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Understanding recovery of my body helped me play this long: Ishant Sharma




Pace bowler Ishant Sharma, who is on the cusp of becoming only the second India pace bowler to play 100 Test matches after Kapil Dev, says playing one format — Test cricket — over the last few years, especially abroad, and understanding the process of recovery has helped him get close to the milestone at age 32.

The third India-England Test begins here on February 24.

The right-arm pace bowler, who doesn’t play white ball series, says he will give it all for India to qualify for the World Test Championship final, to be played in June, as it is akin to a ICC 50-over World Cup final for a Test specialist.

“At the moment, the next target is to win the next game. I just want to win the next game and [help India] qualify for the Test championship final. As I always say I have only one format to play and this is like World Cup. The World Test Championship is like a World Cup for me. If we reach the final and win this, I think I will have the same feeling like you play the ICC World Cup final or the Champions Trophy,” Sharma told the media on Monday.

Sharma said an India pace bowler, reaching Kapil Dev’s record of 131 Tests is not on his mind yet and added that playing one format had made it easier to reach the 100-Test mark quickly.

“If you think of it in a positive way, then it gets easier and is better that I performed in one format. You are grateful. This (playing one format) is also why I am playing the 100th Test. But I don’t think that if I had played white ball cricket, I wouldn’t have played 100 Test matches. I am just 32. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it so quickly, I would have done it later,” said the right-arm fast bowler from Delhi.

Sharma said he takes one game at a time.

“I don’t really think too far ahead, because you never know what comes next. You just think about one game at a time. I have understood my body and what kind of training I need to do. I am more professional regarding my recovery. Earlier, I used to train very hard but I never used to think about my recovery. Now though I know that as you grow older, you have to bowl long spells. You need to look after your recovery. I am looking after myself. I think that is paying off,” he said.

Sharma could have played his 100th Test in Australia were it not for a side strain during the Indian Premier League (IPL) that kept him out of that tour. He, however, says that he hadn’t allowed that to upset him.

“I would have loved to go to Australia and complete my 100th Test match. But there are many things that are not in your hand. I couldn’t go to Australia because of that [injury]. The quicker you forget things and move on, the more things become simple in life. This is what I have learnt in my career. Forget everything and move on and don’t think about past. I move on to the next match. And I always focus on the next match,” said the bowler who has been plagued by multiple injuries over the years.

The pace bowler’s performance has been exceptional over the last three years. Since the start of 2018, he has taken 76 wickets in 20 Test matches at an average of 19.34 with four of his 11 five-wicket hauls in his career coming during that period.

“I just played too many Test matches outside India that is why I have been able to take these many wickets, because if you don’t bowl in India, how will you take wickets. In India, spinners bowl a lot; fast bowlers’ role is different. Most of the Tests in last two years, we played outside. That is why I bowled a lot and picked wickets. That is what I feel.”


ICC to identify Delhi-based fixing kingpin




The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) anti-corruption unit (ACU) is hoping to publicly identify a corruption mastermind in New Delhi soon, based on pieces of evidence gathered from players and officials.

The ACU believes that most cricket corruption cases around the world can be linked back to 10 or 12 individuals working as bookies in India, according to The Telegraph report.

Once the unit identifies the fixer, the ICC will use article 2.4.9 of the code of conduct under which known corruptors will have their names and mugshots along with their aliases uploaded on the ICC’s website. It will then become a punishable offence for any player or official covered by the ICC’s code to associate with that individual.

“Most of these jobs will be started by 10 or 12 corruptors we know very well. Even though at the start of an investigation those people will not feature, and there will be a new person acting as an intermediary making approach to a player, when we dig into it we will find it is one of that group of corruptors using a different name or new phone,” ACU general manager Alex Marshall told The Telegraph report.

“We will look to have that person named as an excluded person and then anyone in cricket who has had fair warning and associates with him will be in trouble. That is not the purpose of it but if we have a number of allegations identifying one person we will start the process of excluding them. We are doing the first one or two right now,” he further said.

Fixers are now thinking imaginatively amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced corruptors to think imaginatively, notably faking a tournament, the Uva T20 League, in Sri Lanka which was actually being held in Sawara Village in Mohali.

“They said it was in Sri Lanka but it was in India and they tried to run an entire cricket tournament that did not actually exist by publishing pictures of a ground the dressed up as if it was in Sri Lanka with advertising and everything, but was in India and was raided by the police,” Marshall said. He said that players who are from poorer countries and whose wages have been affected by the pandemic are the chief targets.

“If you are offering a Zimbabwe player $10,000-30,000 — and by the way almost always the young poor black Zimbabwe players report immediately to us — that is the equivalent of buying a house,” said Marshall.

Marshall said that he is delighted with the number of players coming forward with evidence. The ACU is currently investigating 42 live cases around the world.

“We are the only global sport to go after the corruptors outside our code. We will pursue all the corruptors we come across and we are interviewing people not covered by our code. When we come to publicising details of excluded people we will have to decide what we make public. I will be asking for mugshots, a good clear recent picture, full name and all their aliases but I will have to put that through the lawyers about how much information can go out,” said Marshall.

“The first ones going through the system now are the most persistent corruptors we have been dealing with over the past few years. The purpose is to out these people and make their lives very difficult because they will get lots of publicity about being a cricket corruptor and hopefully that will stop them,” he said.

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Delhi Capitals announce JSW as principal sponsors from 2021 to 2023




Delhi Capitals (DC) on Friday announced the JSW Group as the team’s principal sponsor for the years 2021-2023. The JSW insignia will be sported on the front of the team’s jersey, and complemented by in-stadia branding of the JSW product portfolio during the Indian Premier League (IPL). The JSW Group first came on board as the team’s principal sponsor in 2020.

“As principal sponsors of the Delhi Capitals, we are able to add this talented cricketing squad to our JSW family. A community that includes an employee base of over 67,000 employees and a network of over 10 lakh dealers and retailers,” said Delhi Capitals co-owner and JSW Cement and Paints Managing Director Parth Jindal.

“Our experience last year was that rooting for Delhi Capitals, galvanized and united this JSW family, while also sparking joy during a trying time for humanity. This ability to refer to some of the best cricketing talent globally as family also provides a huge sense of pride and accomplishment for all within the JSW Group,” Jindal further said.

DC finished runners-up in the IPL last season, losing by five wickets in the final to Mumbai Indians, who won the tournament for a record-extending fifth time.

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White ball affects batsmen’s defence on spinning tracks: Virat Kohli




India captain Virat Kohli has attributed the batsmen’s failures to score runs on spin-friendly wickets over the last two Tests against England to an overdose of limited overs cricket.

Both India and England have struggled in the last two Tests with the bat, although India have been a shade better than England. Kohli criticised both sides’ batting in the last match, the pink-ball Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera.

“Defence is needed on these kind of wickets. The pattern that I have seen in Test cricket, if you see any match’s highlights — batsmen play out difficult sessions by giving no chances to be able to survive. Because of influence of white ball cricket, there are a lot of results in Test cricket. It has an effect on batting too,” Kohli told the media.

“I think defence, which is key in this format, is being compromised. People think that we should score 300-350 quickly. That four-five session long grind, I don’t think that is in focus nowadays. People are not focussing on defence that much maybe because they have to switch from other formats, it affects the skill. Skill is definitely required to play on tracks that turn. You don’t have to necessarily sweep. You can find your way. You need to have confidence in defence so that the ball doesn’t go to short leg or silly point. It is a part of the game that has been ignored,” he further said.

Kohli disagreed with his deputy Ajinkya Rahane and some English players like Zak Crawley on their views over the pink ball. Rahane and Crawley had said that it will be easier to face the red ball than the pink ball. Kohli said there is not much difference between red ball and pink ball and it was only the poor quality in batting.

“I don’t understand why a cricket ball, cricket pitch are brought into focus. Why don’t we just focus on the fact that the batsmen were just not skilled enough to play on that pitch. It was a bizarre display of batting by both teams in a Test match. I will continue to say that because I have played long enough to understand what happens on a cricket field. It is not a change in ball colour or change in ball shape. It is still round, still weighs five-and-a-half ounces so I don’t know what difference it makes suddenly. The pitch in Chennai though was different. This track has more pace,” he added.

“The result in the last game was down to bizarre batting from both sides and we scored more runs than the opposition. It was just poor batting. It could have gone into the third or fourth day,” said Kohli.

The 32-year-old India captain also said that the pitch is getting unnecessary flak when it is the batting that has been poor.

“We lost in New Zealand in three days. No one wrote about the pitch. It was all about how India played badly in New Zealand and none of the pitches were criticised. No one came and saw how much the pitch was doing and how much the ball was moving. Or how much grass was there on the pitch? The reason for our success has been that we have not cribbed about any pitch on which we have played on. We will continue to play as a team moving forward,” added Kohli.

“Spinning tracks come into focus way more. When the ball seams on a particular wicket and a team gets bundled out for 40, 50, 60, no one writes about it. It is always called bad batting. We all need to be honest. What is the idea behind continuing this narrative and what purpose it serves,” he said.

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