Battle over new contract system threatens to tear Australian cricket apart

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Storm brewing: Australian cricket.

Cricket has got a few things right over the years. The way administrators have managed to strike some sort of a balance between the three formats of the game deserves credit.

Test cricket has become a lot more result-oriented and the top teams in the world are seen to be giving more importance to health of the longest format of the game. T20 and the surfeit of leagues around the world brought up a new challenge for the establishment.

The exponential growth of the Indian Premier League and the rise of franchise-based T20 leagues across the globe – with England too planning one of their own – was supposed to signal the end of the longest form of the game. But that hasn’t happened.

Also, the level of professionalism in cricket has improved significantly, be it ground facilities or salaries. Players across the world, at least in most top nations, can now make a decent living by being just a cricketer. A T20 contract is the jackpot.

Another area where cricket has acted with alacrity is in the area of match fixing with numerous incidents coming to the fore and action taken on them swiftly. It may not be as strict as some would want, but it is at least an ongoing process with an honest effort made to catch the culprits. Or at least it makes more noise about the issue than other sports.

So on those fronts, good progress has been made. Where cricket has failed miserably is while dealing with players’ contracts.

Steve Smith.

Steve Smith.

You look at the fate of players in Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe over the years and it becomes clear they have not been taken care of by the boards despite being the driving force behind whatever revenue is being generated.

Sri Lankans fought with their board over their new contract ahead of the 2016 Zimbabwe tour while West Indies players and board have quarrelled over contracts more times than it is possible to remember.

Trouble is now brewing between Australian players and its board over payment structure. The players rejected a new payment structure that put an end to the two-decade old revenue-sharing model that linked player payments to the income generated by the sport.

The players believe the new structure would create a huge gap between international stars and domestic players. But Cricket Australia is having none of it.

While reports earlier stated it wanted to offer multi-year contracts to top players to lure them away from the IPL and keep them fit for national duty, relations between the board and players have quickly deteriorated with the board threatening no pay after June 30 – the day the current deal expires – unless the players agree to the new offer.

Yup, Australian cricket is facing a player-board crisis again. Do you remember the Kerry Packer led World Series Cricket in 1977? At that time, Australian media mogul Packer created a parallel tournament of the world’s leading players after failing to win the broadcast deal for Australian cricket.

That endeavour led to the advent of day night cricket, white ball games and coloured clothing. Now there is real danger of Australian players taking a radical step – read players’ strike – to force CA to accept their demands.

It’s not only Australia. Even Indian players are not happy with their pay structure. While the top-grade annual contract amount from the board was doubled to $300,000, the Indians are unhappy as that is still just a fraction of what top Australian players earn; Steven Smith’s annual contract is around $2 million.

That amount doesn’t include IPL fees or match fees. Next year, the IPL will get a new TV broadcast deal and if its value is greater than the $1 billion it received previously, then the league will be seen as a sanctuary for players, at least non-Indians, who are unhappy with the way they are treated by their boards.

Chris Gayle has become a mercenary, preferring to take care of himself rather than rely on board members. And while there might not be an exodus of players from the international scene soon, the pull of foreign T20 leagues will only get stronger for players if they continue to be pushed by their boards.

Cricket officials should remember that irrespective of the hard work they put in, it is the cricketer who runs the show and the billions sloshing around is sustained by the excellence of players.

BROTHERS UP IN ARMS

Brothers Hardik and Krunal Pandya celebrate a victory in the IPL.

Brothers Hardik and Krunal Pandya celebrate a victory in the IPL.

They say you shouldn’t wash your dirty linen in public. But the Pandya brothers missed that class. On Saturday, Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya tweeted a cryptic message which read: “Sometimes in life, people closest to you end up disappointing you the most. Not cool, bro!”.

That message was for his brother and team-mate Krunal, who immediately replied: “This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I am bade bhaiyya [big brother] for a reason. Let’s not make this a big issue!” Virender Sehwag then pushed himself into the twitter tussle, asking the brothers to not fight in public.

Whatever the issues, it is common sense not to air it on social media. But common sense is not that common, it seems.

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ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Squads

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The ICC Champions Trophy [Getty Images]

The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy will take place from June 1-18 in England.

India go into the tournament as defending champions, having won the tournament under the captaincy of MS Dhoni in 2013.

The pre-tournament favourites have had a change at the helm of the team, with Virat Kohli taking over as captain earlier this year.

2004 champions West Indies failed to qualify for the competition as they were outside the top eight in the ICC ODI Rankings on the cut-off date.

Here, we look at all the squads.

AUSTRALIA

Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

BANGLADESH

Masrafe Mortaza (c), Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan Miraj, Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sanjamul Islam, Sabbir Rahman, Shafiul Islam, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarker, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed.

ENGLAND

Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

INDIA

Virat Kohli (c), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammad Shami, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Umesh Yadav.

NEW ZEALAND

Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

PAKISTAN

Sarfraz Ahmad (c), Ahmad Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Fahim Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hassan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz.

SOUTH AFRICA

AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir.

SRI LANKA

Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Nuwan Pradeep, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Upul Tharanga.

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Gabriel decimate Pakistan as WI win

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Shannon Gabriel’s five-wicket haul inspired West Indies to a 106-run victory over Pakistan on the final day of the second Test in Bridgetown on Thursday.

Set a target of 188 after leg-spinner Yasir Shah’s seven for 94 wrapped up the home side’s second innings at 268 at the start of the day, the tourists were never in contention after the pace barrage on a deteriorating pitch led by Gabriel, whose innings figures of five for 11 contributed to Pakistan’s demise for just 81 off 34.4 overs.

It equalled the lowest total ever in a Test innings at the venue set by India, also in a losing effort chasing 120, against the West Indies in 1997 and leaves the series at 1-1 going into the final Test in Dominica starting next Wednesday.

Troubled by injuries and no-balls throughout his comparatively brief career, the burly fast bowler earned the Man of the Match award with overall figures of nine for 92, the third-best by a West Indian against Pakistan.

Only wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed and fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who contributed 23 each, offered any resistance to Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph (two for 42) and Jason Holder (three for 23), the West Indies captain having the satisfaction of taking the final wicket when Ahmed was caught by Roston Chase on the long-on boundary to trigger the Caribbean side’s celebrations.

“We knew we had a chance once we got a lead over 150,” said Gabriel as he savoured the success.

“I just concentrated on bowling the right areas at pace and everything worked out for me and the team. This was a total team effort.”

Gabriel started the rout with the wicket of first innings century-maker Azhar Ali as the opening batsman miscued an attempted pull for Shimron Hetmyer to take a diving catch at midwicket.

Joseph, sharing the new ball with Gabriel, struck in the very next over when Babar Azam flicked at a leg-side delivery for wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich to snare the chance and consign Pakistan’s brightest batting talent to the indignity of a “pair.”

Joseph should have also accounted for Ahmed Shehzad but the opening batsman, who enjoyed generous slices of luck in scoring 70 in the first innings, was missed at first slip edging an attempted drive.

That disappointment was replaced by even more jubilation in the West Indies camp though, as Holder replaced Gabriel and immediately earned the prized scalp of Younis Khan. Adjudged LBW by on-field umpire Richard Kettleborough, Younis challenged the decision only to have it confirmed by the television replays.

With Joseph tiring, Gabriel was recalled into action to replace the gangling Antiguan and the burly Trinidad and Tobago tearaway responded with two critical wickets in the space of three deliveries.

Captain Misbah ul Haq was first ruled “not out” to vociferous appeals but replays following a challenge showed an inside-edge that lobbed to Shai Hope at gully and sent the Pakistan captain back to the pavilion without scoring.

He was joined just a few minutes later by Asad Shafiq when the new batsman edged his second delivery for Powell to take the catch at first slip at the third attempt.

“West Indies deserve all the credit for the way their bowlers performed today but I felt we let the match get away from us by letting them get so many runs in the second innings,” said Misbah.

“Our intention was to bat normally and put away the scoring opportunities but they never really came early enough for us to get going.”

Pakistan were in danger of their lowest-ever total when Shehzad and Shadab Khan fell shortly after lunch at 36 for seven. However Ahmed and Amir took them past the ignominious low of 49 in a 42-run stand that only delayed the inevitable.

Gabriel was brought back into the attack to the break the partnership with the wicket of Amir and completed a five-wicket innings haul when he bowled Shah for the fourth duck of the innings.

It was then left to Holder to finish off the match with the wicket of Ahmed even if it meant denying Gabriel a first ten-wicket match haul in Test cricket.

The third and concluding test at Roseau starts on May 10.

Provided by AFP

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