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Wednesday,26-January-2022

International

SA govt assures best bio-secure environment for India cricketers during tour

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The South African government has given full assurance to the Indian government and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that the Indian cricket teams touring the country would be provided the best “bio-secure environment” to ensure the safety of players from the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The Omicron variant, which was reportedly first detected in South Africa, has spread to many parts of the world, and several nations are pulling down shutters, suspending flights to and from the country to slow the spread of the new variant. The Omicron variant is said to be more contagious and has been classified as a “Variant of Concern”.

The India ‘A’ team is currently in Bloemfontein and playing the second unofficial Test against South Africa which commenced on Tuesday. The last Test will commence on December 6.

The India senior team is scheduled to fly to South Africa after the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai. The side will begin their gruelling tour with the Test in Johannesburg from December 17, followed by the Centurion and Cape Town Tests. Following the three-Test series, India will play three ODI and four T20Is, and the tour will conclude on January 26.

A statement issued by the South African International Relations and Cooperation Department late on Monday night (IST) said, “The South African Government wishes to welcome the Indian ‘A’ Cricket Team that is currently in South Africa to play three unofficial Test matches against the South African ‘A’ Team.

“The Indian National Cricket Team is also scheduled to visit South Africa and will play three games during their tour. The first will be played at the Wanderers and will start on 17 December, to be followed by the second match at Supersport Park on 26 December 2021 and the third match at Newlands on 3 January 2022.

“Whilst in South Africa the team will also play three One Day International games (ODIs) and four T20 matches, which will all be played at Newlands and Paarl,” said the statement.

“South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. A full Bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian ‘A’ Teams as well as the two National Teams. The tour of the Indian National Team marks the 30th anniversary of South Africa’s readmission to international cricket. In 1991, India became the first country to host a South African Cricket Team after South Africa was banned from international cricket in 1970 by the International Cricket Council (ICC), following a resolution taken against the then South African Government’s apartheid policy.

“The anniversary will be celebrated by a commemorative event that will take place on 2 January 2022 in Cape Town. This event will also serve to highlight the strong ties between South Africa and India, which is once again demonstrated by the tour of the two Indian teams,” said the statement.

The Netherlands cricket team is set to return home from South Africa after the opening ODI of the three-match series following identification of the new Covid variant in the country.

“India’s decision to show solidarity by choosing to continue with the tour of the Indian ‘A’ Team stands in contrast with a number of countries who have decided to close their borders and to restrict travel from Southern African after South Africa announced the detection of the new Omicron variant. The South African Government has expressed its appreciation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing the tour to continue and for not letting travel restrictions negatively impact on international sports,” the statement said.

International

Australia to tour Pakistan with a full-strength squad, says George Bailey

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Chief selector George Bailey on Tuesday confirmed that no Australian player has asked to be left out of the squad that is set to embark on their first tour of Pakistan since 1999.

Bailey added that the selection will be solely based on managing their workload.

“I believe the boards are still working through some of the minor details around that tour, so once that gets the formal tick of approval then we’ll announce the squad post that, but we’re reasonably well down the track,” Bailey was quoted as saying by Cricket Australia’s website.

“The two (security) briefings that I’ve sat in on, the security sounds very, very robust.”

The tour is set to start on March 3. It will consist of three Test matches to be played in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore and will be followed by a three-match ODI series from March 29 to April 2. A lone T20I will be played on April 5.

The last time Pakistan had an ICC event on its soil was when it co-hosted the 1996 World Cup along with India and Sri Lanka. The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 ensured Test cricket remained out of bounds until 2019.

In 2020, before the T20 World Cup, New Zealand and England had pulled out of the tour of Pakistan citing security concerns.

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Hockey: France join Men’s Pro League, to start campaign against India on Feb 8

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Canada have withdrawn from the Men’s FIH Pro League due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has called up France to take place in the third edition of the Series. France will take on India in their opening match on February 8.

“After Canada eventually pulled out due to Covid-related issues, FIH had contacted the next best teams, according to the FIH World Rankings, to invite one of them to replace Canada. France have accepted the invitation and, as the highest-ranked team having done so, will join the global home-and-away league for this season,” the FIH informed in a release on Tuesday.

As Canada, along with South Africa had been included in the men’s FIH Pro League in place of Australia and New Zealand, who had pulled out last year citing Covid-19 related travel restrictions by their respective countries. As Canada and South Africa were included only for the ongoing third edition of the Pro League, France too will participate in the current edition and will be left out once Australia and New Zealand return to the field for the fourth edition in 2023.

“As communicated earlier, France’s participation in the FIH Hockey Pro League is planned for this third edition only. Indeed, Australia and New Zealand, who are not playing the current season due to Covid-related international travel constraints, are expected to come back for the fourth edition (2022-2023),” the FIH release said.

French, who will host the next Olympics in Paris in 2024, will play their first match on February 8 against India, in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and meet the Netherlands on February 9.

France have qualified for the next Men’s World Cup, which will be played in January 2023 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. The French Men’s Junior team recently claimed the bronze medal in the Men’s Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar, with France captain Timothée Clément crowned Best Player of the Tournament.

“It is great news that France are joining the FIH Hockey Pro League for the current season. As hosts of the next Olympic Games, being part of such a top-flight competition involving the best teams in the world can only be a positive move for the French team as well as for the growth of hockey in the country,” FIH CEO Thierry Weil was quoted as saying in the statement.

The first FIH Hockey Pro League matches of the year will involve the women’s teams of China and India. They will take place on January 31 and February 1 in Muscat, Oman, where both teams are currently playing the women’s Asia Cup 2022.

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Sune Luus to lead South Africa in West Indies ODIs

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All-rounder Sune Luus will lead the 18-member South Africa women’s squad against West Indies in a five-match ODI series starting January 28, the Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed on Tuesday.

The 26-year old Luus will lead a side that is missing senior players — regular captain Dane Van Niekerk (ankle injury) as well as Lizelle Lee (Covid). Chloe Tryon will serve as Luus’ deputy in the series.

“Sune has really managed the captaincy quite well in the absence of our leaders, Dane and Chloe, and we are quite excited to be giving her the role again and in our conversations with her, she really rolled out the pathway for us, getting through the West Indies tour and for the World Cup,” said Clinton du Preez, Convenor of Selectors.

“We are quite happy to have her back in that role and I am sure the leadership and the senior players in the team will give her massive support. Chloe as the vice-captain is a great combination between the two individuals and personalities and we think it will be a balanced approach for our successes,” he added.

The squad also includes key players such as Shabnim Ismail, Mignon du Preez as well as Laura Wolvaardt, who was the second-highest run-scorer (161) when the two teams last faced each other.

Meanwhile, off-spinner Raisibe Ntozakhe is among those picked in the squad. The 25-year-old hasn’t been featured for South Africa since 2018 when she was suspended from bowling in international games owing to her then illegal action. She has recently been cleared to bowl.

“It’s greatly important for us to fill the vacancy of Dane van Niekerk, and therefore we looked at a few options. It is also quite exciting to have Raisibe Ntozakhe back in the squad and for her to be playing international cricket again, it will be a great opportunity for her to revive her career,” du Preez said.

“We are quite comfortable with the squad we have selected. It’s a balanced squad and we have gone for an extended squad to give more players an opportunity to ensure that we complement the skill sets within the team.

“With the conditions up in Johannesburg, it will suit us to play against the West Indies. They are normally used to the slow, turning wickets and for now, it is a great opportunity to strike with our bowlers and to also have a balanced approach to those results,” he added.

The five-match ODI series in Johannesburg serves as a World Cup preparation for the South Africa side looking to better their semi-final show from five years ago. The two sides met in a five-match series in the Caribbean last August, a series South Africa clinched by a dominant 4-1 margin.

Squad: Sune Luus (c), Chloe Tryon (vc), Andrie Steyn, Anneke Bosch, Ayabonga Khaka, Lara Goodall , Laura Wolvaardt, Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Mignon du Preez, Nadine de Klerk, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Shabnim Ismail, Sinalo Jafta, Tazmin Brits, Trisha Chetty, Tumi Sekhukhune

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