KP hails 'father figure' Clive Rice after all-rounder passes away

Sport360 staff 29/07/2015
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Clive Rice (l) helped Pietersen (r) out greatly at start of his career.

Kevin Pietersen has paid tribute to "father figure" Clive Rice, after the former South Africa captain died at the age of 66.

Rice had been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour prior to his death on Tuesday in a Cape Town Hospital.

He was a lavishly talented all-rounder in his playing days but the sporting boycott of Apartheid-era South Africa meant he was only able to represent his country in three one-day internationals, captaining the Proteas in their first series after readmission.

He left a lasting legacy at Nottinghamshire, though, skippering the side to a first county championship title in 52 years in 1981 and adding a second success in 1987, before returning as cricket manager in 1999.

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A year later he was instrumental in persuading Pietersen to leave his homeland and begin on a path that ended up with him becoming one of England's most recognisable, decorated and divisive players in recent years.

Pietersen's relationship with Nottinghamshire eventually soured, as it later did with England, but his friendship with Rice remained solid.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "Ricey was like a father figure to me. He was the first person who gave me my first opportunity in England.

A young-looking KP for Nottinghamshire in 2004.

"He and his wife Sue would regularly invite me around to dinner just to make sure that I wasn't homesick having left South Africa as a youngster.

"He saw in me more than I saw in myself because he gave me the confidence, ability and opportunities to fulfil a talent that I really didn't know that I had.

"It's an incredibly sad day. I'll try to make my plans to get across to South Africa to pay my tribute to a wonderful man."

Pietersen admitted to playfully ribbing his mentor about the glaring absences on his CV, but made it clear his evolution from unproven off-spinner to world-class batsman could not have been made without his input.

"If I got a Test wicket, which were few and far between, or whenever I got a Test hundred I'd ask Ricey if he would like one of those on his numbers because he unfortunately never played Test match cricket, the wonderful player that he was," said Pietersen.

"It was just a little thing that we had going between each other.

"People ask me the question all the time: 'You were a bowler and you became a batsman?'

KP: Rice was a "wonderful player"

"Ricey always said to me to bat at number six in my first season in county cricket and that he wanted me to score me 1,000 runs. I looked at him with disbelief in my eyes.

"It was just a huge confidence boost. He obviously had a vision for talent, more than I had in myself.

"A lot of my self belief came from Ricey."

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Sharma needs big scores in Sri Lanka series to seal spot in Test team

Sudhir Gupta 29/07/2015
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Rohit Sharma is banking on the upcoming series in Sri Lanka to revive his Test career.

Rohit Sharma admits his position in India’s Test team is on a shaky ground and he needs to come up with consistent scores to ensure  a regular spot in the side.

Since scoring back to back centuries in his debut series against West Indies two years ago, Sharma has logged just two 50-plus scores in the rest of his nine Tests. His run tally in 11 Tests stands at 668 with a modest average of 39.29.

Sharma faces a stiff challenge from teammate Cheteshwar Puj-ara, who is back in form after losing his No3 spot following a poor run. Both batsmen will be vying for places in the playing XI during the upcoming three-match Test series in Sri Lanka next month.

Although Sharma has been preferred by new captain Virat Kohli in the last two Tests, his returns at No3 – 53, 39 and six – have been far from impressive.

Besides, whenever India have played five bowlers, a combination that Kohli is a fan of, the axe has fallen on Sharma.
Sharma insists the Test spot is “priceless” and he doesn’t want to let go of it “so easily”.

“It’s not just me. Any cricketer you ask, nobody wants to lose that spot. You know how hard you had to work for that spot. For me it was never easy.  I had to wait for five-six years before making my debut. I was scoring pretty heavily in Ranji Trophy. Because we had such a strong middle order at that time, it wasn’t easy. 

“Now I stand in a position where it’s a very tricky situation. I definitely want to do well every Test match I play. But knowing how Test matches are played these days, it’s not easy. In fact it was never easy. Test cricket is a challenge, and I love challenges.”

The 28-year-old who is a regular in India’s limited-overs teams as an opening batsman insists he is unf-azed by the competition he faces in the Test team. “When it comes to competition, it is always good to be in that zone,” he told bcci.tv. 

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“You always want to be competing for whatever you do. Just not for the spot, but even when you cement your place, you want to keep competing against the best in the world. I don’t take it as pressure. 

“I always enjoy competition, I have always loved it. 

“At the end of the day what you do on the field is what matters. When you get an opportunity you have to make the most of it. You are the person in charge, you are the person responsible for what you make of it. 

“It is in your hand what you do. You have all the opportunity. You just have to grab it. How you do it is up to you.”

Sharma is looking ahead to the series in Sri Lanka, beginning from August 12, to revive his Test career.

“It does bother when you don’t get runs in Test matches but I don’t want to keep sulking about it. 

“I want to look forward. I am a positive person so I only look forward to good things.

“I hope I can change things around a little bit (in Sri Lanka ser-ies) for me and my country. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.”

Testing times: Rohit Sharma scored 177 and 111 in his first two Test matches against the West Indies in the home series in 2013. But since then his scores have been ordinary in the nine Tests that followed.

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#360view: England must prepare for lively pitches

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England need to rediscover their impressive form the first Test in Cardiff.

The Australians have made one thing absolutely clear, they are the undisputed champions of ‘flat’ surfaces. If the wicket does not have a lot of help in it for the bowlers, you can rest assured that the Aussies will find a way to score heavily and take 20 wickets for as few runs as possible.

It’s their dynamic bowling attack which sets them apart from the rest of the teams.

To have one or two strike bowlers is a privilege very few teams enjoy; the Australians have four top-class wicket taking bowlers. We all know very well what the two Mitchells – Starc and Johnson – are capable of and in the form they are at the moment, it seems only injury can prevent them from taking wickets.

Josh Hazlewood is just 24 but does the holding job superbly well, applying relentless pressure with his tight line and high arm action. And then there is superb variety in the form of off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who can exploit whatever little help is available in the pitch.

And even after these four bowlers, the batsmen can’t expect much respite when all-rounder Mitchell Marsh comes in to bowl as he has ramped up his speed to close to 140 kmph, which is excellent.

And their batsmen – led by the inimitable Steven Smith – don’t need a second invitation to pile on the runs on benign surfaces. Looking at how things have turned out so far, it’s clear England need to find a new line of attack. 

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The third Test in Birmingham today is very crucial because if Australia manage to hold the upper hand in this match, they will most definitely run away with the series. England must go for broke and desperate times call for desperate measures. Since the Aussies can’t be tamed on flat tracks, the only way England can look to gain the upper hand is by dishing out spicy wickets for the remaining three Tests.

England’s batsmen struggled against the Australian quicks on batsmen friendly surfaces and if they confront them on a lively strip, there can be only one result – flying edges, shaky batsmen and tumbling wickets.

But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. England’s seamers aren’t ‘up and down’ bowlers by any stretch of the imagination. If the ball starts to swing or seam or both, James Anderson and Stuart Broad will most definitely have the likes of David Warner and Smith hopping around in the crease. 

In such a scenario, when 20 wickets of a team are bound to fall, it will all boil down to one or two cavalier innings which batsmen on both sides are more than capable of delivering. In the first Test, England were 293 for six and an 88-ball 77 from Moeen Ali at number eight took the game away from the Aussies. That’s all one needs in lowscoring matches, which can work in the favour of Alastair Cook’s side.

When 20 wickets of a team are bound to fall, it will all boil down to one or two cavalier innings which batsmen on both sides are more than capable of delivering

If England get green wickets, their bowlers will have their tails up as they will have the confidence that they can bowl out Michael Clarke’s men for less than 300. The hosts’ batsmen, therefore, won’t have to worry about putting up a big score. A plucky fifty here, a quick-fire 40 there, topped with a late order assault can take them to 300 and beyond and they can take the game from there.

England need to take batsmen out of the equation as a face-off between the bowlers is the only way they can look to get back into the series. And for that, the pitches will need a lot of life in them.

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