Sreesanth free to play again in 2020 after ban reduced to seven years

Sudhir Gupta 18:35 20/08/2019
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Relief for former India pacer S Sreesanth.

Fast bowler S Sreesanth succeeded in gaining the right to play the game again as BCCI ombudsman DK Jain reduced his life ban – imposed on the pacer for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal – to seven years’ suspension.

The BCCI had earlier banned Sreesanth, now 36, for life along with Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan in the aftermath of the IPL fixing scandal. But in March this year, the Supreme Court set BCCI’s order aside and asked it to reconsider its position.

In the latest order, Jain felt a seven-year suspension – six of which have already been served – would suffice, allowing the pacer to play from next year.

“For Mr Sreesanth, who is now in his late thirties, his prime years as a cricketer, particularly as a fast bowler may already be over,” Jain said in his order.

“I am of the view that banning Mr. Sreesanth from participating in any kind of commercial cricket or from associating with any activities of the BCCI or its affiliates, for a period of seven years with effect from 13.09.2013, i.e. the date from which, the period of ban imposed by the Disciplinary Committee had commenced, will meet the ends of justice,” Jain said in the order.

The BCCI had maintained that Sreesanth had been banned for life because he had “tried to influence” a match.

“The award of sentence, less than a life ban in a clear case of match fixing, can clearly impact public confidence in the game of cricket,” the BCCI was reported to have said, by ESPNcricinfo.

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Rohit Sharma strikes form, Ajinkya Rahane's struggles continue against West Indies 'A'

Ajit Vijaykumar 22:01 17/08/2019
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India batsman Ajinkya Rahane.

India began preparations for the two-match Test series against the West Indies with a tour game against the ‘A’ team in Antigua on Saturday.

The Indians batted first with KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal opening the innings. They didn’t make any significant impact with the first wicket falling on on 36.

The bigger disappointment for India was the form of Test specialist Ajinkya Rahane, who departed for just one from six balls. Rahane, who is the captain for the match, has been struggling in red ball cricket for some time.

In 14 first-class innings, including his latest outings for Hampshire in county cricket, Rahane has one century and one fifty. Also, he has been out for nought on three occasions and for one twice.

While Rahane struggles will give the Indian management some headaches, Rohit Sharma’s efforts should fill them with confidence. The ODI specialist has been given another chance to resurrect his Test career and he put his best foot forward on Saturday, hitting a fifty along with Cheteshwar Pujara. Rohit eventually departed for 68.

If it comes down to a toss-up between Rahane and Rohit, the latter might just get nod for the first Test in North Sound which starts on Thursday.

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Ravi Shastri's re-appointment as India coach was expected, even if not entirely deserved

Ajit Vijaykumar 18:18 16/08/2019
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Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri.

Ravi Shastri was surprisingly retained as India coach on Friday… said absolutely no one.

The Indian cricket board began the process of finding the next coach in July but it hardly took any time to realise that it was more of a formality.

By the end of last month itself, captain Virat Kohli had said he would like to see Shastri continue as coach. Before him, Anshuman Gaekwad – part of the three-member committee constituted to hire the next coach – said Shastri had a good chance of retaining his job. And this was before all applications had been received for the position.

Some of the best cricketing brains in the world applied for job – from Mike Hesson, Tom Moody to Phil Simmons. But in the end, it was Shastri who won the race. And it was always going to be him.

Indian cricket went through tumultuous times when Anil Kumble was appointed head coach in 2016/17 only for differences to emerge between Kohli and him. Many attempts were made to repair the relation but Kohli had made up his mind.

Kohli has an equally strong liking for Shastri and his style of functioning. The skipper, and presumably top players, are comfortable in the team atmosphere Shastri has created. Also, his overall stats as coach are more than respectable.

Under Shastri, India strengthened their grip on the No1 Test ranking and enjoyed an impressive run across formats. The men in blue won 45 and lost just 15 ODIs under him, while winning 25 and losing 11 T20s. In Tests, India had a 11-7 win loss record with a historic series win in Australia a great achievement.

But it is also a fact that India continued to fail at the big stage of ICC tournaments – the semi-final loss at recent World Cup the latest in a growing list. Also, despite enjoying early advantage, India suffered Test series defeats in South Africa and England last year.

One major issue that has plagued the India team over the last few seasons is inconsistent selection policies, especially in the batting department. Ambati Rayudu was infamously overlooked for the World Cup despite decent performances and public backing by Kohli in 2018. The team management has yet to finalise the middle order in ODIs despite spending two years on the problem.

Also, there were glaring selection blunders during the South Africa and England Test tours – like benching of in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar after the first SA Test or selecting a second spinner on a greentop at Lord’s.

It’s only because India have a ready pool of 20-25 top class cricketers that the constant chopping and changing and lack of clarity isn’t hurting them more. When Kumble was in charge, selection policies were crystal clear with injured members of the playing XI walking right back into the team after regaining fitness.

Shastri has been given a two-year contract and the next big assignment for him will be the T20 World Cup next year and the Test Championship, which has already started. Maybe India will win the T20 crown and that will give the Kohli-Shastri combination the validity of a major trophy.

The other way to look at it is that this was the perfect time for India to pick a hard task master with a proven record – like Kiwi Hesson – and streamline its selection policies to make the best use of the abundant talent at hand. But the Indian management has decided to not rock the boat and maintain the dressing room atmosphere. Hopefully for Indian fans, there will a trophy or two at the end of it.

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