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Covid-19 restrictions might make David Warner ‘rethink’ international future

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David Warner believes that restrictive biosecurity bubbles of the kind Australia are expected to encounter while touring England in September may be a factor for players with families, who might choose to retire rather than face long stints away from their partners and children.

Speaking about the realities in the time of Covid-19 – ahead of the England tour, followed by the IPL in the UAE, and then the home summer – Warner said that time with his family of wife Candice and their three daughters would appear less likely in an environment where teams need to be quarantined in order to fulfil international fixtures. The demands of that scenario will figure highly in Warner’s thinking when he considers when to pare back or finish his days as an international cricketer, having flagged last summer that he was considering, at the age of 33, whether to retire from one or more international formats in order to prolong his overall playing time.

“Obviously three daughters and my wife, who I owe a lot to, has been a big part of my playing career,” he said. “You’ve always got to look out for your family first, and with cricket and these unprecedented times, you’ve got to weigh up these decisions. Look, at the moment, I’ll keep continuing to aim for that. Obviously the T20 [World Cup] is not here at home, which would have been ideal to play that and win that here. Now that gets pushed back. I will have to have a rethink about that when it comes to India.

“I’ll see where I am and where the girls are at with school as well. A lot of that is a big part of my decision. It’s not just when the games are being played and how much cricket’s being played. It’s a big family decision for myself. There are times when you go away and miss your family a lot and at the moment with all these biosecurity measures that are in place, we’re going to not be able to have the luxury of our families coming away with us now and it could be for the foreseeable future.

“We’re obviously unsure and unclear given states are in lockdown or not letting people from other states go interstate. We have to sit back and wait for the government and states to see what the regulations are behind that. All we can do really is train with our states and prepare as well as we can on the wickets provided to get ready for the season”

“As the prime minister [Scott Morrison] said, we might not be able to go overseas or visitors won’t be able to come into Australia. They are things that we need to play by ear and if and when I do make that decision, it’ll be predominantly a family decision.”

Victoria’s current outbreak has left the state in a precarious position relative to the rest of the country, leaving Warner to conclude that Australia may need to get their heads around not playing in Melbourne around the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays for the first time in living memory.

“Yeah, we have to look at it like that. I’m sitting here and you guys are too today looking at how many cases are happening in Victoria at the moment,” he said. “Even the guys trying to get out of Victoria, it’s very, very challenging as well. It’s going to be challenging for everyone. I think we spoke about state cricket. That’s the perfect example. How is Victoria going to be able to start (Sheffield) Shield cricket down there. At the moment, it seems like it’ll be impossible.

“But I think they’ll have to put things in place to play it somewhere else. Even if we do play down there, then coming out of Victoria you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days into other states. There are so many elements to it that it’s out of our control and hands at the moment. Whatever happens, if you put something in place now, it’s going to change tomorrow. It’s very, very difficult to process. We’ll have to see and adapt. And you might see the first Boxing Day Test not in Melbourne.”

Looking at the likelihood of travelling to England, then to the UAE for a relocated IPL, then home for scheduled Tests against Afghanistan and India, Warner agreed that a surfeit of white-ball matches would not be an ideal lead-in when lined up against the two or three Shield fixtures that Australia’s cricketers have become accustomed to playing before the start of a home international season.

“Usually you have a couple of Shield games leading into a Test series, especially at home,” he said. “So I think the unique thing about it is the Indian team and ourselves are going to be in the same boat really. We’re going to have a lack of red-ball cricket preparation and end of the day we have to make the most of that time training in the lead up to the Test series.

“We’ve played enough high-level cricket to adapt to red ball. But there are obviously guys back in Australia who won’t be playing in the one-day series or the IPL, who have to try and get ready to prepare. Hopefully there are a couple of games they can play interstate against each other, if something is put in place. We’re obviously unsure and unclear given states are in lockdown or not letting people from other states go interstate.

“We have to sit back and wait for the government and states to see what the regulations are behind that. All we can do really is train with our states and prepare as well as we can on the wickets provided to get ready for the season.”

In a way, the challenges will be a more concentrated version of the kind of dilemmas Australia’s cricketers and selectors have faced most years since the dawn of the Big Bash League, and even before that with the T20 Champions League, which forced players to juggle formats at a formative time of the season.

“I feel that – obviously there is going to be a squad of 15 picked for example, and if there’s no Shield cricket being played up until Christmas, it doesn’t give anyone else an opportunity to be picked,” Warner said. “Like if there’s an injury there is nobody coming up from red-ball cricket. So there are these situations that we’re going to have to play by ear and try to get guys to be prepared in case something happens.

“There’s three Tests leading into Christmas and coming off three or four Shield games played beforehand as well. So there’s going to be a lack of red-ball cricket obviously – it’s going to be challenging. If someone goes down, we’ll have to bring a person in with a lack of red-ball preparation. That’s foreign to all of us. It doesn’t really happen – and we’re just going to have to adapt to that.”



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Simon Taufel, Sachin Tendulkar, and a pair of lbw decisions

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Simon Taufel won the ICC Umpire of the Year award for five years straight – from 2004 to 2008 – but to some India fans, he’ll always remain the umpire who denied Sachin Tendulkar a hundred during the 2007 Trent Bridge Test. Taufel has spoken in detail about that decision on an episode of the 22 Yarns podcast hosted by Gaurav Kapoor, and revealed how a frank chat with Tendulkar the next day helped them forge a relationship based on “mutual respect for each other and our abilities”.

Tendulkar was batting on 91 when he shouldered arms to a nip-baker from Paul Collingwood, and Taufel gave him out. Ball-tracking, however, suggested the ball would have gone on to miss the stumps.

“Well, I’m thinking, shouldered arms, so benefit of the doubt probably to the bowler, and I’ve given Sachin out after a bit of thought,” Taufel said. “Now, of course, Sachin’s not happy with the decision. It’s unusual for him to stand around, and he did stand there for a little bit of time, and then he went. I could see that he wasn’t happy.

“[…] Later on Hawkeye showed that the ball was predicted to miss the off stump by maybe an inch. And I just knew what the response was going to be like from world cricket; so I didn’t open Cricinfo, I didn’t read any newspapers, I knew that I was going to be – not the flavour of the month in the media.

“The following morning I happened to pass by Sachin on my normal morning walk out to the middle […] and I come across Sachin and I said, ‘look, yesterday I got it wrong, you know? I’ve looked at it, I got it wrong.’ He said, ‘look, Simon, I know.’ He said, ‘you’re a good umpire, you don’t often get many wrong, it’s okay, don’t worry about it.’

“And out of that sort of exchange, which wasn’t an apology for the sake of making him feel better or me feel better, it was just an acknowledgment that we were both out there doing our best. This is sport, and I wanted to acknowledge that I knew the fact that he was unhappy, and I was doing my best to make sure that that didn’t happen again. That was really the underlying message.

“[…] I’m a big believer that breakdowns lead to breakthroughs, and I think that was an example where Sachin and I had a moment that wasn’t particularly pleasant, and I wanted him to know that I took my job seriously and I was going to make sure that that didn’t happen again. And I think out of that exchange, that relationship bank account got a massive credit, because I think that breakdown moment did lead to a breakthrough.

“We have an ongoing mutual respect for each other and our abilities, because I’ve got Sachin wrong a number of times, not just on that one occasion. I’ve got the best in the world wrong. And I’ve learned from all those examples, but one thing that will always be with me, apart from those mistakes, is the respect and the trust and the integrity of our relationships as we go forward.”

ALSO READ: Steve Bucknor: My ‘mistake’ in 2008 Sydney Test ‘might have cost India the game’

Speaking of other occasions where he got decisions wrong, Taufel brought up one where Tendulkar was the beneficiary, during the 2005 Delhi Test against Sri Lanka, where he made his 35th Test century to go past Sunil Gavaskar’s then Test-record tally of hundreds.

ESPNcricinfo’s report of the first day’s play says Tendulkar survived “two perilous lbw appeals” before getting to his hundred – one against Dilhara Fernando on 24, the other against Muttiah Muralitharan on 38. Taufel didn’t specify which one he was referring to.

“I was doing a Test match at Feroz Shah Kotla between India and Sri Lanka, and Sachin does get hit on the pads early on in the innings, and I’ve given it not out,” Taufel said. “He goes on to score a hundred, which I think was his record-breaking hundred at that period of time, but no one’s talking about that. No one remembers that, that’s not on YouTube anywhere.

“They’re all talking about Sachin being robbed on 91 [at Trent Bridge], they don’t talk about the not-out where he goes on to score a hundred. Tom Moody, who was the [then] Sri Lankan coach, wasn’t particularly happy with me, because of [that decision].”

On MS Dhoni’s sense of humour

Speaking about the various characters he interacted with during his umpiring career, Taufel picked out MS Dhoni for his sense of humour.

“MS Dhoni, I find him amazing. He’s got one of the best cricket brains I’ve ever come across – [him,] Darren Lehmann and Shane Warne would be the top three cricket brains that I’ve been fortunate to come across. MS Dhoni is so calm – he’s so relaxed – but he’s also got a sense of humour that most people wouldn’t get to see.

“I remember sitting down in a change room at Durban with him. We’d just come off a Test match in Cape Town. Sreesanth had bowled in that previous game, [there were] over rate challenges because Sree takes a long time to bowl his overs, and we’d sat down in these leather chairs in the umpires’ room in Durban.

[Taufel may have mixed up the venues, because the only Test series in which Dhoni captained Sreesanth in South Africa was in 2010-11, where the second Test was in Durban and the third – in which Taufel officiated – was in Cape Town.]

“We’re just having an informal chat, and MS is looking at these black leather chairs in the umpires’ room, and he says, “these chairs are okay, they’re pretty good, and I was thinking, how can I get a couple of these, I wouldn’t mind buying some of these and taking them home.” I’m thinking, I’m trying to have a serious discussion with you about over rates and you’re worried about these leather chairs.

ALSO READ: Daryl Harper ‘extremely proud’ of controversial Sachin Tendulkar lbw decision

“And I said, ‘MS, you’ve now been done for over rates in Cape Town, and if you’ve got the same problems here in Durban, we’re talking about suspension territory.’ He’s almost rubbed his hands together, and [said], ‘suspension? I wouldn’t mind a game off, because I’m playing a lot of cricket at the moment’, and it just blew me away. I thought, this is something different that I haven’t seen before. But that’s the sense of humour and the relaxed nature of the character and you develop good relationships [with such people].

Makhaya Ntini, another great one, as a fast bowler. What a character! He scored many centuries as a bowler on difficult pitches, and occasionally he’d come to me and say, ‘Simon, what do you think I should do now? Where should I bowl this one?’ And I said, mate, ‘I’ve got my own challenges, I’m worrying about my own game! Bowl where you want to bowl, and do what you have to do!'”



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ICC Board set to discuss fate of next three World tournaments

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The fate of the women’s ODI World Cup in 2021 and the choice of venues for the next two men’s T20 World Cups are the two key issues that the ICC’s Board is set to discuss on Friday.

This is the second time the ICC Board is meeting in the past three weeks, having given the nod on July 20 to defer the men’s T20 World Cup, which was originally scheduled for October-November 2020 in Australia.

At that meeting the ICC Board agreed to fresh windows for three men’s events: T20 World Cups in October-November 2021 and October-November 2022, and the ODI World Cup in October-November 2023, pushed back from its original March-April window.

The ICC Board, though, did not announce who would host the next two editions of the T20 World Cup: would it be India in 2021, as per the original schedule, or Australia who were forced to hold back the 2020 event due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

After the July 20 meeting, the ICC said it would take in the “rapidly changing” environment during the pandemic and would take a “considered decision” before determining the hosts for the next two editions of the T20 World Cup.

It is understood that although there is no cut-off point, the ICC is under pressure to not delay the decision on the host venues for two reasons: taking a quick decision would provide clarity to all commercial partners including the host broadcasters who would be planning their budgets for the next calendar year, and it would also allow member boards to plan windows for bilateral cricket.

While Cricket Australia had raised concerns over its inability to host the event this year, its chairman Earl Eddings had written recently to the ICC, proposing that India swap hosting rights with Australia for the 2021 edition. Doing that, Eddings suggested, would financially help all members. If not, Eddings said it would be “detrimental to cricket” in case the “cancellation” of the World Cup in Australia this year was “replaced by award of” the tournament in October-November 2022.

CA has reiterated at ICC meetings that it was halfway through creating the structure for the event, so it would be easier for them to complete the process if they get the rights for the 2021 edition.

The BCCI has not revealed its position. Board president Sourav Ganguly has been attending ICC Board calls since March, and is understood to have empathised with CA during ICC Board meetings. Internally, however, the BCCI is understood to still be keen on retaining its right to host the T20 World Cup in 2021. At least that was the BCCI position at the July 20 meeting.

One key determining factor, an intangible, would be how the host country has dealt with the pandemic. Currently both Australia and India remain seriously affected, with the latter among the top five countries in terms of official number of cases, which as on Thursday was approaching 2 million, with over 40,000 dead.

Doubts linger over Women’s World Cup

The women’s event, comprising eight countries, is currently scheduled between February 6 and March 7 in New Zealand, a country that has kept Covid-19 cases in check. The New Zealand government was also the first to remove restrictions on spectators at sporting events.

Greg Barclay, the New Zealand Cricket chairman, recently said a final decision on whether the Women’s World Cup would go ahead as scheduled was imminent. Qualifiers for the event, however, have not been conducted yet. It is understood that if the World Cup is given the go-ahead, the plan will be to stage the qualifiers in the UAE at the end of November.

Currently New Zealand has kept its borders closed – anyone entering the country would need to undergo a two-week quarantine. It is understood that teams would not be allowed to train if that norm remains in place and would need to isolate in their hotel rooms. Add to that a week-long preparation period which would mean at least 21 days before the event starts. It is understood that the ICC is also concerned about who would bear the costs. The member boards would assume it would be the ICC, since it is a global event.

Since the 2017 World Cup in England, women’s cricket has gradually gained global recognition with the T20 World Cup final in March 2020, between Australia and India, witnessed by a record crowd of 86,000-plus at the MCG. Commercially, though, women’s cricket does not fetch ICC big money.

Either way the ICC Board will be hard pressed to make a decision sooner rather than later. If it postpones the Women’s World Cup, the ICC would go without organising a global event for 18 months until the men’s T20 World Cup in October 2021.



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Kyle Abbott misses 2020 season amid travel difficulties

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Hampshire have confirmed that Kyle Abbott will not play for the club in 2020, but will return next year as an overseas player.

Abbott, who played 11 Tests for South Africa between 2013 and 2017, has been at home in KwaZulu-Natal throughout lockdown, and with the Covid-19 pandemic restricting international travel and causing visa difficulties, he agreed with the club that he would miss the curtailed county season, which began last week.

Abbott signed for Hampshire on a Kolpak deal in 2017, and agreed a new three-year contract last year. This included a clause that meant he would become an overseas player after the UK’s transition period with the European Union ends on December 31, one of two permitted in all formats next season.

“The window for Kyle’s return to the UK has narrowed significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficulties with visa delays and quarantine restrictions that have followed subsequently,” Giles White, Hampshire’s director of cricket, said.

“We’ve had excellent dialogue with Kyle throughout this period, and with everything considered, we all felt the best course of action was for him to remain in South Africa in readiness for the 2021 season.”

ALSO READ: Edwards misses county season, awarded testimonial

Abbott is the second Kolpak player to confirm he will not be playing for Hampshire this season, after Fidel Edwards last week. Brad Wheal, the young Scotland seamer, is also unavailable as he is not in the country.

Several counties were without their Kolpak players during the first round of Bob Willis Trophy fixtures. Surrey remain hopeful that it will be possible for Morne Morkel to come over from Australia at some stage this season, but Hashim Amla is unlikely to feature. Yorkshire have confirmed that Duanne Olivier will be available for their second game of the season.

Durham are optimistic about the chances of Farhaan Behardien, who signed a Kolpak deal with the club in January, being available at some stage this season, though his arrival has been held up by visa difficulties.



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