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Wednesday,26-January-2022

International

Thank you for inspiring me, Bhajji pa… I took up off-spin only after seeing you: Ashwin

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India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has thanked Harbhajan Singh for inspiring him to bowl off-spin, saying that he picked up the ball only after seeing Bhajji’s “wonderful spell” against Australia in 2001.

Ashwin on Monday moved past Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets, becoming India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket at 419 on the final day of the opening Test against New Zealand at the Green Park here, which ended in a thrilling draw.

The 35-year-old had equalled Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets on November 28 after he dismissed Will Young on Day 4. Ashwin dismissed Tom Latham in the second innings of New Zealand to go past Harbhajan’s tally of 417 wickets in Tests.

“It’s a wonderful milestone. Harbhajan Singh, when he was bowling that wonderful spell against Australia in 2001, I never thought I would even be an off-spinner on that particular day. But inspired by him, I picked up the ball to bowl off-spin and here I am. Thank you for inspiring me Bhajji pa,” Ashwin said in a video shared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday.

Ashwin is now behind Anil Kumble (619) and Kapil Dev (434) in India’s all-time list of highest Test wicket-takers.

Ashwin is the fourth Indian bowler to take more than 400 wickets. Monday’s achievement made him the 13th highest wicket-taker in Tests of all time, moving past Pakistan’s Wasim Akram (414). He is the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests among active cricketers, after English pace duo Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who have 524 and 632 wickets respectively.

Ashwin, who made his Test debut in November 2011 against the West Indies in New Delhi, has claimed his wickets at a strike rate of 52.4 and an average of 24.5.

Recollecting an incident during the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Shreyas Iyer who lit up Green Park with the bat, scoring a century and half century on debut, said that Ashwin had approached him at Wankhede then seeking his advice on the wind direction.

“In the second year of the IPL, I was the ball boy and Ashwin came to me asking ‘arre ek minute idhar aana, yeh hawa kaun se direction se aate hai, zara bata do (please come here for a minute and guide me in which direction the wind is blowing)’. So, I was very confident. I had played too many matches at the Wankhede at that point in time. I told him, ‘idhar se aata hai, idhar se… the sea is in this direction (The wind will flow in this direction as the sea is in this direction)’. So, the wind will come from that direction only,” recalled Iyer.

Ashwin also congratulated Iyer for becoming the first Indian to score a century and half-century on Test debut, saying, “Congratulation to you (Iyer) for becoming the first Indian to score a hundred and a half-century on Test debut. Looking forward to (you) scoring a hundred and taking the honours as well (in the second Test).”

Despite the achievement, Iyer is not a sure-shot selection for the second Test, given that Virat Kohli will return as skipper in Mumbai.

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Malinga set to take over as Sri Lanka’s fast bowling consultant: Report

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Former Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga is set to become the fast bowling consultant coach of the national cricket team after the high-profile Cricket Advisory Committee recommended his name to Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) Executive Committee.

The 38-year-old Malinga, who played for more than a decade for Indian Premier League (IPL) side Mumbai Indians, will oversee the Sri Lankan team’s preparations for the upcoming T20I tour of Australia, where the side will play five matches, a report in the The Island said on Wednesday.

While Malinga is one of the most successful T20 bowlers in the world due to his sling-shot action and is a Sri Lankan icon, his appointment has reportedly not gone down well with several stakeholders of the game in the country.

The report said that while he was adored by millions of fans, “he wasn’t the most likeable person in the dressing room with a host of Sri Lankan captains having concerns about his conduct”.

“It is alleged that Malinga deliberately slowed down the over rate with the intention of suspending the captain, an allegation that SLC has not investigated. Cricket’s playing conditions at one point dictated that slow over rates would result in fines for players and suspension for the captain. Since then, the International Cricket Council has amended the playing conditions and the captain is no longer suspended,” the report added.

Sri Lanka lifted the ICC T20 World Cup in 2014 under Malinga’s captaincy, as he was filling in for the suspended Dinesh Chandimal, but his overall record as skipper is abysmal. He led the country in nine One-day Internationals and all nine ended in losses. Under his leadership, Sri Lanka lost 15 of the 24 T20Is it played.

The report said that the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising of stalwarts such as Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan among others, had their reservations on endorsing Malinga as fast bowling consultant coach. However, since the recommendation reportedly came from former skipper and consultant coach Mahela Jayawardene, it could not be denied, the report said.

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Afghanistan complete whitewash to grab crucial Cricket World Cup Super League points

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Afghanistan completed a 3-0 series victory over the Netherlands to grab 30 crucial World Cup Super League points, here on Tuesday.

Half-centuries from Najibullah Zadran and debutant Riaz Hassan and a three-wicket haul from another debutant Qais Ahmad helped Afghanistan to a 75-run win, setting up a 3-0 series victory in the ODI series.

After deciding to bat first, Afghanistan were driven by 19-year old opener Riaz on debut. The Netherlands managed to send back the centurion from the last game, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, for 12, but Riaz and Rahmat Shah put on an 86-run partnership to revive the innings.

Once Saqib Zulfiqar broke the partnership by sending back Riaz, the Netherlands managed another wicket soon with Rahmat dismissed in the 33rd over. Najibullah Zadran compiled a fine half-century with aid from the lower middle-order. Najibullah finished on 71 off 59 balls as Afghanistan made 254/5 in their 50 overs.

In reply, the Netherlands made a strong start with Scott Edwards once again leading the charge. Colin Ackermann gave him solid company and the duo thwarted Afghanistan’s new ball plans. Their 50 came up in 10 overs with the openers laying a solid platform.

They carried on in the same vein, putting on 103 for the opening wicket before Afghanistan’s debutant Qais broke the stand with his maiden ODI wicket, that of Edwards, trapped in front by the leg-spinner. Fareed Ahmad sent back skipper Pieter Seelaar for a duck and Afghanistan had the opportunity to put a leash on the chase.

The spinners worked in tandem and soon the Netherlands went from 103/0 to 153/5 with Boris Gorlee, Bas de Leede and the well-set Colin Ackermann, who made 81 off 96 balls, also back in the hut. The tables had turned around at this stage and Afghanistan were right on top in the game. They went on to bowl out the Netherlands for 179 to seal a 75-run victory and secure a series whitewash.

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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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