs.”
Satterthwaite conceded that New Zealand had a few back-breaking months ahead of the 50-over world cup at home early next year, but saw it as a massive opportunity for this group of players.
“Doesn’t get much bigger than having a world cup at home, does it? We’re really looking forward to that, and we’ve got a lot of hard work to do between now and then, and hopefully going ahead. But we’re really excited about what that opportunity offers us as a group.”
Gary Stead still feels ‘numb’ over World Cup final
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of last year’s extraordinary World Cup final, New Zealand coach Gary Stead has admitted there remains a “numb” feeling about the result which saw England win on boundary countback.
The match was tied across the initial 50 overs after Ben Stokes could only manage a single off the final delivery having hauled England to the brink of victory with an innings that included six runs when the ball deflected off the back of his bat to the boundary – which subsequently emerged as an umpiring error – taking England from needing 9 off 3 to 3 off 2 balls.
“I do think about it a bit, I think everyone has really different emotions around it,” Stead said. “The thing that stands out for me is that it’s all a bit numb, really, in some ways but enormously proud of the way we played the whole tournament. As a Kiwi and as a supporter of the Blackcaps it was hard to be any more proud of the way they played and fought in that match.
“I think there’s a wee bit of hurt from time to time and I guess any Kiwi fan is probably very much in that same boat. There’s no bitterness at all, we understood the rules going into the match. It’s a hard one because there’s some great emotions that came from that tournament as well, but unfortunately it was just that final hurdle we didn’t cross. It’s something I’m sure will drive the players to keep wanting to get better every day.
“It’s gone pretty quick although a lot has happened in the world since then. We’ve certainly had some unsettling and difficult times. I think back, sometimes it feels like 10 years ago sometimes it feels like one minute ago. It’s certainly a match that evoked a lot of high and pretty good emotions around it if you take away that last ball or two.”
Asked if he had watched the match back, Stead said: “I haven’t watched it ball-by-ball. I know what happened, don’t worry. I don’t know if I will. Things like the Super Over comes on highlights now and again, but there’s only so many times you can watch it because you can’t change the result. The close results like that produce the spectacles you want in international cricket and for that you can thank England and the Blackcaps for the way they played that game.”
Stead was speaking on the opening day of New Zealand’s first winter training camp as the men’s and women’s teams begin preparations for the new season. New Zealand has so far been successful in their battle against Covid-19 and confidence is high that a full home international season will take place with Stead indicating an early-to-mid November start. “By all accounts, what I’m hearing is that looks highly likely,” he said.
Bangladesh, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia are all set to visit for men’s series under the Future Tours Programme although how exactly the season is structured could depend on what series are moved when the postponement of the T20 World Cup is confirmed.
In February and March New Zealand are due to host the Women’s 50-over World Cup and it is the women’s team who are set to be back in action first with a tour to Australia starting in late September.
The New Zealand players based in Wellington and the South Island will have three camps at Lincoln near Christchurch between now and early September while those based in the rest of the North Island will train at Mount Maunganui.
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