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.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.