Axe likely to fall on misfiring England players after 340-run defeat in Trent Bridge Test

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South Africa thrashed England to level the series at 1-1.

England captain Joe Root played down concerns over his side’s misfiring top order after a comprehensive, series-levelling defeat to South Africa but kept the door open for changes ahead of the third Test.

After kicking off his reign with a handsome victory at Lord’s, Root saw his team humbled at Trent Bridge where they were skittled for 133 in 44.2 overs for a 340-run defeat on Monday.

Doubts over opener Keaton Jennings and Root’s Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance are growing rather than receding with each innings, with the pair making 44 and 85 respectively in four knocks apiece.

Root provided some support for the pair in post-match presentation, but hinted their positions were not guaranteed for the Oval Test.

“No, I don’t think it (the top three) is a concern. They just need some runs and to spend some time out in the middle,” he said.

“I’m sure if they get the opportunity to do that in the next game they will go on and make big scores. We’ll sit down with selection and make sure we’re happy with what we have going into the next one.”

Another player potentially looking over his shoulder is paceman Mark Wood.

The Durham player returned to the red-ball setup after a two-year injury-enforced absence at the start of this series but has managed just one wicket for 197 runs in two Tests.

Bowling coach Ottis Gibson suggested he had experienced some discomfort in his heel – not his troublesome ankle – but Root is hoping that issue does not develop.

“It’s been a tough week for Woody, really,” he said. “He worked really hard throughout the game and was unfortunate not to pick up many wickets but I can’t fault his efforts, the way he’s gone about it.

“In terms of fitness he came through quite well, so hopefully he’s fit for selection for the next one.”

With the win, South Africa leveled the four-match series at 1-1.

England, set a mammoth 474 runs for victory, collapsed to 133 all out in their second innings 40 minutes before tea on the fourth day.

No England batsman made a fifty in an innings where former captain Alastair Cook’s 42 was the top score.

England, who resumed on one without loss, lost four wickets before lunch and a further six before tea. Man-of-the match Vernon Philander led South Africa’s attack with three wickets for 24 runs in 10 overs, while left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took three for 42 in 12.

Duanne Olivier ended the match by taking two wickets in two balls to dismiss tailenders Wood and James Anderson.

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Drama surrounding appointment of Rahul Dravid as Team India consultant in poor taste

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Rahul Dravid is the India A and U19 team coach.

The appointment of Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid as India’s bowling and batting consultants has not been finalised as yet, despite the cricket board announcing the same.

As much as Indian cricket establishment has amused us over the years with its machinations, the current one involving some of the finest players India has produced is staggering.

The case with Anil Kumble was clear. The captain – Virat Kohli – was not keen on him continuing as India coach and that was the end of the story. Maybe Kumble should never have been appointed in the first place, as the previous appointee Ravi Shastri was doing a decent enough job. Kumble left with a smear on his CV, and for no fault of his.

However, the Dravid situation is quite different.

The former India captain played the game with a straight bat, literally and figuratively. When the Indian team needed a batsman to do the wicketkeeping duties so that an extra batsman could be accommodated in ODIs, Dravid was the man. Out of his 344 ODI matches, Dravid played 73 as the gloveman, including in the 2003 World Cup.

When the Indian Test team required an opener at short notice, it was Dravid. During the 2011 tour of England, which was an unmitigated disaster for the Indians on the field, Dravid was asked to open the innings in two out of the four Tests due to the fitness issues of regular openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

In both Tests, Dravid scored a century. In fact, in the fourth Test, he scored a ton and carried his bat. India lost the series 4-0 but Dravid’s batting stood out for its resilience.

After retirement in 2012, guiding the younger generation of cricketers looked like the natural next step for someone like Dravid who is seen as ‘the’ role model.

Instead of vying for a glamorous seat in the Cricket Advisory Committee in 2015, which included stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman and which is involved with major on-field cricketing matters, Dravid actively sought an opportunity to work with younger players. In 2015, he was named coach of the India ‘A’ and U-19 teams.

In 2016, the then BCCI president Anurag Thakur revealed he had asked Dravid to coach the Indian senior team. But Dravid was happy to continue in his role as India’s junior team coach and IPL side Delhi Daredevils’ mentor.

“I requested Rahul Dravid to coach the Indian team. “He didn’t say no, but said that he will work for the junior team,” Thakur was quoted as saying.

“That is the good thing about Dravid, he didn’t go for the senior team post, big money and all. He wanted to work for the junior cricketers and not the senior team.”

What it really meant was Dravid didn’t want to get into any clash of egos or uncomfortable situations that come with high-profile appointments – be it in powerful committees or senior team management.

But even then, Dravid found himself in the spotlight when his role as coach and IPL mentor was questioned by former BCCI administrator Ramachandra Guha this year, pointing to a potential conflict of interest.

Sure enough, Dravid gave up his IPL contract to work with the U-19 and ‘A’ team full time.

Then this week, the former India batsman was named batting consultant of the senior team for overseas tours by the board. However, the court-appointed committee of administrators revealed it was just a recommendation.

It might be finalised in the coming few weeks but that doesn’t hide the slipshod manner in which Dravid has been treated.

Here is a man who has gone out of his way to ensure no one questions his work ethics and style of functioning, as a player and then coach. He gave up his IPL contract and now doesn’t know whether he will be working with the senior team as a consultant.

Now it appears coach Shastri wants his own set of full-time coaches and is fine with the likes of Dravid and Zaheer working only as “consultants from time to time”.

The blame for the current situation must fall on the BCCI, as the advisory panel of Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly had exceeded its brief in appointing two consultants when they were only asked to select the coach.

When exemplary figures like Kumble and Dravid are forced to look for answers after being handled shabbily, one wonders how many big names will line up for similar positions in the future. You see, these are individuals who have earned their reputation after years of toil and sacrifices.

Unless of course, those lining up for the job in the future don’t mind being tossed around in the mind-boggling maze of Indian cricket administration.

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India skipper Mithali Raj continues her superb run with the bat in 2017

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Mithali Raj scored her sixth ODI century.

India captain Mithali Raj continued her sensational form in 2017 as she scored 109 against New Zealand at the women’s World Cup on Saturday in Derby.

Raj’s 123-ball knock contained 11 boundaries and was made at a much faster clip than her previous score of 69 from 114 balls against Australia.

The skipper helped boost India’s total to 265-7 with a 132-run stand with Harmanpreet Kaur, who scored a fine 60.

Raj was joined by Veda Krishnamurthy in the middle and the latter upped the ante towards the end of the innings, hitting a fifty off just 34 balls. The captain reached three figures in the 48th over when she turned Leigh Kasperek to mid-wicket for two. It was her sixth century in ODIs and her first since 2014, when she hit an unbeaten 104 against Sri Lanka at Vizag.

Raj was out for 109 while Krishnamurthy made 70 off 45 balls as India put up a challenging total in their final round-robin match.

It was the tenth fifty-plus score in a calendar year for Raj, which is the most by any woman cricketer. In the previous game against Australia, Raj became the leading run-scorer in one-dayers as she overtook England’s Charlotte Edwards’ tally of 5,992 runs.

Raj is one of the greatest women’s cricketers produced by India and on his part, former skipper Sunil Gavaskar had said it was improper to compare her to Sachin Tendulkar as Raj had carved a niche for herself.

“Mithali Raj is an inspiration and has carved a niche for herself. She is standing at the top of a mountain and we should celebrate that,” Gavaskar had said.

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