It is time for Cricket Australia to be bold in light of ball-tampering scandal

Pat Cummins would be a great choice as a new long-term captain for Australia, taking over from the disgraced Steve Smith, below. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 April 2018
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It is time for Cricket Australia to be bold in light of ball-tampering scandal

BANGALORE: An emotionally draining and physically exhausting schedule. A captain reduced to tears in front of the media. Lengthy bans. Administrators wanting to do the right thing years too late. No, it is not Steve Smith, David Warner and the ball-tampering fiasco in Cape Town, rather Kim Hughes, resignation-by-bullying and a subsequent rebel tour of South Africa.
What we are seeing in 2018 bears more than passing resemblance to the events of 1984-85, which plunged Australian cricket into an abyss.
Kim Hughes went into a home series against West Indies (1984) just a few months after having taken a new-look side to the Caribbean. Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh — the spine of a great Aussie side — had retired that January, and the replacements were no match for Clive Lloyd’s rampant team. In a series that was lost 3-0, Hughes managed 215 runs in 10 innings, with a highest score of 33.
For years, he had faced the hostility of Lillee and Marsh, his Western Australian teammates, and dealt with coldness from Chappell. With that trio gone, he was worn down by the relentless fast bowling of Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. In Brisbane, with the team on the verge of going 2-0 down in the home series, Hughes read out a letter of resignation. Chappell helped him draft it.
In his next four innings, the cavalier batsman made 0, 2, 0 and 0. He never played for Australia again. The following winter, he led a side to apartheid South Africa, taking with him the likes of Rodney Hogg, Terry Alderman and Carl Rackemann. Australia lost the Ashes series home and away, and the darkness lifted only once Allan Border — who replaced Hughes as captain — rebuilt with the help of new faces such as David Boon, Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones and Steve Waugh. A decade after hitting rock bottom, Australia won in the Caribbean to set sail on what would be a decade of domination.
There is no rebel tour to take away talent now, but there is considerable disquiet in the playing ranks over the manner in which the tampering episode was handled. Wounds left by a pay dispute between the players and board last year are threatening to open up again. And if David Warner does eventually reveal that others were also complicit in SandpaperGate, it is not just a costly exodus of sponsors that Cricket Australia will have to deal with.
Smith has been barred from leading Australia for two years. Warner will never captain the national side again. Shorn of 138 Test caps of experience, where do Australia look for a leader, someone who can do the salvage job Border took on so admirably in the 1980s? Tim Paine, who led from the front with a fighting 64 at The Wanderers despite having broken his thumb earlier in the game, is 33 and playing just his 13th Test. After seven operations on his index finger over the years, he nearly walked away from the game last year.
Former opener Simon Katich talked up Mitchell Marsh’s long-term chances after his heroics in the first Test in Durban. That was before Smith and Warner exited the stage. Now, as the selectors consider Marsh’s suitability for the role, they should also look to break the mold.
The last bowler to lead those in baggy green was the great Richie Benaud, who won 12 and lost only four of 28 matches. It would not be the worst idea to take a punt on Pat Cummins, whose superb pace bowling in all conditions is allied to sound batting technique and impressive poise. After the recent dark days, Cummins’ box-office appeal could bring forth the positive vibes Cricket Australia is so desperate for.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).