Cricket West Indies (CWI) has commenced its first-ever locally planned and delivered High-Performance Coach Development Programme.

Dwayne Bravo and Ruturaj Gaikwad starred as Chennai Super Kings returned to the top of the Indian Premier League with a six-wicket defeat of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

RCB slumped to a nine-wicket loss at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders after they were bowled out for only 92 on Monday in their first game since the tournament resumed.

They looked set to post an imposing total at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday after Devdutt Padikkal (70 off 50 balls) and captain Virat Kohli (53 from 41) put on 111 for the first wicket, but could only finish with 156-6.

Bravo (3-24) and Shardul Thakur (2-29) put the brakes on as Kohli's third-placed side lost their way after the start had been delayed due to a sandstorm.

An opening stand of 71 from 8.2 overs between the in-form Gaikwad (38 off 26) and Faf du Plessis (31 from 26) set CSK on their way to a seventh win in nine matches.

Ambati Rayudu (32) and Moeen Ali (23) also chipped in before vastly experienced duo Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni got the Super Kings home with 11 balls to spare, moving them above Delhi Capitals on net run-rate.

 

OPENERS LAY RCB FOUNDATIONS

The dangerous Padikkal and Kohli got RCB off to a great start after they were put in by MS Dhoni, taking 55 off the powerplay.

Padikkal was the first to raise his bat, bringing up his sixth IPL half-century by dispatching Deepak Chahar for four, and Kohli struck Ravindra Jadeja to the boundary to reach his fifty soon after.

RCB lost their way after Kohli was removed by Bravo in the 14th over, with Padikkal - who struck three sixes - falling straight after Shardul Thakur got rid of AB de Villiers in the South Africa legend's 150th match for just 12.

 

GAIKWAD IN GREAT NICK

Gaikwad made a brilliant unbeaten 88 in CSK's victory over defending champions Mumbai Indians and the opener maintained his form five days later.

The 24-year-old and Du Plessis got the Super Kings ahead of the rate in a great start to the run chase, the South Africa batsman clearing the ropes twice and Gaikwad hitting one six.

Both batsman fell in consecutive overs, but CSK kept wickets in hand and stayed ahead of the rate, with Raina and Dhoni finished off the job.

In-form T20 batsman Sherfane Rutherford has returned home to his native Guyana from the IPL following the death of his father, the Sunrisers Hyderabad Indian Premier League franchise announced on Thursday.

Orin Rutherford, 58, died Thursday, after testing positive for the Covid-19 virus on September 5. He was being treated at the Intensive Care Unit of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Liliendaal Hospital in Georgetown. He was reportedly unvaccinated.

"The SRH family conveys its heartfelt condolences to Sherfane Rutherford and his family on the passing away of his father. Sherfane will be leaving the IPL bio-bubble to be with his family in this difficult hour," SRH posted on Twitter.

Following a successful season with newly-crowned Caribbean Premier League champions St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, Rutherford was looking forward to his maiden season with SRH.

It always feels good to come to a new franchise. It’s always good coming to something new. I look to learn, gather as much information as I can to work on my game and in the best way I can to help the team,” he said shortly after his arrival in India.

Rutherford, who almost inexplicably missed on being selected to represent the West Indies at next month’s ICC T20 World Cup, was called up by SRH to replace England’s Jonny Bairstow.

He last played in the IPL for Delhi Capitals in 2019.

West Indies Women’s coach Courtney Walsh admits the team’s inability to properly rotate the strike was a disappointment during the recent series against South Africa, as it had been a key area of focus ahead of the games.

The regional team just managed to avoid being on the wrong end of a sweep, after winning the final game of the series in a super over.  The 4-1 scoreline was, however, an accurate reflection of the fact that the West Indies Women had struggled to keep pace with the South Africans for the great majority of the One Day Internationals.

One of those key areas was putting runs on the board, with the Windies Women on many occasions looking bogged down by South Africa’s bowling, before being dismissed after ill-advised shots.  On four occasions the team struggled to get to one 150, a target that seemed an easy reach for South Africa.

 “It’s a concern, the rotation of the strike, it’s something we’ve been talking about since the start of the camp but it was highlighted much more against South Africa,” Walsh told members of the media.

“In terms of just hitting the fielders and not being able to find gaps, not being able to play with soft hands and we have identified that,” he added.

“It has been an ongoing discussion before the series and it was one area I was disappointed in that we did not try to show that (strike rotation) because leading up to the series we had been practicing it, but match-day when we get out in the middle it wasn’t done.  We just kept picking out the fielders.  It’s the sort of the thing you have to do in 50 over games if you want to really compete and it has to be addressed.”

 

Former wicketkeeper batsman, Deryck Murray, believes the Windies World Cup squad has been picked for maximum fireworks even if they do not go on to win the tournament.

The selection of the final team for the upcoming tournament has caused a torrent of discontent around the Caribbean, with strong opinions regarding which players should have be included or left out making the rounds.

Despite agreeing that leaving Holder out of the squad was a mistake, he believes the majority of the team was determined over the last three months and has been selected along the lines of a certain philosophy.

“You saw the team in various matches around and the Caribbean and you could see the pattern of players.  So, it was obvious that what the team has agreed to is what I call a very high-octane policy,” Murray told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“West Indies are undoubtedly going to be the best team to watch, I’m not sure if they’ll be the best team to support, but every moment of every game they play is going to be exciting,” he added.

“Every player is put in there to play a little cameo of some sort, batting bowling or whatever and it is going to be thrilling, people or going to be on the edge of their seats. To me what they’ve decided is these players are going to give us winner take all.”

The West Indies have been placed in a difficult group alongside Australia, England and South Africa.

 

Kolkata Knight Riders recorded only their second win in the past 14 Indian Premier League meetings with Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Eoin Morgan's side swept to an impressive seven-wicket victory after Mumbai had made a strong start through Rohit Sharma (33) and Quinton de Kock (55), having been put in to bat.

The Knight Riders made the challenge of chasing 156 look all too easy, Rahul Tripathi (74) leading the way as they reached 159-3 with 29 balls to spare.

An opening stand of 78 was finally broken when Sunil Narine (1-20) accounted for Rohit before Suryakumar Yadav went for the loss of just five runs.

De Kock's solid 55 ended when he mishit the ball straight to Narine as Prasidh Krishna got his second wicket.

Kieron Pollard (21) and Krunal Pandya (12) helped to stretch the Indians' score to 155-6, and Kolkata's chase looked in a little danger after Shubman Gill was skittled for 13 by Jasprit Bumrah (2-35).

It proved a mere blip during an impeccable innings, though, as Venkatesh Iyer and Tripathi each reached stunning half-centuries while Morgan managed seven off eight balls before being caught by Trent Boult at the ropes.

A commanding victory was secured in style, Nitish Rana reverse sweeping for four as the Knight Riders reached their target with almost five full overs left.

TRIPATHI LEADS MASTERCLASS

It would be easy to blame the Mumbai attack for the ease with which their score was hunted down, Kolkata managing 22 boundaries including eight maximums from only 15.1 overs.

However, praise has to go to the batsmen – and Tripathi in particular – for some immaculate strokes as they finished with a run rate of 10.48.

KNIGHT RIDERS GALLOPING TO PLAY-OFFS

Kolkata are into fourth in the table after managing just a seventh win over the Indians in 29 IPL matches.

With three victories from four, they look to be finding form at a critical moment in the competition.

Former member of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) selection panel, Roland Butcher, believes it could be critical for the West Indies to find a capable replacement for retired batsman Marlon Samuels if the team is to have a chance of retaining the T20 World Cup.

The mercurial Samuels played a key role on both occasions the team won the title, managing to put together innings that balanced an abundance of caution at the crease, with scoring aggression when needed.

In 2012, Samuels average a solid 38.33, with a strike rate of 132 en route to the team’s triumph but more importantly top-scored in the final, with 78 from 56 deliveries, giving the West Indies a comfortable win over Sri Lanka.

In 2016, it was Carlos Brathwaite that got the accolades in a thrilling, brutal final-over onslaught in the final against England but it was Samuels who once again top-scored at the other end, his 85 from 66 balls proving just as crucial in the team’s title triumph.  For that tournament, Samuels averaged 36.20 with a strike rate of 112.42.

“West Indies will play their brand of cricket, which is all guns blazing, but let us remember in those two World Cups that they won there was a certain Marlon Samuels who was the glue,” Butcher told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Among all of those stars there was someone who could hold the team together and, when needed, up the scoring rate.  What they need to do is to find someone to play that role and play it successfully,” he added.

Among the candidate to do so for the upcoming tournament will be Roston Chase whose performance during the recently concluded CPL saw him force himself into the thoughts of the selectors.  For the finalists, St Lucia Kings this season, Chase averaged an impressive 49.55, with a strike rate of 144.33.

“The question will be whether Roston Chase can perform that role to that level on the international stage.  This is the international level with the best teams, it’s not the CPL.  Marlon Samuels proved, not just on those two occasions, that when things were tough, he was the go-to man.”

England's travelling party for the Ashes will not benefit from any "special deals" regarding quarantine rules when they arrive in Australia, according to the country's prime minister Scott Morrison.

The first Test of England's tour of Australia begins on December 8, though it has been reported that a host of players are considering withdrawing from travelling.

This would be due to the strict COVID-19 protocols in place for travellers arriving in Australia, with new arrivals having to undergo a mandatory isolation period in a hotel.

Earlier this year, tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic had to spend up to two weeks in their hotel rooms prior to taking part in the Australian Open.

Australia do plan to ease those restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, but only once 80 per cent of the nation's adult population have received both doses.

Prime minister Morrison says that figure will hit 50 per cent this week, while he discussed the matter with United Kingdom counterpart Boris Johnson in Washington D.C.

However, he insisted England's squad would have no special arrangements made for them.

"I would love to see the Ashes go ahead, as I shared with Boris last night," Morrison said, as reported by BBC Sport.

"But there's no special deals there, because what we're looking to have is vaccinated people being able to travel.

"I don't see a great deal of difference in skilled workers or students who will be able to come to Australia when you reach those vaccination rates.

"Those who are coming for that purpose when it comes to their profession, which is playing cricket, I don't see the difference between that and someone who's coming as a skilled, qualified engineer or someone who's coming to be ready for study."

Cricket Australia is set to provide details around the travel and quarantine arrangements for the tour to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) this week. 

England players will then be able to make decisions on whether they wish to be included in. the squad, which will be announced in early October. 

Prime minister Johnson said: "I raised it and he said he was going to do his best for the families. He merely undertook to come back and see if he could find a solution."

Delhi Capitals resumed their quest to win the Indian Premier League title with an eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad to go top of the table.

The Capitals were at the summit when the tournament was halted in May due to the coronavirus pandemic and returned to the top by making a statement at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

Third-placed Sunrisers were rocked by a positive COVID-19 test for bowler T Natarajan ahead of the match, resulting in Vijay Shankar being among a further six members of the franchise to be forced into isolation.

Their day did not get any better in the first game for the two sides since the IPL resumed, with Sunrisers only posting 134-9 as Anrich Nortje (2-12), Axar Patel (2-21) and Kagiso Rabada (3-37) did most of the damage.

Delhi coasted to victory, Shikhar Dhawan - the leading run-scorer in IPL 2021 - making 42 off 37 balls at the top of the order to lay the foundations.

The fit-again Shreyas Iyer top scored with 47 from 41 deliveries in his 150th IPL game and captain Rishabh Pant struck an unbeaten 35 off 21 balls as the Capitals moved two points clear of a Chennai Super Kings side who have a game in hand.

PROTEAS PACEMEN FIRE

Nortje was recruited by the Capitals after England all-rounder Chris Woakes opted against taking part in the remainder of the tournament.

The South Africa paceman made an instant impact, getting rid of David Warner for a duck with the third ball of the match before trapping Kedar Jadhav lbw.

Nortje bowled 14 dot balls and although his South Africa team-mate Rabada was much more expensive, he removed Wriddhiman Saha, Manish Pandey and Abdul Samad. Axar was also outstanding in an impressive display with the ball from Delhi.

 

DHAWAN DELIVERS AGAIN, IYER UP AND RUNNING

Dhawan is on a mission not only to claim the title but also win the purple cap and he leads KL Rahul (380) with 422 runs from nine matches after a blistering knock, striking a six and finding the rope six times.

Delhi suffered a blow when all-rounder Marcus Stoinis sustained a hamstring problem in the field, but Iyer gave the Capitals a big boost in his first game of the tournament and a landmark match.

A shoulder injury meant the batsman was unable to play any part before the tournament was halted on home soil and he teamed up with Pant, who succeeded him as captain, in a stand of 67 off 46 deliveries to seal an emphatic win.

Former West Indies cricketer Marlon Samuels has been hit with charges by the ICC on behalf of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) for breaching four codes of their Anti-Corruption Code for Participants of the T10 League.

A Sunrisers Hyderabad player has tested positive for COVID-19 and six close contacts are isolating, but their Indian Premier League clash with Delhi Capitals will go ahead.

An IPL statement confirmed on Wednesday that India bowler Thangarasu Natarajan had returned a positive PCR test result and had isolated himself from the rest of the Sunrisers squad.

While Natarajan was asymptomatic, six close contacts were identified by the team's medical staff, including India international Vijay Shankar, team manager Vijay Kumar, a physiotherapist, a team doctor, the logistics manager and net bowler Periyasamy Ganesan.

However, further PCR tests conducted on the rest of the squad and staff early on Wednesday all returned negative results, meaning the match against the Capitals will go ahead in Dubai.

The IPL has restarted this week after it was brought to a halt in May due to a rise in COVID-19 cases across India, with the tournament subsequently suspended and relocated to the United Arab Emirates for the rest of the 2021 season.

Former England captain turned cricket analyst Kevin Pietersen has expressed surprise at the decision by Punjab Kings XI to legendary West Indian batsman Chris Gayle out of the line-up on his birthday.

The iconic ball-beater turned 42 on Tuesday but could only watch from the bench as the team fell to a 2 runs loss to Rajasthan Royals.  The West Indian has managed 178 runs in 8 matches, with an average of 25.42.  The average is the fourth-best on the team, but on Tuesday the Kings opted for Aiden Markham at the third place in the line-up, which Gayle has been occupying since last season.

Pietersen admits he found the situation to be an unusual one.

   "There will be some questions asked. I don’t understand why you would leave Chris Gayle out on his birthday,” Pietersen said on Star Sports.

“If there was one game you were going to play him, it was this one. If he failed then you say ‘ok, you can have a bit of rest’. So, I can’t understand the thinking at all," he added.

Gayle has been selected for the West Indies T20 squad for next month’s ICC World T20, the appearance will mark his 7th at the global tournament.

Arshdeep Singh and Mayank Agarwal starred but Rajasthan Royals sneaked to a two-run win against Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday.

Singh shone with his maiden IPL five-wicket haul to bowl Rajasthan out for 185 with the final ball before Agarwal smashed 67 from 43 balls but that proved in vain due to Kartik Tyagi's magical final over to push the Royals to victory.

Evin Lewis (36) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (49) shared a 54-run opening stand as the Royals started rapidly, with Liam Livingstone (25) and Mahipal Lomror's 17-ball 43 providing further impetus.

However, Singh (5-32) and Mohammed Shami (3-21) pegged their opponents back with some superb death bowling to carry momentum forward to their innings.

KL Rahul (49), who was dropped three times, and Agarwal then put on 120 in 11.4 overs to propel Punjab Kings towards the target before Chetan Sakariya and Rahul Tewatia removed the respective openers.

Nicholas Pooran (32) and Aiden Markram (26 not out) steadied the ship to edge their side towards victory but, with just six required off the last over, Tyagi struck twice and conceded only four runs to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.

Poor fielding does not cost Rajasthan

Rahul could have been dismissed three times, with drops coming on two, 29 and 31 by Lewis, Riyan Parag and Sakariya, and then it would have been a completely different game.

Rajasthan failed to take their chances, gifting the openers the opportunity to build a match-winning stand,

Horrific Hooda

Deepak Hooda conceded 37 runs in two overs as Rahul's middle-overs gamble failed to pay off with the off-spinner carted around the ground before his two-ball duck at the end of Punjab's innings.

Indeed, Hooda only managed two dot balls in his 12-ball spell, with Lomror running riot in the 15th over as he launched 24 runs to push the Royals to a competitive total, which proved to just be enough.

(This column was originally published in the Stabroek News newspaper)

“Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors, aren't yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!"

Those were the words of the seasoned Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford, in reaction to the storm of controversy that has been created as a result of the choices made by Selections’ Chair Roger Harper and his Panel for the West Indies official squad of 15 plus four reserves to participate in the forthcoming ICC 2021 T20 World Cup. The 2021 ICC T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE from October 17 – November 13.

Further revelations from the most recent episodes of the West Indies World Cup Squad “selections fiasco,” would now suggest that the sharpened knives have since not only been drawn but that it is now only a matter of time before they are used to pierce the tenure of Roger Harper, Miles Bascome and Head Coach Phil Simmons as members of the West Indies Selections Panel with terminal effect!

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) was among the first to publicly question the Panel’s competence. Angered by the Selections Panel’s omission of Sherfayne Rutherford on the grounds of his not having met the established fitness criteria, the GCB suggested that Cricket West Indies (CWI) should advise the Caribbean cricket public regarding the standard and schedule for fitness tests for regional cricketers.

Stating that the Selections Panel has disappointed both Guyana and the Caribbean at large, while referring to its decisions as a “selection fiasco,” the GCB called for the Panel to be made accountable to all cricket institutions and stakeholders in the region and to justify its choices.
“Failure to do so, the GCB calls on CWI to dismiss the Selections Panel and to replace it with a more competent one which will represent the best interests of West Indies cricket!”
In addition to the GCB’s issued statement, several Caribbean Heads of States have also weighed in with their own criticisms of the selected squad. The respective Prime Ministers of Barbados and St Vincent, the Honorable Mia Mottley and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as well as Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, have all expressed their profound disappointment and disagreement with some of the Harper-led Selections Panel’s choices.

Further, the former West Indies fast bowling legendary great, Sir Andy Roberts, referred to the Selections Panel’s non-inclusion of Barbadian Jason Holder, within the final squad of fifteen and his relegation to the status of a mere reserve as “embarrassing!”

Holder holds the current ICC ranking as international cricket’s best all-rounder. He is also the Cricket West Indies’ only all formats, Tests, ODIs and T20s, contracted player.

Holder’s relegations as a reserve, the medical exemptions provided to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul, as well as the reported non-consideration of Odean Smith and Sherfayne Rutherford as a result of their respective failures to meet the established fitness criteria for West Indies selection. These are uppermost among the far too many highly questionable World Cup Squad decisions made by Harper and his Panel.

It can now arguably be said that never before in Caribbean cricket’s illustrious history has a selected West Indies squad caused such controversy. The very centre of which appears to be the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding the fitness standards that were applied to determine selection, or conversely non-selection, of certain players to the squad.

Where is the consistency between the medical exemptions granted to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul and the non-consideration of Smith and Rutherford for not having met the established fitness criteria? That is the very simple question now being asked of Harper and his Panel. Shouldn’t “what’s good for the goose, also be granted to the gander?”

Furthermore, as Sir Andy Roberts has also correctly reasoned as important a tournament as the T20 World Cup is, coupled with the fact that we are the reigning Champions seeking to defend our title, why are we even considering, let alone actually including players who are in need of medical exemptions?

The former West Indies opening batsman, Bryan Davis’ reaction to the fitness-related decisions of Harper and his Panel was even more damning.

“This is dangerous territory we’re entering and the precedent being set for future selectors by the disqualification of young promising players while giving past successful players a medical exemption is a sign of dishonesty in selection policy. One is either fit enough to take his place in the team or he’s not. Every international cricketer walking out on that field to represent WI must deserve his place on the team by his performances and by extension his fitness. Equal status for all.”

Harper himself has also attracted the ire of former West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace. The outspoken Wallace has highly criticized Harper’s self-admitted decision as Selection Chairman to leave the determination of Obed McCoy’s fitness readiness for the World Cup in the hands of Cricket West Indies’ Medical Committee.

As one of the designated death bowlers and hence a vital member of the West Indies’ World Cup bowling attack, McCoy has reportedly been suffering from recurring shin splints for some time now. His appearances in actual matches of late, including both those in the recent West Indies T2o Series against Australia and Pakistan as well as this year’s recently concluded CPL, can only be best described as having been sporadic.

Harper having left the determination of McCoy’s fitness to the Medical Committee would, therefore, appear to be an abdication of his responsibilities as Selections Chair. Moreover, it also now means that in addition to already being the most aged of the 2021 T20 World Cup’s 16 participating teams, as well as arguably the most unfit, the West Indies could also well be the only squad containing an injury affected player even before the tournament’s commencement!

As a member of Cricket West Indies’ recently structured Committee to develop a new policy for the governance of the selection of West Indies teams, Wallace has also indicated that fitness was identified as the most basic fundamental requirement of its submitted recommendations. The Committee’s recommendations were subsequently wholly endorsed by Cricket West Indies’ Board of Directors. As such, in the light of the Word Cup selections decisions that have been made by Harper and Company, Wallace has suggested that the Committee’s recommendations are now seemingly being ignored.

“When does this current Panel’s tenure end?”

That was the question posed by Philo Wallace as one of the panellists on the recent September 14, 2021 broadcast of the highly popular Barbados-based Mason & Guest Programme. Mason & Guests is hosted weekly by the noted West Indies cricket Radio Commentator, Andrew Mason.

If Wallace’s question is not now surely a sign of knives not only having actually been drawn but also being pointed squarely in the direction of Roger Harper and his Cricket West Indies Selections Panel, then “the Pope isn’t Catholic!”

 

Andre Russell and Varan Chakravarthy combined to destroy the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s batting on the way to a comprehensive nine-wicket win for the Kolkata Knight Riders with 10 overs to spare on Monday.

Russell, who bowled 18 balls, took the remarkable figures of 3-9 that included the wicket of the dangerous AB de Villiers for a first-ball duck as RCB plunged to 92 all out in 19 overs in Abu Dhabi. Chakravarthy was equally destructive with figures of 3-13 during his four-over spell in which he got the prized wicket Virat Kohli for five.

Of the RCB batsmen, only Devdutt Padikkal, who top-scored with 22, Srikar Bharat, 16, Glen Maxwell, 10 and Harshel Patel, 12, managed to get into double figures against the stifling and penetrative KKR bowling attack. Lockie Ferguson also got his piece of the action with 2-24.

In reply, Shubman Gill and Ventakesh Iyer scored at better than eight runs an over putting on 82 for the first wicket. The partnership was broken when Yuzvendra Chahal dismissed Gill for 48 first ball of the tenth over.

Andre Russell, who replaced Gill, did not face a single delivery as Iyer hit fours from Chahal’s third, fifth and sixth deliveries to complete the commanding win.

 

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