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The England Cricket Board will implement the findings of it's own survey conducted regarding the schedule of county cricket this season. T20s will form Friday evening entertainment, a bulk of the first-class matches shall begin on Sundays now and the action would start in early April. Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, believes the changes will serve well in preparing the national side for the summer ahead.
This was the time of year when county players, on six-month contracts, returned from whatever winter employment (or, too often, unemployment) had brought them. A week's "training" perhaps, which would barely count as a warm-up these days, followed by nets, a university fixture maybe, or practice matches against another county, and then the first championship match of the summer right at the end of April. A personal check tells that in 13 seasons only five of my championship matches began in April, and none started earlier than the 28th of the month.
Now, the first matches begin (rain, of course, is forecast) and almost half of the championship will have been played by the time the team for the first Test against Sri Lanka is picked.
West Indies have opted for a host of changes to their cricket structure in their Systems Report for 2014 and Tony Becca in Jamaica Gleaner is impressed with the emphasis on building professionalism in first-class cricket, with 15 players per team playing under contract and top-grade coaching staff on call. But memory serves him to be wary of how they take effect.
I remember also in the days of Jamaica's county championship, a two-day tournament which featured some of the West Indies contracted players, when many of the West Indies players turned up with sick mothers and aunts, fathers and uncles, in places like Canada and England, and were excused from some of the matches. I hope, really hope, nothing like that happens this time around.
Cricket in Jammu and Kashmir is rife with roadblocks and a lot of them tend to be off the field. Jonathan Selvaraj in the Indian Express explores how the players have had to deal with the haphazard facilities, troubles with terrorism and accusations of bias. But this Ranji season, J&K brushed aside the past and progressed into the Ranji quarterfinals, under the leadership of Parvez Rasool, the first player from the state to be selected for India.
Forty-seven-year-old Abdul Qayoom Bagaw, however, has seen much worse. Now coach of the team, Bagaw is also J&K's leading wicket-taker. The broad-shouldered right-arm quick saw his career suffer because his prime years as a cricketer coincided with the most turbulent time in the Valley. After four regular seasons of first-class cricket, Qayoom had taken 86 wickets, and was poised to leap into the big league. But at the start of the 1992-93 season, a letter arrived home. "It was a death threat signed by militants, warning me not to play for India," says Qayoom, who was 25 then. He didn't turn up for his side that year.
The ECB have closed the book on Kevin Pietersen and have been urging the English fans to bid farewell to the talismanic batsman. Ted Corbett, writing in the Hindu, prefers to walk to a different tune and offers examples of previous comebacks from improbable circumstances
I would be happy to see Pietersen walking out to bat for England again -- say in the first Test against India -- and it would also give me pleasure to hear that he had been made captain once again. When Geoff Boycott stepped down from his England spot there were many who thought that at 36 he would not play for England again. Eventually Alec Bedser, chairman of selectors, saw that if England was to be great again Boycott had to return and made it his business to negotiate a way back.
Writing in the Hindustan Times, Kadambari Murali Wade, the former editor of Sports Illustrated India shares her experience of meeting with the Mudgal Committee that was probing the spot-fixing and corruption charges in IPL 2013.
Drawing on her experience of an investigative story published in the magazine, and her interactions with the committee, she says that mere allegations or suggestions of corruption by the committee are not likely to help the cause of Indian cricket.
The ACSU does get information from several sources, players, journalists, officials etc. They reportedly even have several players on an unofficial watchlist. However, they find it difficult to push forward because of a lack of evidence that will stand up in court. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to note that a Supreme Court-appointed committee seems to think there is enough "evidence".
Everyone knows that Indian cricket needs to be cleaned up. But it can't be done on the basis of allegations, unless they've received hard evidence, allegations by a committee of this magnitude could be even more damaging.
Simon Hughes in the Telegraph lauds the ECB's decision to appoint former England wicketkeeper Paul Downton as the board's managing director, stating that the latter is more than capable of rising to the challenges of his new job.
Behind the benign facade was a determination and a commitment to succeed and a total dedication to the team. He does not possess an iota of selfishness, and willingly took on the most demanding role both for Middlesex and subsequently for England, keeping wicket, cheerleading and batting in the middle order. He made the most of his ability. Many times having laboured for hours behind the stumps against the all-conquering West Indies, he went in to face the full wrath of their fearsome pace attack when the chips were down and stabilised the innings. He was a human pacifier.