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Our batting depth will be tested, willing to man No. 3: Steve Smith




Steve Smith on Wednesday stated that Australia’s batting depth will be tested in the absence of the injured opener David Warner for the first Test of the upcoming four-match series against India which begins December 17 at the Adelaide Oval. However, Smith is willing to take the responsibility of manning the number three slot in case the usual one-down batsman, Marnus Labuschagne, is sent out to open the innings.

Australia have been contemplating over opening options with Will Pucovski also uncertain following concussion-related worries after he was hit on the head by a delivery from Kartik Tyagi during the first warm-up tie earlier this week.

Pucovski is still in Sydney, tended to by the doctors, while most of the Australian Test team players, including Smith, have flown in to Adelaide.

“Our depth is going to be tested with Davy (Warner) out and a few potentially new players coming in. So it will test us out against a good Indian outfit,” Smith said while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Smith added that batting at the number three position doesn’t bother him too much if Pucovksi doesn’t play the first Test and Australia don’t call in replacements like Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh forcing Labuschagne to open.

“That doesn’t bother me too much. I bat a fair bit at number three. Three or four… anywhere out there I am fine. You know when you bat at three, you are sometimes in at first ball of the game, first over of the game, that is sort of reality of batting there, someone at three could go at the top,” Smith said

“I wouldn’t put more pressure on myself. I will go out there and do my job and that is to try and score as many runs as possible as I can, no matter who is playing and what the circumstances are. I guess we will wait and see what happens with the next ‘A’ game and what the selectors want to do. We have still got a week before the start of the first Test. They have got a game to play against India ‘A’ up there. We’ll wait and see where it all ends,” he added.

The right-handed batsman feels that he has got back into rhythm with the bat and the inconsistent run in the T20I series doesn’t worry him. He says that the grip is in the right place.

“Sometimes in white-ball cricket I like to open my grip up just slightly to allow me to slice the ball and particularly when I play the bigger shots…whereas in red-ball cricket, I can play with a lot more closed grip because you are not playing that many big shots. I think it helps me play the ball later and under my eyes a lot more…the grip’s feeling good at the moment…it is in a good place,” said Smith.

Like Pucovski, the 31-year-old also survived a concussion scare last year when he was hit on the head by Jofra Archer during the Ashes Test series. However, he recovered well from there, coming back to play some important innings.

Smith says it is the hangover effect of a hit that the players need to overcome and worry about.

“Every concussion is different, everybody is different. Will’s had a couple (few) in the past so he has experienced just about getting over that hangover effect, the protocols, getting yourself into a position to firstly go into the nets and face some light stuff and then some bowlers and then get yourself right to play yourself out in the middle. Will is still in Sydney, we are here in Adelaide. I am sure he is working with the doctors there and doing everything he can to get himself right to play. I guess that is (happening) by just resting and recovering and getting over that. I guess the hangover effect of a concussion is (what matters),” Smith said.

Smith also added that though he has not had much issue handling concussion after-effects, Pucovski’s ability to come back will depend on how he deals with it.

“I haven’t found any drama with it. I trust with what I have done over a long period of time and I have face loads of short stuff. I have also been hit a couple of times but you know I have faced plenty of short stuff in the nets from bowlers that are bowling good pace – (Mitchell) Starc, (Josh) Hazlewood and (Pat) Cummins. They aren’t afraid to bowl bouncers at the nets. That is good practice as well, so for me personally, I have no issue with it. But again, everyone is different… That’s probably more a question for Will but personally I haven’t had any dramas with that,” Smith said.


ICC to partner UNICEF in fundraiser for Covid relief




The International Cricket Council (ICC), through its ‘Cricket for Good initiative’, has launched a fundraising campaign to support UNICEF’s emergency Covid-19 response in South Asia.

The campaign was launched ahead of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final being played between India and New Zealand in Southampton from Friday.

The world cricket governing body said in a statement that, “ICC’s support to UNICEF at this critical time will harness the power and reach of cricket, one of the world’s most popular sports, to safeguard the lives and futures of children.

“As part of the campaign, ICC will leverage its audience base on its digital channels to contribute to UNICEF. ICC with UNICEF shall display joint appeals on its digital platforms, LED perimeter boards and replay screens at the venue, for its broadcast audiences to donate directly to UNICEF’s donation platform.”

In-game commentary will also reach out to audiences for their support.

Acting ICC CEO Geoff Allardice said, “By partnering with UNICEF to support their Covid-19 relief work, we can use the global platform provided by the inaugural World Test Championship Final to raise urgent funds that can make a real difference. We appeal to cricket fans around the world to come together to show their support for the work of UNICEF at such a difficult time and donate to such a worthwhile cause.”

In addition, ICC along with Tech Mahindra, the merchandise partner for the WTC Final, have launched a Covid-19 relief range and 10 per cent of the proceeds will go to UNICEF’s relief work in South Asia.

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NZ to focus on fast bowling in WTC final: Kane Williamson




Hours before the start of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India at the Ageas Bowl here, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson said his team would be focusing on its main strength – bowling – when it takes on the Virat Kohli-led side on Friday.

In a video posted on the International Cricket Council (ICC) website, Williams said on Friday that, “For us we want to focus on the cricket that we want to play. It’s important to our team to go out there and enjoy the occasion. A number of guys that have been playing well, same bowlers that have been contributing really well for a period of time, which is great,” said Williamson, indicating that the New Zealand fast-bowling battery will come hard at India over the next few days.

“There is some depth in that (bowling) department, which is very important to our team, so there’ll be some tricky but good conversations to have in finalising them (bowlers). There’s been a lot of growth in our side over a period of time, so many challenges along the way every day and the World Test Championship final is a culmination of that,” said Williamson.

During the recently-concluded two-Test series against England, New Zealand bowlers were a handful for the hosts, helping the visitors win 1-0.

While in the first Test at Lord’s, New Zealand batsman Devon Conway slammed a double century and Tim Southee took six first-innings wickets, in the second Test at Edgbaston, Trent Boult and Matt Henry took four and three wickets respectively in the first innings to put England on the back-foot.

The duo returned in the second innings to help New Zealand to an eight-wicket win.

Williamson said New Zealand will take India lightly at its own risk.

“We know in cricket anything can happen. This is the final and both teams need to win, so both teams have prepared as well as they could. It is a one-off in cricket and anything can happen. We’re really looking forward to the match the players are looking forward to getting involved.

“We’ll be realistic, we know India are an incredibly strong side all around the world, and rightly so. (They are) recognised as the best team. You have these (ICC) rankings, all these types of different things. They take slightly different shapes every day, but we know that the challenges are very, very strong against this Indian side,” said Williamson, indicating that ICC Test rankings don’t matter when playing against a strong opposition like India.

New Zealand are the No. 1 Test team in the world, while India are second.

“For us we want to focus on the cricket that we want to play,” added Williamson.

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WTC final just another feather to add in this big hat: Virat Kohli



India skipper Virat Kohli said on Friday that the World Test Championship (WTC) final was “just another feather to add in this big hat that we have created” and that there were many more milestones to come.

India take on the Kane Williamson-led New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton in a few hours from now, with a prize of Rs 12 crore along with an ICC Test Championship Mace as reward for the winner.

However, Kohli said in a video posted on the International Cricket Council (ICC) website on Friday that, “For us this is not the final frontier; this is just another feather to add in this big hat that we have created as a Test team.

“And this is not just good cricket over the last 7-8 months. This is (the result of) hard work and toil for the last 4-5 years, understanding what kind of players we need, understanding the strengths that we need as a Test side, the kind of bowling line-up we need to win Test matches everywhere in the world, the kind of batsmen we need with different roles to play in the squad. Identifying (all) those players.

“And, eventually, here we are playing the final of a World Test Championship, which, honestly, when we started our journey, we did not think that something of this magnitude will be conducted for Test cricket. But it’s the right step forward; it’s the right direction to take,” Kohli said commending the ICC for its efforts.

“We certainly feel that we have our goals set on the larger vision for Indian cricket and this (WTC final) is just a game which has a bit more value added to it, but for us, every Test match over the last five years probably has been of same value, and hence, we have been the top side for the last 3-4 years in Test cricket,” felt Kohli.

Williamson said the journey to pinnacle of world Test was a challenging one.

“I suppose, we are a small country, and everybody has their different challenges and it’s trying to commit to what is important to us as a group. We’ve got a really good opportunity coming up in the (WTC) final against the best team in the world and that’s great.”

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