Dubai Mammoths set for England tour

Denzil Pinto 24/05/2017
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A group of Dubai-based cricketers aged over 40 will test themselves in English conditions when they embark on their UK tour next month.

Having played two competitive tournaments – Big Forty’s and Pink Ball Forty’s, both organised by Dubai Cricket Council – Dubai Mammoths are set for their biggest and most exciting test yet, with  five one-day matches lined up between June 3-11.

Before a ball is even bowled, the   15-man squad will also be among the lucky 25,000 fans at Edgbaston as defending champions India begin their title defence against fierce rivals Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy on June 4.

While that match will go down as one of the highlights during their week-long trip, Dubai Mammoths are again relishing the opportunity of taking wickets and scoring runs “in a place like heaven” for the fifth consecutive year.

“We are all excited for this tour and although it’s getting nearer, time seems to be passing slower,” said Shiva Pagarani, co-organiser of the tour.

“This will be the fifth time that we will be returning to England for this annual tour and it’s something we are really looking forward to because playing in England is really like playing in heaven.

“We’ll be going there in the English summer, so it’ll be quite different for us because we’ll be arriving from the UAE where it’s really hot. But it’s a dream for any cricketer to play in England.”

Hinckley Town,  Worcester Fossils, Surrey County, Ketton Cricket Club and City Cricket Academy 40s will provide the opposition for Mammoths with captaincy duties being split between Rajesh Thadani, Navin Punjab and Sujit Salian over the five games.

“We have given the captaincy to different people over the tour to give them experience of leading a side in an overseas match,” added bowling all-rounder Pagarani, who is the owner of Yogi Group.

“We are all over the age of 40 and businessmen ourselves so playing cricket outside office hours is a great stress-buster for us.

“We will give it our best shot and we’ve fared quite well against English opposition in the previous years. We hope it’s the same again next month.”

Following their tour to Europe, Mammoths and Sindhi Cricket Club will travel to Mumbai and Pune in November, while a trip to Kenya is scheduled early next year.

“We’ll be going to Kenya in February 2018 for the first time where we’ll be playing three one-day matches.

“It will be another opportunity to enhance our knowledge and play in a country that we have not played in before.”

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IPL 2017: Steven Smith and David Warner rise above row with Indian players and pay battle

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The IPL has always been about star names, Indians or otherwise. The focus is mainly on the runs, sixes, wickets and the occasional controversy. But even before the 10th edition of the tournament started, there was another storyline playing out. It was about the Australian players and their equation with the Indians.

It seems like ages ago when the Australian team arrived in India in February for a four Test series. India won what was one of the most intensely fought series in recent memory but the bad blood between the sides spilled outside the field with even the cricket boards stepping in. Captain Virat Kohli stopped short of accusing the Aussies of cheating while using the decision review system, then Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland suggested Kohli didn’t know how to spell sorry. Ravi Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara discussed on-field banter during a video interaction on BCCI’s website, which didn’t go down well with David Warner.

After the end of the acrimonious series, Kohli said he no longer considered some Aussies his friends. Sporting relations between the sides couldn’t have sunk lower.

Then one week after the end of the Border-Gavaskar series, the IPL started. Both teams hardly got any time to think about their ‘break-up’ before they were asked to patch things up and get on with it for two more months.

Still, cricketers are humans and the way to central figures of that combative Test series – Steven Smith and Warner – brought the best out of their respective IPL sides deserves credit.

The job for Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Warner was slightly easier as he didn’t have to contend with many India players who he had to take on in the Test series. However, he did captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar at Hyderabad, who was part of that Test squad and took part in the final match of that series.
But Smith had his plate full. He had been caught on camera during the final Test in Dharamsala calling Murali Vijay a “****ing cheat” for claiming a bump catch. Plus he had Ajinkya Rahane in his team. Luckily, Ashwin was ruled out of the IPL due to a sports hernia. Otherwise Smith would have had another awkward situation to deal with.

On top of that, Smith was made the captain after the Pune team owners dumped MS Dhoni quite publicly. With so many factors in play, Smith and, to a lesser extent Warner, displayed remarkable leadership skills to navigate through the tricky situation.

Warner was the only batsmen to score more than 600 runs this IPL. And Smith turned Pune’s fortunes around in one season, putting the debacle of 2016 – where they finished second last – behind and almost winning the IPL final.

No member of the Indian or Australian team would have forgotten what had transpired when the players were wearing whites. For the two Aussies to embrace their role and deliver in the best possible way speaks volumes about their abilities and also the sound system in place at the franchise.

All this happened while the Australian players were locked in a contract dispute with their board. Players are even contemplating a strike if their demand of maintaining the existing pay structure isn’t addressed.

Warner fears there might not be an Australian team for the next Ashes. With Australian cricket facing a serious crisis back home and the livelihood of international and domestic cricketers at stake, both Smith and Warner must have had to divide their time between two major cricketing issues.

Cricket, obviously, is a team game and the matches won by Rising Pune Supergiant and Sunrisers Hyderabad saw contributions from many players. But it can’t be emphasised enough that Smith and Warner stood up to the formidable challenge which emanated from the acerbic Test series and the contract dispute to keep their focus on the job on the field.

TOUGH TIMES FOR UMAR

It has not been a good few days for Pakistan’s middle order batsman Umar Akmal. Umar was first punished by the Pakistan board for misconduct during a domestic tournament where he appeared to question the unavailability of his team-mate Junaid Khan for a match. Now, news has emerged of him failing a fitness test for the Champions Trophy. And it’s not even the first time he has battled fitness issues.

It’s remarkable that a talented batsman can’t maintain a certain level of fitness at the age of 26. Last year, he was seen in a video asking cricket legend Imran Khan to recommend his promotion up the batting order as he felt he wasn’t getting enough opportunities.

If Umar can’t keep up his fitness levels, how is the team management expected to back him to succeed when the chips are down? He still has time on his side. So Umar should concentrate on polishing his fitness and game, and not allow his cricket to be sidetracked by squabbles, desperate requests or dodgy fitness.

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England bowler James Anderson suffers injury scare

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James Anderson is unlikely to bowl again in Lancashire’s Specsavers County Championship clash with Yorkshire and will have a groin scan on Monday, Press Association Sport understands.

The England paceman has failed to return to the Emirates Old Trafford pitch since limping off clutching his right groin midway through his sixth over on Friday.

Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple revealed after the opening day’s play that Anderson would be assessed on Saturday, when Yorkshire resumed on 251 for six in their first innings.

But, having failed to take to the field on Saturday, it is understood Yorkshire’s batsmen are unlikely to face Anderson again in this match and that the 34-year-old will have a scan on Monday.

Lancashire confirmed Anderson’s absence on their official Twitter account:

Anderson had been scheduled to play in Lancashire’s next four championship matches before his expected involvement in England’s Test summer, which begins against South Africa at Lord’s on July 6.

*From Press Association

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