No retirement for Cook

Alastair Cook has endured a torrid time at the crease so far in this series. (Reuters)
Updated 12 December 2017
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No retirement for Cook

LONDON: Alastair Cook has hit for six the rumors he is ready to hang up his bat and gloves to retire, insisting he is only focused on beating Australia in his 150th Test.
Cook, England’s most prolific Test run scorer, has made just 62 runs in four innings as the tourists have gone 2-0 down in the five-match series and some former players-turned-pundits have suggested he might be about to call time on his impressive career.
“I haven’t made any decision on anything. All my focus is on this game, the biggest of our lives coming up,” Cook said ahead of the third Ashes Test starting tomorrow.
Cook captained England on their last Ashes tour Down Under when spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series with the tourists 3-0 down and headed for a 5-0 whitewash.
Former Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson and England batsman Kevin Pietersen have suggested that Cook had the look of a man who might be ready to hang up his bat.
“For the people who are saying that, they’ve had no contact time with me,” Cook, who is 33 later this month, said. “They wouldn’t know the extra nets I’ve been doing behind closed doors.
“I was with (my batting coach) yesterday for an hour-and-a-half in the morning, desperate to keep working on my game. That’s probably not a guy who’s given in. To be honest with you, I have no idea (when I’ll retire). And I’ve said that since I gave up the captaincy.”
The opener said retirement might not end up being his own choice if he continued to fail to make runs and said becoming the first England player to play 150 Tests was “quite special,” especially as the last 147 have been consecutive.
Cook has enjoyed an Ashes triumph in Australia in 2010-11 as well as the 2013-14 debacle and said the current party would not fail for want of trying.
“I will say this about this England side, I’ve never seen a side a work as hard as this side,” he said.
“Win, lose or draw, whether we play well or we play rubbish, the effort from the guys is unbelievable. There’s a group of men in there, 16 or 17 of them, desperate to do well.”


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.