Pakistan star spinner Yasir Shah signs with Big Bash League side Brisbane Heat

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Yasir Shah has been signed as a replacement player by Brisbane Heat.

Pakistan star Yasir Shah has been signed by Big Bash League (BBL) side Brisbane Heat as an international replacement player ahead of the upcoming edition.

The 31-year-old will now travel to Brisbane to join up with fellow compatriot and leg-spinner Shadab Khan to train for the new season.

The Heat have already secured the services of Shadab and Brendon McCullum as their two designated overseas players but BBL rules allow for teams to register four foreign players on their books.

With the youngster Shadab impressing steadily ever since bursting onto the international stage, the probability of the 19-year-old being called up for Pakistan’s T20I squad during their tour of New Zealand in January next year remains high.

As such, the Heat can draft in Yasir instead of their two international players at any stage if they become unavailable.

“Having Yasir agree to join us as a replacement player means that we can plan for the series with some certainty,’’ Heat coach Dan Vettori said.

“Shadab Khan has been going from strength to strength for Pakistan since signing with us and there is the possibility he could be required for international duty during the BBL.

Shah will join fellow Pakistan spinner Shadab Khan at Brisbane.

Shah will join fellow Pakistan spinner Shadab Khan at Brisbane.

“Having an experienced ‘like for like’ player such as Yasir to call upon means we can hopefully have continuity with our playing plans.

“He’s a very accomplished player in Test, one day and T20 formats, and having him around will also benefit the slow bowlers in our squad, especially someone like Mitch Swepson who is a young bowler rapidly gaining more experience transitioning between white and red ball cricket,” Vettori added.

Shah, the leader of Pakistan’s Test spin-ataack, has 165 Test wickets at 29.44 in just 28 matches and has captured 60 wickets in T20 cricket at an economy rate of just 6.71.

Brisbane Heat will begin their BBL campaign against the Melbourne Stars at the Gabba on December 20. Meanwhile, Pakistan will begin their tour of New Zealand with a five-match ODI series beginning on January 6.

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Rahane says India can't take Sri Lanka lightly

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Ajinkya Rahane was also working on his sweeps at the nets.

Ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane spoke of the need for the hosts to concentrate on the battle at hand rather than the tour of South Africa which looms large on the horizon.

The right-handed batsman said that Dinesh Chandimal’s side pose a challenge of their own and could not be taken lightly despite India having blanked the islanders in all formats in their own backyard a few months earlier.

“Look, South Africa will be completely different. Right now, if we want to remain the No. 1 team, every series is really important. We want to win each and every match and each and every series. This series is equally important,” Rahane said at at press conference ahead of the first of the three-match Test series beginning on Thursday.

“Sri Lanka have been preparing really well, so we can’t take them lightly. We are just concentrating on this series,” he added.

“This series is completely different compared to how we played in Sri Lanka. We know the conditions here. We had a good series in Sri Lanka. For us every match and series is important before going to South Africa.

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“We are just focusing on this series right now, more specifically the first Test here in Kolkata. We just want to think about our game rather than thinking about their combination or their strengths.”

India has whitewashed Sri Lanka in all formats two months back.

India has whitewashed Sri Lanka in all formats two months back.

The 29-year-old batsman also spoke of the need to evolve his game against the spinners and said that he had been working on his sweeps and reverse-sweeps at the nets.

“It’s important to improve your game day by day. When you’re practising in the nets, it is important to evolve and I am just practising. I just want to improve. I always think that if I improve one shot in the nets session, I’ll be better off during the game.  If the opportunity comes in the game, I am 100% confident of ‘playing a particular shot.

“I am just practising – reverse-sweep, sweep, paddle sweep. Just an option,” he said.

Virat Kohli’s men have been the top-ranked Test team for some time now with a formidable record at home while Sri Lanka are coming off the back of inflicting a first-ever Test series defeat on Pakistan in the UAE despite their limited-overs format struggles.

The Test series will be followed by three one-dayers and as many T20I’s before India depart for their tour of South Africa before the New Year.

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England must silence Australian crowds to win Ashes, says Graeme Swann

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England must silence the baying home crowds if they are to stand any chance of getting on top of Australia during the upcoming Ashes series, said former spinner Graeme Swann.

Swann, who retired mid-way through England’s ill-fated tour in 2013/14, described the noise levels at the Gabba in Brisbane, hosting the first Test from November 23, as “unbelievable” and even louder than Real Madrid’s home supporters.

England are the current Ashes holders but go into the lion’s den on the back of two 5-0 whitewashes in their past three tours Down Under, although Swann was a key part of the side that won 3-1 in 2010/11.

“The thing you’ve got to do is stop the noise and the easy way to do that in Australia is to get on top of them,” said Swann, adding that England’s senior players such as Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root would have to lead from the front.

“If you get on top of the team, they’ll quickly turn on their own but obviously the hard bit is getting on top of them,” he said, speaking at the launch of BT Sport’s Ashes coverage in London in his capacity as a pundit.

“It’s the most unique wicket in the world, more than Perth, it’s quicker than Perth,” he added.

“It does a lot off the seam, especially early on, so you get a lot of slip catches there. It’s just very alien to anywhere else you bat in the world so teams struggle.”

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan, a fellow BT pundit, agreed that Brisbane offers unique challenges to touring teams.

“I always think of all the venues, Brisbane to me is the one venue where when you go out to bat you’re not just facing one bowler, you’re facing 40,000.

“It just feels that the whole of Australia are watching you. They’re the nastiest of the crowds. No idea why but they do seem to know exactly that they can get to the England side.”

BATTING ISSUES

Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook

Swann said he had more confidence in England’s powerful middle and lower order batting than the top-order batting, which is light on experience, but said the home side have problems of their own.

“It’s not an ideal thing but I think the Australians are in the same boat,” he said. “I think the Australians have got (David) Warner and (Steve) Smith in the top five who are undoubtedly world class.

“We’ve got Cook and Root who are undoubtedly world class. I think they’ve got some holes that haven’t been completely filled.”

Australia are favourites, according to Vaughan, but are also not the finished article, and, with James Pattinson already out, would struggle if fellow paceman Mitchell Starc got injured.

Swann described his fellow off-spinner Moeen Ali as a “brilliant” batsman and said he could play a crucial role for England with both bat and ball, especially given the likely absence, at least from the first Test, of talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes.

Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali

“I hope he (Ali) goes over there believing he’s a brilliant bowler as well because he is. He really can bowl but he still doesn’t believe it,” said Swann, adding: “He’s world-class when he wants to be with the ball.”

Stokes is suspended and remains at home awaiting the outcome of a police probe into his involvement in a brawl outside a nightclub but the England and Wales cricket Board have not yet ruled him out of the Ashes altogether.

And what about the chances of an easing in hostilities between the two fierce rivals?

Pugnacious opener Warner fired up the tourists last month by comparing playing against England to “war” and said he planned to take “some sort of hatred” into the Tests before appearing to row back from his comments.

So is he a changed man?

“Leopards don’t change their spots,” said Swann. “He’s still the bloke who punched Joe Root in a pub.” 

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