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No regrets, decision was for team, says Harmanpreet on Mithali Raj’s omission

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Mithali Raj

North Sound (Antigua) | The decision to drop a player of Mithali Raj’s calibre backfired during India’s humiliating semi-final loss to England in the World T20 but skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said that she has “no regrets” as it was decision taken keeping team’s interests in mind.

Indian batting collapsed as they managed only 112 with eight wickets falling for 24 runs as the visibly upset veteran’s blank stare sitting in the dug-out said it all. At the toss, Harmanpreet said: “It’s not about not selecting Mithali, it’s about keeping a winning combination.”

The decision was questioned by former England captain Nasser Hussain and former Indian Test player Sanjay Manjrekar on air. However   the Indian skipper defended her decision.

“Whatever we decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, no regrets. I’m proud of the way my girls played through the tournament,” Harmanpreet said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

Mithali’s strike-rate was always an issue but considering that Taniya Bhatia hasn’t been able to acclerate and Veda Krishnamurthy in poor form, the decision to drop a seasoned campaigner boomeranged on India.

“This is a learning for us because we are a young team. Sometimes you have to change your game according to the wicket. England bowled really well, read the wicket really well. It was not an easy total to chase, and our bowlers bowled really well. We stretched the match till the 18th over,” Harmanpreet explained.

She did admit that mental strength in big games is an issue and her young team needs to garner a bit more of it.

“I think we are a young team and we still need to work on our mental strength. If we can work on how to play under pressure, that will change how we play these games.”

England captain Heather Knight said that she was worried during Powerplay overs when Smriti Mandhana had gone on the offensive but lauded her spinner Kirstie Gordon and Sophie Ecclestone for bringing them back in the game.

“The match got away from us a bit in the Powerplay but the spinners bowled really well to bring us back. Kirstie has been outstanding on her first tour. Sophie, young spinner as well, has shown a lot of quality over the last year or so.”

Knight said that she wasn’t concerned about the form of her top players like Tammy Beaumont and Dani Wyatt because conditions for batting was challenging in St Lucia.

“I think the conditions have been very tricky in St Lucia and when we’ve come here, No worries at all about (the form of Beaumont and Wyatt). The final (against Australia) is going to be a great game, hopefully we’ll have a great atmosphere and a brilliant game of cricket.”

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Ravi Shastri’s contract doesn’t have extension clause: BCCI official

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New Delhi | Ravi Shastri remains favourite to continue as the Indian cricket team’s head coach after the World Cup but the BCCI will be forced to restart the process as the former India all-rounder’s service contract doesn’t have an extension or renewal clause.

Unlike most of the big football or NBA clubs, who have a renewal or an extension clause for their coaches, the BCCI, from Anil Kumble’s time as chief coach, never had that particular clause.

“From Anil Kumble’s time, the service contract of the coaches and support staff doesn’t have an extension or renewal clause. Therefore, even if India win the World Cup under Shastri’s coaching, he will have to come through the fresh recruitment process even though he will be a direct entry into the shortlisted panel as current coach,” a senior BCCI official, privy to the development, told PTI on condition of anonymity.

The official said that the BCCI needs to follow the due process of putting up an advertisement on its website for filling up the various positions of support staff in the senior India line-up.

“Shastri, Sanjay Bangar (batting coach), Bharat Arun (bowling coach) and R Sridhar (fielding coach), their contracts will end with India’s last match in the World Cup. With only 14 days left for the inaugural World Test Championship matches against the West Indies, we need to complete the process in due time. But everything will happen after the World Cup,” he said.

The official also indicated that there is very little chance of Shastri being replaced if the team reaches at least the semi-final since under his tutelage, India have beaten Australia in a Test series Down Under for the first time in 71 years and also won ODI series in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

It has also been learnt that this year, the mini-IPL for women will role with three teams and four games on a round-robin basis. Last year, one exhibition match was held.

“The Indian women’s coach WV Raman and the national selectors have given 30 names and there will be 12 foreign players. So there will be three teams of 14 players each and they will play once against each other and then the final,” the official said.

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Mohammad Shami will be given adequate rest: KXIP coach Mike Hesson

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New Delhi | Mohammad Shami is keen to make an impact for Kings XI Punjab in the upcoming IPL but will be given adequate rest in between matches, said Kings XI Punjab coach Mike Hesson.

There is a lot of talk around the workload of Indian players going into the IPL with the all important World Cup beginning two weeks after lucrative T20 league and India captain Virat Kohli has left it to the players to manage their workload during the competition.

Shami has been one of India’s best performers in 2018 and is expected to share the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah during the World Cup, starting May 30.

“It is going to be on a case by case basis. I have had chats with KL Rahul and Mohammed Shami. They are keen to make a big contribution for KXIP and we are certainly very keen to have them. We will manage them like every player throughout the tournament, former New Zealand coach Hesson told PTI.

While Shami is workload definitely needs to be monitored, Rahul will be more than happy to play as many games as possible to get back into the groove. “If they feel little jaded during the course of the IPL, we will rest them. Whether they need extra training or rest, I am not sure for how many games we will rest them. We also have to see how the season goes for the team but they both are very keen to make a big contribution,” said the 44-year-old, who was appointed as head coach in October.

Most teams including KXIP will have to factor in the availability of foreign players in a World Cup year. West Indian Chris Gayle, South African David Miller and Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Zadran, who all play for the Punjab franchise, are certainties for their respective ODI teams.

“Availability will be an issue but we will be least affected than most teams. Afghanistan players will probably leave later in the group stage, South African players towards the play-offs, not sure if they will be asked to go back. There is a Sheffield Shield final in Australia also but we certainly have got enough players to deal with that,” said Hesson.

With the training camp underway in Mohali, the New Zealander is getting to know the players and enjoying his cricket conversations with captain Ravichandran Ashwin.

“We have similar thoughts around the way we want to play the game. We have had some good discussions on the game along with the rest of the support staff. Ashwin reads the game well and is very clear in his mind. We just have to give him the best group of players to work with on the park,” said Hesson, who is determined to guide KXIP to their maiden IPL title.

Ashwin may not be in India’s limited overs set-up at the moment but remains as motivated as ever to give his best in the shorter formats, said Hesson.

“What I know about Ashwin is that he is a highly competitive person. That has not changed. He has been training well for the tournament and is fiercely determined. I don’t think has changed (despite he not being in India’s World Cup plans).

Hesson also has high hopes from veteran Gayle, who silenced his critics last year by scoring a hundred and three half centuries. “Look he (Gayle) is a world class performer. He has come off a series against England and he was in superb form there. He is a good frame of mind and we are keen to see how he goes this year. We are expecting big things from him.

Amongst the uncapped Indian players, he has been impressed with UP’s right-arm pacer Ankit Rajpoot and Punjab left-armer Arshdeep Singh besides spinner Harpreet Brar.

“We have got a lot of flexibility in the squad. When you play 14 games in a variety of conditions, flexibility is critical. We can’t just rely on 11-12 players. When you come across different surfaces you need to be able to adapt and we have the resources to do that,” said Hesson.

Talking about the World Cup in the UK, Hesson said India and England remain the favourites. “New Zealand too have a good chance. Their batsmen are in form at the moment, if the ball swings in England, New Zealand have a big chance.

“Outside of that, India and England are still the two form teams, Australia are sneaking up and South Africa are useful. Those five sides are ahead of others at the moment,” Hesson added.

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There can’t be blanket policy on workload management: Rahul Dravid

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Mumbai | Former captain and India A team coach Rahul Dravid on Wednesday said there cannot be a one-size-fits-all policy on workload management and players are smart enough to know where to draw the line.

Wading into the ongoing debate on how the players should manage their workload in the IPL, starting March 23, followed by the ODI World Cup in England in May, Dravid said in most cases cricketers know how to handle themselves.

“Most players are smart about these things. They know how to handle their body. I don’t think the players would put their body on the line. I was reading Patrick Cummins (Australia pacer) saying that he feels better bowling when he is constantly playing rather than resting and coming back,” Dravid said.

“So to each player, it’s different. There cannot be a blanket case that all should be rested. We have to just trust the players. They know what needs to be done,” he added.

He was speaking at the launch of ESPNCricinfo’s new metrics, Superstats, along with former India teammate Sanjay Manjrekar here.

Manjrekar was even more forthright in his views on the matter and said the Cricket Board should not put pressure on IPL franchises to rest players in view of the World Cup, starting May 30. “My views won’t be appreciated. This is free enterprise. IPL is capitalism at its best. I don’t think there should be any outside interference. It should be up to the franchises.

“Don’t think there should be pressure (on IPL franchises) from the Cricket Board (BCCI) (to rest some players),” the former Test batsman-turned-commentator remarked.

Reflecting on India’s World Cup chances, Dravid said the 2-3 home ODI series loss to Australia recently could end up helping the cause of Virat Kohli and his men when they play in the World Cup. “I think there was a bit of notion that we are going walk there and win the World Cup easily. So it’s a good thing that has happened. What it has (the outcome against Australia) has reminded us is that we have to play the World Cup very, very well,” said Dravid.

“India has performed well in the last couple of years. There was a little bit of talk that we are almost going to walk in there and win the World Cup very easily because we are the No. 1 team and we have been dominating one-day cricket for the last couple of years.

“But I don’t find anything strange, from my perspective, watching the series. I still feel that we are going to be one of the favourites. But it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be competitive,” the batting stalwart explained.

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