Sussex overseas signing yet to speak to Justin Langer since central contract omission
Travis Head is yet to speak to Justin Langer after his surprise omission from Australia’s central contracts list two weeks ago, but says that the channel of communication with selectors Trevor Hohns and George Bailey has been “ultra-clear” regarding his standing within the national squads.
Head was dropped two Tests into Australia’s home series defeat to India, but finished the Sheffield Shield season as the competition’s second-highest run-scorer and had been named in the squad for the aborted tour to South Africa. With a respectable average of 39.75 after 19 Tests, he remains in contention for the 2021-22 Ashes series, and hopes to prove his worth during a season-long stint playing county cricket for Sussex, with his debut likely to arrive on Thursday against Northamptonshire.
“It was disappointing not to be on there, but from the standpoint of where we need to be and what Australian cricket wants and expects, they want guys contributing in international cricket and winning games for Australia,” Head said. “When I had my opportunity, I wasn’t able to do that. It was great to go home and play really well in domestic cricket but at the end of the day, when I get my opportunity, I need to be able to take that in international cricket.
“It would have been difficult to be at home, having two months off going into pre-season, and having that over my head, [but] I get a great opportunity to have an impact at Sussex and make as many runs as possible. That’s the currency. I’ve done it domestically in Australia, and hopefully that can hold me in good stead for the summer.”
Head found out about his omission from the central contracts list while on a camping trip in rural South Australia with his fiancée’s family, with his lack of phone signal or internet access inadvertently forcing Cricket Australia to delay the announcement. He has not yet had the opportunity to speak to Langer, Australia’s head coach, but said that he expects to do so in the coming days.
“It’s been a bit hectic over the last little bit but I’ve had so many conversations with JL, with George Bailey and with Trevor Hohns,” Head said. “I know the messaging, which is ultra-clear – there are no mixed messages whatsoever. I’m really comfortable with that, and know the expectation of what I need to do.
“We’ll get the opportunity to chat but it won’t be about dwelling on it – it’ll be about moving forward and asking what needs to be done over the next six months to be ready to go [for the Ashes]. Those conversations have always been had and I’m pretty clear on that. It’d be great to have a chat at some point but at the end of the day, I’m here playing cricket, and I get the opportunity to score as many runs as possible.”
This year is third time lucky for Head at Sussex: he had been lined up for a stint in 2019 but was unable to fulfil it after his inclusion in Australia’s Ashes squad, and his contract was deferred last summer due to the pandemic. Jason Gillespie, his South Australia and Adelaide Strikers coach who initially recruited him, is no longer at the county, but Head said that he intended to “settle down” and make Sussex a home away from home following previous stints with Worcestershire and Yorkshire.
His contract covers all formats, and he stated his intentions to play “as much as I possibly can” in white-ball cricket despite the competition for places: counties are permitted to register three overseas players simultaneously but can only field two in a playing XI, and Sussex have signed both Rashid Khan and David Wiese specifically for the T20 Blast.
“Keith [Greenfield, director of cricket] and I will sit down over the next couple of days,” he said. “We’ve spoken about looking at the schedule and when I would or wouldn’t play, but from my side, I’m here to play cricket, win games for Sussex and help create a culture of success. It’s always been a really strong [T20] team so I’m looking forward to getting in there and whacking it around.”
Head’s arrival should bolster an inexperienced batting line-up that has missed the injured Phil Salt early in the season. Sussex are third in Group Three of the County Championship after four matches, but have let strong positions slip in their last two fixtures, at home to Yorkshire and Lancashire, resulting in a significant gap between the top two and the rest of the group.
“I’ve kept a very close eye on it,” Head said. “[The Shield] was my best season, personally, and it was consistent – as a cricketer and as a batter, that’s what I want to be. I made a couple of changes to my technique and it’s always nice when that works. I’ve had a couple of weeks off but had a hit before I left and everything felt in good order.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
No Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav in India’s squad of 20 for WTC final and England Tests
KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha were picked subject to “fitness clearance”
There was no Hardik Pandya or Kuldeep Yadav as India named a squad of 20 players, including two – KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha – subject to “fitness clearance”, as well as four standby players for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand and the subsequent five-Test series against England in August-September. India will play the WTC final from June 18 to 22 in Southampton and the Test series against England from August 4, starting in Nottingham, to September 14, with the last Test scheduled for Manchester.
Virat Kohli’s side is expected to leave for England on June 2, and keeping in mind the length of the tour as well as possible contingencies because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India are carrying a total of 24 players, their reserves’ list reading Abhimanyu Easwaran, the opening batter, and three fast bowlers: Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Arzan Nagwaswalla.
Rahul underwent surgery for appendicitis in early May after he complained of “severe abdomen pain” during the IPL. At the time, the doctors were understood to have told the Punjab Kings that Rahul would be able to resume all activity in a week’s time.
Saha, the other player who has to prove his fitness in time for the tour, tested positive for Covid-19 on May 4, the same day the IPL was postponed indefinitely. Saha, who was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, is still in Delhi, where he returned the positive test. It is understood that he would have to undergo 14 days in isolation and be able to move out only after a negative test. As things stand, he is still exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 including the loss of smell.
Of the players dropped from the squad that played against England at home earlier this year, Pandya did have a question mark over him since he has not bowled regularly for some time now, with Kohli saying that he wanted to preserve Pandya the bowler for the Tests in England. He had a shoulder niggle during the IPL, and didn’t bowl at all in the seven matches he played for the Mumbai Indians. He did, however, bowl a nine-over burst in the third and final ODI against England.
As for Kuldeep, while he has been a part of the India squad recently, he has not had many games. Of his seven Tests, he has played only one in the last two years – the second Test against England in February this year – and he got to bowl just 12.2 overs overall, returning 0 for 16 and 2 for 25 as India won by 317 runs. His previous Test appearance before that was back in January 2019 in Sydney, where he picked up 5 for 99 in the first Australia innings.
With Axar Patel making a big splash on Test debut in the England series with a haul of 27 wickets from three games and India mostly preferring one or both of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, depending on conditions, Kuldeep’s chances of making the cut took a hit.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wk; subject to fitness clearance). Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla
More to follow…
India set to name squads for England Tests, WTC final over the weekend
The selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency
The Indian squads for both the World Test Championship final and the five-Test England series are set to be picked over the weekend. It is understood that the Virat Kohli-lead Indian squad is likely to depart for England on June 2.
Keeping in mind the extensive length of the tour, spanning between June and mid-September, the selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency. Even the ICC recently approved increasing the squad strength from 23 to 30 (including support staff) for global events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WTC final between India and New Zealand is scheduled to be held in Southampton between June 18 and 22. As per the existing schedule, the Test series is meant to begin only on August 4, with the first match at Trent Bridge followed by Lord’s (August 12-16), Leeds (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Old Trafford (September 10-14).
As per the previous plan, before the UK government in April put India on the red list of countries from where travellers are barred during the pandemic, the BCCI was looking at picking two separate squads with the first batch meant for the WTC final and the second batch leaving closer to the England tour.
That is one of the key questions that the BCCI needs to resolve: what the players would do in the nearly four-week gap before the squad reassembles for the England Test series. In April, the ECB announced that the Indians would be arriving with an inflated squad and would play two intra-squad practice matches in July. Those two matches replaced the original warm-up schedule comprising two previously planned four-day fixtures between Indians and India A in July. The ECB, in agreement with BCCI, had postponed the India A tour due to the pandemic.
The other question for the BCCI deals with players wanting to travel with their families keeping in mind the long tour. With the UK imposing a hard quarantine for all in-bound travellers from India (this applied even to the England players and support staff that returned from the IPL this week), the BCCI needs to figure whether it can get exemptions for the families. Currently, the ICC along with the ECB are speaking to the UK government to get exemptions for the players for the WTC final.
Both those points are likely to feature when the BCCI’s top brass meets soon, which is even likely over the weekend once the selectors submit the final list of names for the enlarged squad. It is also likely that the BCCI might hold back announcing the squad until it has the nod from the Indian government authorities as well as the ICC and ECB on the travel exemptions and the quarantine rules.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Covid-19 in Pakistan – PCB approaches Emirates Cricket Board to host remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE
The franchises had requested the PCB to shift the games out of Karachi because of the pandemic
The PCB has formally approached the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining games of the rescheduled 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE. The earlier plan was to play the matches in Karachi, but the PCB has decided against it following a request from the six franchises as well as advice from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which asked the board to avoid playing in Karachi because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the franchises had written a letter to the board last week, asking for the tournament to be played in the Emirates, and the PCB, which had been reviewing the existing plans, has now accepted the proposal. It is understood that the PCB has also cancelled its booking with the hotel in Karachi where it had reserved 407 rooms.
The 2021 edition of the PSL was suspended after 14 games – played between February 20 and March 3, all in Karachi – following an outbreak of cases among players and support staff. After a date for resumption was finalised – June 2 to June 20 – the franchises took part in a replacement draft to plug holes in their line-ups because a number of overseas players would not be able to take part in the games on the new dates.
The changed situation with the pandemic, however, made franchises nervous about the situation, which led to them approaching the PCB.
Pakistan, meanwhile, has announced a decision to curtail inbound flights to the country from May 5 to May 20. And a national lockdown has also been put in place in Pakistan from today till May 15.
A move to the UAE would not be without its own logistical and operational issues, though. Flights to the country from Pakistan are currently operating at a severely reduced frequency. And June is not a month in which top-level cricket is often played in the UAE, because of the oppressive heat at that time of the year.
More to follow…
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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