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Buzz: Azam-led Pak squad depart for New Zealand tour

November 23, 2020 13:58 IST
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Pakistan players take a selfie before heading out to New Zealand on Sunday

IMAGE: Pakistan players take a selfie before heading out to New Zealand on Sunday. Photograph: Babar Azam/Twitter

The Pakistan cricket team departed in the early hours of Monday for their month-long tour of New Zealand.

Upon reaching, the squad led by Pakistan's all-format captain Babar Azam will be under a mandatory 14-day quarantine period as per COVID-19 protocol.

Ahead of their departure, the skipper shared a picture on Twitter and captioned it as: "Next stop, New Zealand."


Pakistan will play three T20Is on December 18, 20, and 22, and the ICC World Test Championship fixtures will be held in Mount Maunganui and Christchurch on December 26-30 and January 3-7, respectively.

On Sunday, batsman Fakhar Zaman had been ruled out of the tour to New Zealand as the player was suffering from fever, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had confirmed.

PCB said that the decision to withdraw Fakhar from the tour was made keeping the health of the rest of the squad members as a "top priority". The statement read that Fakhar was isolated in the team hotel in Lahore as soon as his condition was detected, adding that the PCB medical panel is in touch with the player.

New Zealand focus on T20 may change with Windies series: McCullum

New Zealand's Twenty20 series against West Indies starting on Friday should be a springboard for the home side to look to improve their results and build a squad for next year's World Cup, former captain Brendon McCullum said.

New Zealand are second in the International Cricket Council Test rankings and third in one-day internationals, but struggle at sixth in Twenty20.

The team lost their last two series at home and have won just seven of their last 20 matches in the shortest form of the game.

McCullum, however, blamed the inconsistent results on the team's efforts to succeed in the longer formats, using Twenty20 as a chance to develop new players or give veterans a rest.

"T20 hasn't been the best format for the New Zealand team of late and I know there is a deep desire to improve those results," McCullum told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

"I think with the T20 World Cup not being far away, now is the time to really start to drill down what your best 11 will be and then you start to build a squad that will be competitive at the next World Cup.

"That's why these games are so vital."

While Kieron Pollard's side are ranked ninth in Twenty20 cricket, they are the only side to have won the World Cup twice and are the defending champions for next year's tournament in India.

McCullum has an intimate knowledge of the West Indian talent, having guided the Trinbago Knight Riders to the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) title this year.


"The West Indies are remarkable T20 cricketers," said McCullum, who will also commentate on the series for new host broadcasters Spark Sports.

"They have got immense flair right through their batting and bowling. They're well led by Kieron Pollard and got a great mix of experience and youth.

"I think they will be a very tough proposition."

CWI says West Indies could play two Tests instead of three in Bangladesh tour

Cricket West Indies has indicated that the away Test series against Bangladesh early next year could be reduced to two matches from three, citing the "pressures" that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.

CWI assured that the "best available" team will be sent for the tour in January comprising three Tests, as many ODIs and two T20Is but wants the five-day games to be reduced.

"There has been an option to reduce from three to two Tests but it is not finalised yet. It will be finalised within the next few days," Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

"The problem is (that) we have to look at it from all perspectives, that of COVID-19, scheduling and cost. These days, the pressures that COVID has brought to world cricket are significant in terms of revenue.

"We want to come to Bangladesh because we respect the relationship and the bilateral agreements that we have."

While Bangladesh is yet to play any international cricket since March, West Indies were one of the first to resume post the COVID-19 break when it toured England in July.

The West Indies are currently touring New Zealand for three T20 Internationals and two Tests and that engagement will end on December 15.

"I just want to assure you that we will always send the best available team to any tour that we undertake, including Bangladesh. We believe a tour to Bangladesh is always a challenging tour because it is an environment that's very different to our own conditions," Skerritt said.

"We are doing everything we can to participate in tours abroad and at home. The COVID-19 pandemic is making it extremely difficult to implement our plans."

Perth, Melbourne awarded fixtures as Cricket Australia confirms full BBL schedule

Every club will get to play in front of their home crowd subject to the public health situation, Cricket Australia announced on Monday while confirming the venues for the upcoming Big Bash League (BBL) season.

Perth will host five matches in January including four home games for the Scorchers while 11 games have been penciled in for Melbourne. Five of these will be held at Marvel Stadium, with six at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"The revised draw was created in consultation with governments, clubs, state and territory associations, and broadcast partners and places the health and safety of participants and the broader community as the top priority," Cricket Australia said in an official statement.


The final day of the regular season will be played on January 26 and feature a triple-header split between the SCG (one match) and MCG (two matches).

The five-match final series begins on Friday, January 29. The final has been slated for Saturday, February 6.

"This schedule is a testament to the strength of the League and ensures our fans around the country will get the chance to see their BBL Clubs in action on home soil," Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia's Head of Big Bash Leagues said in a media release.

Additional matches have also been confirmed for the Adelaide Oval (three), the Gabba (two), Metricon Stadium (four), and Blundstone Arena (two) in early January.

Hobart Hurricanes and Sydney Sixers will lock horns in the tournament opener on December 10.

Graeme Smith optimistic about crowds return during Australia's Test tour

South Africa's Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith expects to see crowds returning to the ground next year when Australia tour the country for a Test series for the first time since the 2018 infamous ball tampering episode.

Smith allayed doubts about Australia's slated tour next year despite political turmoil that Cricket South Africa is currently going through and the country's struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 21,000 lives and infected over 765,000 people.

"We're kind of looking at the Australian series, hopefully if all goes well with COVID, to have some crowds back in the stadiums. There'll be way more excitement around that than anything else," the former skipper told Sydney Morning Herald.

Even though CSA is yet to finalise the full schedule of Australia's Test tour scheduled for February-March next year, Smith said the Newlands, where the sandpapergate scandal took place in 2018, will definitely host a match.             Allaying fears about poor crowd behaviour during the series, Smith said: "You can control it to the best of your ability. There's not a place in the world where there hasn't been a fan chirping or having a crack.

"That's part of playing sport at the highest level in opposition countries. We'll try our best to marshall it. I think South African fans will be grateful to have a quality team like Australia playing.

"It's been one of those crazy periods where things we've gotten used to have been taken away from us."

Verbal abuses were subjected towards Australian players during their last Test tour to South Africa following the infamous ball tampering scandal during the third Test at Newlands, Cape Town, leading to one-year international bans imposed on Steve Smith and David Warner for their roles.           Australia's limited-overs tour of South Africa this year occurred without any ugly incident after then CSA chief executive Jacques Faul pleaded with local fans to behave properly with the tourists.

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