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Prior urges Bairstow not to ‘rush back’ from injury





Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior has urged Jonny Bairstow not to rush back from the injury that forced him out of the first Test against Sri Lanka. Bairstow, England’s first choice wicketkeeper, watched on as his replacement, Surrey’s Ben Foakes, became only the second English wicketkeeper to score a century on Test debut. Prior, back in 2007, was the first.


Bairstow missed the final two of the five ODIs against Sri Lanka in October after going over on his right ankle during a game of football in training. Foakes was called up as the reserve ‘keeper as Bairstow began his recovery. Though he was ruled out of the Test match in Galle, he is making steady progress to be fit for the second game in Kandy, which starts on November 14.



While Bairstow is itching to return to action, not least to reclaim his place behind the stumps which he has worked long and hard to call his own, Prior, who is out in Sri Lanka commentating for talkSPORT 2, believes the 29-year-old should err on the side of caution. He said as much to Bairstow on day one when the pair chatted on the field before the toss.


“The injury he (Bairstow) has, you don’t want to rush back,” said Prior. “Because you can create a lot more hassle. If he’s going to keep, it’s not so much the forward and back and linear movement, it’s going to be the sideways that’s going to be an issue.


“If you try and keep wicket over here, in these conditions, that are very, very physically demanding, half-injured or with a slight injury, you’re going to under-perform and you’re not [just] going to let yourself down but you’re going to let the team down as well.”


If there is one man who can empathise with Bairstow and his desperation to get back playing, it is Prior. In 2014, the veteran of 79 Tests lost his place in the England side to Jos Buttler after desperately trying to overcome the Achilles issue that would eventually see him retire a year later.


He had struggled with the chronic injury through the 2013/14 Ashes and pushed himself to play throughout the 2014 summer. However, after two poor Tests against India, in which his batting and ‘keeping was well below his usual standards, he had to cede defeat. Jos Buttler came in for the third Test and, despite having surgery on his Achilles tendon in 2014, Prior never played again.


“I’ve learned from experience and unfortunately I couldn’t come back from it. There is the bravado of ‘oh I’m playing for my country, they’re going to have to wheel me off’. It doesn’t get you very far. You’d rather go away, give yourself that extra week to come back fully fit so that you can perform. Not only for yourself but for your team, at 100%.”


It looks likely to be the case that not only will Bairstow be fit, but Foakes, after his immaculate 107 helped England to a first innings of 342, will retain the gloves. Foakes did not have to wait long for his first Test dismissal, either, as James Anderson drew an edge from opener Dimuth Karunaratne with the second ball of the Sri Lanka first innings. His second was an immaculate stumping off Adil Rashid to remove opposition skipper Dinesh Chandimal for 33 and reduce the hosts to 115 for five.




However, were England to win this match and believe they have stumbled upon the right balance of side, then it is a possibility that Bairstow may not find a way back in for the second Test, even as a batsman only. That, Prior believes, should not be the case. The Yorkshireman, while possessing a career average of just 37, has averaged 42 since the start of 2016 and has scored all five of his hundreds in that time.


“I think it would be harsh. We’re very quick to forget Jonny has been one of England’s standout performers over the last couple of years. He’s a phenomenal talent and I don’t think we want to look a gift horse in the mouth, quite frankly. Jonny, fully fit, would have played this Test match, probably would have performed well, done well with the gloves and scored runs and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”


“You want to just remember what a good player Jonny Bairstow is. And if he is fully fit, then he should come back int the team, for me. Whether he keeps wicket, that’s a whole other conversation. Who knows. That will be based on the balance of the team, which allrounders, you’ve got to look at the wicket. Kandy apparently is going to go through a bit more: does Broad come back in? You’ve got to look at the balance of the team and see how everyone fits it.”


While England are spoiled for wicketkeeping riches with Bairstow, Buttler and now Foakes – “They’re all international standard wicketkeepers,” believes Prior – it is a situation they need to manage well. Foakes, particularly up to the stumps, is the superior operator, which is vital in Asian conditions.


But alternating between them could cause problems. And the first of those will be how to ensure all parties are treated with due respect. Another issue, Prior feels, is that the England management now have another selection matter to tend to when there are other areas, such as the top-order, to address.


“Ben Foakes, to walk out 100-5 and play in foreign conditions in Sri Lanka, with all the challenges that come with that, is just a huge, huge effort. What we don’t want to do is create an issue where there actually isn’t one, just because Ben Foakes has not come in and done really well.


“That’s where I was slightly surprised. There are other areas in this England cricket team that really need work on and now we’re having a discussion over the one area that was actually pretty solid in Buttler and Bairstow. I think our focus should be on our top four and making sure they start performing and getting some runs on the board.


“We’re never going to consistently win Test matches and get this England Test team to the level that we want to be at if we’re 20-2 every single innings. The other issues need to be focussed on and this issue papers over the cracks.”



Kohli scripts history, makes clean sweep of ICC awards




Dubai :Indian skipper Virat Kohli has become the first player in history to win the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the Intenational Cricket Council (ICC) Cricketer of the Year, the Men’s Test Player of the Year and the ODI Player of the Year awards following an extraordinary 2018.

Not only is Kohli the first player to win these three major ICC awards together, but he has also been named the captain of the ICC Test and ODI teams of the year for a fabulous run in the international cricket.

Kohli scored a total of 1,322 runs at an average of 55.08 in 13 Tests with five hundreds during the calendar year, while in 14 ODIs he amassed 1,202 runs at an astonishing average of 133.55 with six centuries. He also scored 211 runs in 10 T20Is.


The 30-year-old from Delhi, who first came into limelight when he led India to victory at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia in 2008, finished the year as the top-ranked batsman in Tests and ODIs.

The highest scorer in both forms of the game in 2018, he was one of only two batsmen to score more than 1,000 runs in Tests and only among three to do so in ODI cricket.

Kohli was the unanimous choice of the ICC Voting Academy for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy with South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada coming in second to him for both this award and the ICC Test Player of the Year award. Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan was runner up to Kohli for the ICC ODI Player of the Year award.

Ecstatic to receive the honour, “It feels amazing. It’s a reward for all the hard work that you do throughout the calendar year. I feel really grateful and very, very happy with the team doing well at the same time myself performing. Having recognition at the global level from the ICC is something you feel proud of as a cricketer because you understand that there are many players playing the game.”

“To be rewarded in this manner from amongst all of them is obviously a very proud moment for me and something that gives you more motivation to keep repeating the same things because you have to keep the standard of cricket up and keep bringing in consistent performances. From that point of view, these awards give you that extra motivation,” he added.

Meanwhile, ICC Chief Executive David Richardson praised Kohli as well asl every cricketer who picked the award during the world body’s annual awards.

“Sincere congratulations to every one of our individual winners and those players named in our ICC Test and ODI teams of the year. Special mention must go to Virat Kohli, who becomes the first ever player to win the Sir Garfield Sobers award along with Test Player of the Year and ODI Player of the Year and be named as captain of both teams,” he said.

Richardson stressed that in order to be recognized as a true cricketing great, one need to be successful in all format of the game and Kohli has become a great ambassador for our sport.

“This is well-deserved recognition for an extraordinary talent. His regard for the game and particularly for Test cricket is also recognized and appreciated. He is passionate in his support of the longest form of the game and its continued importance,” he said.

Kohli had won the Sir Garfield Trophy and ICC ODI Player of the Year awards last year and was also the ICC ODI Player of the Year in 2012.

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‘Kohli will break all records created by Tendulkar’




Karachi:Pakistan’s legendary batsman Zaheer Abbas joined the bandwagon of former greats terming Indian captain Virat Kohli as the best batsman in world cricket who will break all the records of Sachin Tendulkar.

Kohli currently has 39 ODI hundreds and is only 10 short of Tendulkar’s 49.

Appearing on the Gsports show on GTV News channel, Zaheer advised cricket pundits to always keep in mind the era, conditions and opposition while assessing a batsman.


“I think at the moment Virat is the best. He will break all the records. But not only Virat, the Indian team has other top batsmen too. If you look at Rohit Sharma, you are just delighted to watch his strokes. One can only appreciate the beauty of his strokes. The variety of strokes in possession of Indian batsmen counts a lot,” Abbas said.

It all boils down to skills, said Abbas, who was considered a batting artist during his best years.

“Obviously, the confidence will come when you have so many strokes and when you know how to stay at the wicket. These skills don’t come easily. It takes time and hard work and one needs to develop a system for this,” he said.

Zaheer, who played 78 Tests and 62 ODIs, was also candid in stating that even top Pakistani batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq had still not reached that standard.

“They are our players and I want to see our batsmen do very well. But at this stage, they have not reached that standard that I can feel proud of. They haven’t come up to world standards as yet,” he said.

Abbas said there was a time when Pakistan used to beat India regularly but in recent times the neighbouring country’s cricket structure had improved a lot and their system is producing some top quality players.

“Not only their batsmen but even their bowlers. They have improved a lot and this is because their board had the foresight to set up the MRF pace academy years back and get Dennis Lillee as their first coach to help groom their pacers,” he said.

“India at this moment is a top side. Their standards have improved a lot, especially after the IPL because they don’t allow their players to go and play anywhere else.

They are giving so much financial security to their players.”

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Pant is ICC’s Emerging Cricketer of 2018




Dubai:India’s young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant was on Tuesday named as the ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year 2018.

“Congratulations to @RishabPant777, the ICC Men’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year 2018!,” ICC tweeted.

Pant is the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century in England and Australia. The youngster also equalled the record for the most catches taken in a Test, with 11 during the Adelaide Test in December.


Left-handed Pant produced some fine knocks during the voting period and getting off the mark in Test cricket with a six only highlighted his potential. He scored 537 runs with a century and two fifties in eight Tests during the voting period with 40 catches and two stumpings. In three ODIs, he scored 41 runs and took three catches and in eight T20Is scored 114 runs and pouched two catches.

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