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Ball-tampering scandal reality check for world game, hopes Arthur

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CANTERBURY: Former Australia coach Mickey Arthur, who now is with Pakistan, hopes the recent ball-tampering scandal will prove a ‘reality check for world cricket’ and that the banned trio of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft get a chance to play county cricket in England.

Smith and Warner, the deposed captain and vice-captain, have been given one-year bans by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft has been hit with a nine-month suspension for his part in the ball-tampering scandal that marred the team’s recent tour of South Africa.

Top-order batsman Bancroft was all set to be Somerset’s overseas player this season but the county backed out of that deal after it emerged he had used sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in Cape Town.

 

The CA ban applies only to Australia international matches and domestic fixtures, leaving open the possibility that the shamed trio could resume their careers elsewhere before their respective suspensions expires.

As Pakistan begin their tour of England against Kent later this week, Arthur told reporters at the south-east county’s Canterbury headquarters on Wednesday that he had been stunned by the extraordinary scandal.

“It was a shock to me. I was disappointed, really disappointed, when I saw it go down,” he said.

Arthur, who coached Australia from 201 to 2013, added: “Australia always play their cricket really hard, they play it tough. They’ve pushed ‘the line’ — I just want to know where ‘the line’ is because I’m not sure many people do know where that line is and what it is.

“But I think it got to a point where perhaps, hopefully this is a reality check for world cricket and just makes everybody sit back and take stock.

“Hopefully, something good comes out if it.”

Arthur was sympathetic to the idea of the banned trio playing county cricket.

“In a way, I feel really sorry for them. I can understand they were really stupid, they’ve paid a massive price for it and I know Steve Smith, he would be absolutely gutted.

“Cameron Bancroft is a new guy on the block so for him it would be really hard to swallow and Davey [Warner].

“For them to be missing the amount of cricket they are missing is tough on them so if the ECB [England & Wales Cricket Board} allowed it, it would be good for them to keep playing because I think they have paid a big price already.”

Arthur’s focus, however, is firmly fixed on Pakistan.

They face Kent in a four-day warm-up match starting from Saturday ahead of an inaugural Test in Ireland and a two-Test series in England.

Pakistan impressed during a 2-2 drawn series in England two years ago and last year Arthur’s men won the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in Britain.

But since that 2016 series, Pakistan have seen the likes of veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan retire.

England may have suffered a 4-0 Ashes reverse in Australia and a subsequent Test series loss in New Zealand, but Arthur was in no doubt about how tough it would be to face Joe Root’s men in early-season English conditions.

“England are a really good side and in these conditions they are outstanding,” he said. “There are not that many sides that win away from home these days, so that’s how we are challenging ourselves.

“England in the Ashes, I watched a lot of that, weren’t too bad. They had opportunities in a lot of the Test matches which they just didn’t close off.”

Arthur, who made his name coaching his native South Africa, added: “We are under no illusions. It will be a very tough series.

“But we’ve got a dressing room full of young cricketers who are extremely talented.”

Pakistan are set to be bolstered by the late arrival of Mohammad Amir after visa problems delayed the star paceman’s entry into Britain until Wednesday.


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Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns

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Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.

“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.

 

“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”

“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.

The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.

Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.

Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.

Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.

Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.

“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.

“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.

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Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect

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London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.

Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.

Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.

 

While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.

It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.

While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.

“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.

“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”

The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.

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Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto

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London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.

The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.

“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.

 

“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”

Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”

Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.

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