Sheldon Jackson, the Ranji Trophy-winning Saurashtra batsman, will play for Puducherry in the 2020-21 domestic season. The 33-year old along with Pankaj Singh and Paras Dogra will be the professionals in the set-up. R Vinay Kumar, the former Karnataka captain, has been released. Pankaj featured for Puducherry two seasons ago, while Dogra continues to remain their batting lynchpin since moving from Himachal ahead of the team's debut season in 2018-19.
Jackson's paperwork has been completed, with the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) issuing him an NOC. "The journey so far has been fantastic and I am thankful to everyone at Saurashtra Cricket Association for standing by my side in my good and bad time," Jackson said in an SCA release. "I am very thankful to Mr Niranjan Shah (SCA Secretary) and Mr Jaydev Shah (SCA President) who have been father figures to me on and off the field and have been my constant support in my times of darkness and when I was low in my performance."
Even as uncertainty over the upcoming domestic season looms, Puducherry have been among the more active sides as far as domestic signings go. Last month, they announced the return of former Mumbai seamer Aavishkar Salvi as head coach, along with Omkar Salvi and Distant Yagnik in the support staff group.
Jackson has so far featured in 76 first-class matches, scoring 5634 runs at an average of 49.42. He has 27 fifties and 19 centuries. He was one of the key performers in a victorious Ranji season for Saurashtra earlier this year, where they beat Bengal in the final, making 809 runs at 50.56.
The trio of Aavishkar Salvi, Onkar Khanvilkar and Dishant Yagnik is back with Puducherry for the next season, having coached the side in its first season in 2018-19. Salvi returns as head coach, while Khanvilkar and Yagnik have also taken up their positions as bowling and fielding coach respectively. All three had held the same positions two years back, when the Lodha reforms meant nine teams - Puducherry amongst them - took part in India's senior domestic season for the first time.
All three have been appointed for one season. Salvi, 38, played four ODIs for India in 2003, while his first-class career spanned from 2001-02 to 2012-13 for Mumbai. Khanvilkar also played for Mumbai from 2003 to 2010, while Yagnik was a key member of the Rajasthan side, and played from 2004-05 to 2017-18.
Salvi confirmed his reappointment to ESPNcricinfo, and separately told PTI that he was pleased to be back with Puducherry. "It is exciting," he was quoted as saying. "We don''t know when the cricket season will start because of Covid-19, how cricket will be played, but still if an association is preparing themselves, it is a good thing to be part of it."
The Cricket Association of Pondicherry (CAP) then brought in J Arunkumar as the head coach for the 2019-20 season, during which the team topped the Plate League table in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and progressed to the quarter-finals, while finishing second in the group in the Ranji Trophy. However, Arunkumar resigned midway through the Ranji season, citing "constant interference" from an official as the reason for quitting. Subsequently, Arunkumar has taken up the post as the head coach of the USA cricket team.
Puducherry had done well during their inaugural season under Salvi too, tussling for the top spot in the Plate Group alongside Bihar and Uttarakhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy.
Jaffer appointed Uttarakhand coach
Wasim Jaffer, who had retired from domestic cricket earlier this year, has now taken up a new role as the head coach of Uttarakhand for the 2020-21 domestic season. Jaffer brings a wealth of experience, having won the Ranji Trophy multiples times with Mumbai and more recently with Vidarbha in a playing career that lasted more than 20 years. In all, Jaffer is the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy, with 12038 runs, including 40 centuries, which is also the most by any batsman in the tournament. Jaffer also played 31 Tests and two ODIs for India.
The Uttarakhand gig, however, isn't Jaffer first foray into coaching. Even when he was an active player, in 2019, he had worked as a batting coach at Bangladesh's high-performance academy in Dhaka. More recently, Jaffer was named Kings XI Punjab's batting coach for IPL 2020, which has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Uttarakhand had finished last in Group C last season, with no wins and seven losses from nine Ranji games.
'My Bengal career is finished' - Dinda
Ashok Dinda's playing days for Bengal appear to be over, with the veteran paceman being linked with Puducherry, Chhattisgarh and Goa for the 2020-21 domestic season. The 36-year old was dropped from the Bengal side after playing just one game in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy after a spat with Ranadeb Bose, the bowling coach.
Dinda has been one of Bengal's most successful bowlers, with 420 wickets in first-class cricket and 151 and 146 in List A and T20s respectively.
"I have been associated with Bengal cricket for many years, and it has been my life, I have the best memories of my time with the team," he said. "I will not stop loving Bengal, but I can't play for them again. It's finished. I wanted to end my career with Bengal, but I don't have a choice now."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Dinda has been in talks with all three associations, and at this stage, Chhattisgarh could be his likeliest destination. He hasn't yet applied to the Cricket Association of Bengal for an NOC; if and when he does, the association will let him go.
Dinda, who played 13 ODIs and nine T20Is between 2009 and 2013, played Bengal's first game of the last Ranji season, in Thumba against Kerala, and picked up three wickets. Soon after that, he got into a scrap with Bose on the sidelines of a training session at home in Kolkata, following which he was left out. He was given a chance to apologise to Bose, but refused.
The pace spearhead's absence didn't seem to have hurt Bengal, who reached the Ranji Trophy final for the first time since 2006-07 - where they lost to Saurashtra - with the young pace trio of Akash Deep (35 wickets), Mukesh Kumar (32) and Ishan Porel (23) doing the job alongside spin frontman Shahbaz Ahmed, who picked up 35 wickets.
Sandeep Warrier moves from Kerala to Tamil Nadu
In another significant move, Kerala fast bowler Sandeep Warrier will shift to Tamil Nadu for the next season.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Warrier's move is mainly due to his present life circumstances. He has been living in Chennai for the past two years, trains at the MRF Pace Academy in the city, and is employed by India Cements. His wife, a doctor, is pursuing a master's degree in Chennai too, and the city has been home for Warrier.
He has applied to the Kerala Cricket Association for an NOC and is confident of receiving it. Warrier could play as a local player instead of a professional for Tamil Nadu - the TNCA have already indicated they will be happy to have him in the side - since he has been employed in the state for more than a year.
Warrier, 29, has been Kerala's leading pacer in the past couple of seasons. During their semi-final run in 2018-19, he picked up 44 wickets at an average of 17.54 in ten matches. Last season, his appearances were limited since he was picked for India A, and he took 13 wickets in four matches at 22.84.