Steve Smith and David Warner ended their 12-month ban for their role in Australian cricket's ball-tampering scandal.
But how soon and how warmly they will be welcomed back in an Australian team that has reshaped itself in their absence remains unclear.
Former captain Smith and vice-captain Warner are expected to be named to the Australian squad for the World Cup, which begins in England in late May. Their recall will inevitably result in players being left out who have played in their absence. Also absent has been young batsman Cameron Bancroft who served a nine-month ban.
Smith and Warner briefly met with Australian players in Dubai earlier this month. Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts called the meeting a "positive step" toward the reintegration of the suspended trio. But he said "a meeting in Dubai doesn't mean everything is fixed."
"What we're focused on is doing everything we can to support Dave, Steve, Cameron and all the other players in support staff with this reintegration to build harmony rather than to disrupt the harmony that is building," Roberts said at the Melbourne Press Club. "At the same time, let's be open about it. At any workplace you don't have to be best mates with everyone you work with."
Australian media reports on Friday revealed the breadth of the fracture between Warner and his teammates immediately after the ball-tampering scandal during last year's test series in South Africa.
The Sydney Morning Herald, quoting numerous sources, said star bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyons considered refusing to play in the fourth test of last year's series against South Africa if Warner were selected.
The so-called "Sandpapergate" scandal sent cricket into turmoil in Australia, where fans and ex-players struggled to understand how a team that claimed to hold the moral high ground in the sport could suddenly fall in a clumsy cheating scheme.
Smith, who was the top-ranked batsman in test cricket, and Warner accepted their 12-month bans for their parts in the plot. Opening batsman Bancroft, the player caught by TV cameras using sandpaper to change the condition of the match ball during the third test against South Africa in Cape Town, has already completed a nine-month ban.
All three players gave tearful news conferences after being sent home from South Africa. The bans meant they couldn't play for their national or provincial teams, but were eligible for grade cricket in their home cities and for domestic competitions abroad. For the most part, they stayed out of the public gaze.
The sanctions cost Smith and Warner multiple millions in earnings and endorsements, but both have said that's less important than the chance of returning to represent Australia.
There was fallout on the administrative side, too. The chairman and the long-time chief executive of Cricket Australia stepping down, the high-performance manager had his contract terminated early, and coach Darren Lehmann quit despite being cleared of any involvement in the scandal.
Former test captain Mark Taylor in recent weeks has called into question the investigation that followed the scandal, saying there was never any mention of how far back the ball-tampering efforts went or if other players were involved.
Roberts responded on Thursday, calling the investigation "absolutely fit for purpose."
"We're not going to jump at shadows or speculation, we'll deal with the facts," Roberts said. "All the evidence suggests that was the first time a foreign object such as that (sandpaper) had been used.
"We don't have any suggestions from the ICC, match officials, broadcaster footage, players or player agents, CA staff, cricket fans - no one has made any allegations of any other inappropriate goings on."
Most of the sentiment now seems to be in favor of Smith and Warner returning following the harshest sanctions ever meted out to international cricketers for ball tampering.
Whether teammates are as forgiving is yet to be seen.
Chris Gayle will retire from international cricket after the World Cup in England and Wales. The left hand batsman is the only player with over 10,000 runs in the shortest format of the game. Gayle is currently playing for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League and also holds the record for the highest individual score in the cash rich league.
Gayle is one of the most followed cricketers in India and his picture wearing a saffron kurta and tilak with a caption in Hindi has gone viral. “Chris Gayle, better known as Krishna Goyal, star campaigner for BJP, has reached India to campaign for the party in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”
The news is fake as Gayle has not joined BJP before the Lok Sabha elections. Gayle's image in saffron kurta and tilak is from an ad shoot for Manyavar in April 2018.
Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa are good mates. They don't mind having fun together even in public space. We did see Zampa feeling Stoinis' hair during one of the ODI games between Australia and Pakistan, not too long ago in UAE.
Also, Stoinis had shared an image on Instagram where Zampa is seen kissing him on his cheeks. They have a lot of fun together.
He opened up on his friendship with Zampa and said, “We are good mates, that sort of stuff gets you through long tours and all that sort of thing. A bit of banter, a bit of laugh. You can’t take yourself too seriously. We have got a good bond in the team and there’s a good group.”
Bruce Yardley, the former Australian off spinner who died on Wednesday at the age of 71 had a short but successful Test career. It lasted just five years but Yardley packed a great deal into that brief period. He was the side’s leading spin bowler from the late seventies to the early eighties and even as Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, Rodney Hogg and Len Pascoe dominated in the wicket taking act Yardley had his share of scalps which resulted in an impressive tally of 126 wickets from 33 Tests at 31 apiece. Six five wicket hauls and one ten wicket haul embellish these figures and what made him an even more competitive cricketer was the fact that he had four half centuries with a highest score of 74.
Yardley came into the Australian team at the age of 30 in the wake of defections of the leading players to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. He made his Test debut against India at Adelaide in 1977-78 and straightaway made his presence felt. Bearing the brunt of the bowling in the absence of an injured Thomson Yardley wheeled down 43 overs for a bag of four for 134 successfully preventing the Indians from reaching a formidable victory target of 493. India were all out for 445 and what caught the eye most was the fact that all his dismissals were frontline batsmen – Dilip Vengsarkar, Anshuman Gaekwad, Chetan Chauhan and Mohinder Amarnath.
From then on Yardley was a regular in the Australian side and on the tour of the West Indies in 1978 he attracted particular attention – with the bat. In the second Test at Barbados he hit a whirlwind 74 against Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, reaching his half century off just 29 balls. It remained the fastest fifty by an Australian for 39 years till David Warner broke the record by getting his half century off 23 balls against Pakistan in 2017.
Yardley toured India in 1979-80 playing in three Tests and picking up ten wickets. He enjoyed his best season two years later when playing at home against Pakistan and West Indies he took 38 wickets in six matches including four five wicket hauls and his only ten wicket haul in Tests. His good form continued in the series in New Zealand when he picked up 13 wickets in the three Tests.
Yardley remained Australia’s lone frontline spinner in the Ashes series in 1982-83 taking 22 wickets in the five Tests. Later that season he had a match haul of seven wickets in the one-off Test in Sri Lanka but was inexplicably not considered thereafter. However he remains Australia’s best off spinner in the period between Ashley Mallett and Nathan Lyon.
There is a reason why the game struggles for credibility for its vanguard. When the custodians of the game are at crossroads, changing stance depending on which side of the fence the popular, even if it is erroneous, consensus falls on, it is no wonder that cricket is sometimes allowed to run riot as it has in the case of Ashwin and the mankading of Jos Buttler.
The cricket world loves the batsman. According to popular consensus, he provides all the entertainment. By that reckoning anything the batsman does is forgiven, including when he leaves the bat out too far, misses the ball entirely and lives to face the next one. However, the bowler is the worker, the one who toils for that one perfect (and sometimes not so perfect) delivery that fetches his team the crucial wicket. Thereafter, when a team collapses because of a bowler’s prowess, the match is one sided. When the batsmen are blazing, cricket is thriving.
It is these kinds of perceptions that have created this kind of insinuation on bowlers and it is sad to see that the status quo is being perpetuated by some of the greats of the game, particularly those that are now in a position to have a voice and speak their mind for millions to hear. What is even more aghast to hear them speak is that while they condemn Ravichandran Ashwin, their own words are in contrivance of what would constitute the spirit of the game.
By the general reckoning of the spirit of the game, the on field umpire has the final say. If, in his opinion, he deemed Ashwin’s action legal and Jos Buttler rightfully mankaded, then perhaps even with the acceptable margin of error, the legends of the game should accept the umpire’s verdict and move on. For them to not only entirely ignore the man who took the decision but also, settle scores with fellow commentators and others who disagree with their own opinion, which one dare say, could have been entirely different had it been done by one from their own quarters – something they are accusing those that have a different opinion of doing, is, also, against the spirit of the game.
The disbelief over the overturn of the MCC is enormous even though it is not surprising. There is a reason why the Marylebone Cricket Club and (MCC) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) have not had quite the kind of respect they would have liked to have command. Some of the recommendations made by the supposed custodians of the game have seemed out of touch with the reality of the sport and sometimes claptrap in terms of reviving particularly the interests of Test cricket.
Instead of suggesting that the play should have ended with the umpire’s final call, the MCC first supported the mankading rule in Ashwin’s favour only to lose their own credibility by suggesting they had to review the footage again before deciding Ashwin’s action might not have been entirely legible. What they have inadvertently done is undermine once more not only the rule but also, the role of the one man who has a say in how the game goes – the umpire.
Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on Mumbai Indians today at Bengaluru. AB de Villiers is going to be crucial for the team. He has made four half-centuries in last five IPL innings at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. And he is all set to take on Mumbai. AB has made light of India's premier bowler, Jasprit Bumrah. He is known for playing mind games and this might be another ploy for him before the game.
"Bumrah is a very good bowler but it's also possible to get hold of him," De Villiers said on the eve of the match. "It's hard every single game but you look at the strengths and then you look at the weaknesses and realise no one is perfect. It's easier on this ground with not so big boundaries. All the bowlers, no matter who you are, are under pressure here."
"We've got a little bit of better balance this time around. More options as well. It's an exciting cricket team. What I like is you still see old faces as well. It's not a complete washout of a new team. Same faces but also bit more strength in the middle order. I think our balance is a lot better," De Villiers added.
Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) bowling coach, is enjoying his association with the franchise. He was known for his exceptional bowling display in international cricket and there was a time when he was unplayable across formats.
In a picture posted by SRH player Shreevats Goswami, he is seen having dosa in breakfast. "Breakfast view cannot get better this morning murali sir killing the dosa and how," Goswami captioned the photo.
Muralitharan's picture went viral and attracted hilarious reactions from fans.
Sunrisers were defeated by Kolkata Knight Riders by six wickets in the opening match of their IPL campaign in 2019. However, David Warner looked in good touch as the left hander scored 53-ball 85 to help his side post 181/3 on the board in 20 overs.
Andre Russell, Nitish Rana and Robin Uthappa played crucial knocks as KKR registered their first win of the season.
Former England skipper Kevin Pietersen, who is in India as a commentator for the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League, was seen playing cricket with kids in Bengaluru. "Just stopped on the side of the road to play gulley cricket in Bangalore. Always wanted to do it! Today I did it!," Pietersen posted on Twitter.
He had played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League.
He recently spoke in favor of Jos Buttler, who was 'mankaded' by Ravichandran Ashwin during an IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur.
"I don't see many talking favourably about what happened, leaving it up to him and leaving it up to the individual. He (Ashwin) is always going to be liable with it now because it is such a big topic and it is going to be talked about for a long time."
R Ashwin was once again at the receiving end during the ongoing Indian Premier League. He was brutally trolled by fans for making a captaincy blunder during his team's match against Kolkata Knight Riders. Ashwin, who gave away 47 runs from his four overs, was having tough time to contain the rival batters in the last overs of the innings.
In his quest to keep Russell quite, Shami got better of him for three in the 17th over. However, Russell was recalled by the umpires after the intervention of third umpire. Ashwin had only three fielders inside the circle instead of four and hence the delivery was declared a no-ball.
This mistake proved costly as Russell scored 48 runs. The damage was done as KKR finished 218/4 and won the game by 28 runs. Ashwin who was lambasted for 'mankading' Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler, faced more flak after the blunder against Knight Riders.
The co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, Shah Rukh Khan has once again won hearts with his noble gesture towards the differently-abled fan Harshul. After Kolkata Knight Riders defeated Kings XI Punjab in the second game at the Eden Gardens, Bollywood superstar went to Harshul and kissed him.
He was mighty impressed with the way his franchise has started its IPL campaign in 2019. SRK was also present during KKR's first game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Here's the video of SRK with Harshul:
All-rounder Andre Russell played an important part in KKR's victory of Kings XI Punjab. Batting first, Knight Riders scored 218 runs. Robin Uthappa (67 not-out), Nitish Rana and Andre Russell (48 not-out) played impressive knocks.
Chasing 219 runs to win, KXIP were rocked early by rival bowlers. They lost their openers cheaply and even last match hero Sarfaraz Khan also perished on 13. Mayank Agarwal (58 off 34) and David Miller (59 not out off 40) tried their best but couldn't lead their team to win. KXIP finished their innings on 190/4.
Chennai Super Kings have once again demonstrated why they are the best side in the history of the Indian Premier League. After defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the opening game of the season at the Chepauk, MS Dhoni's troops thrashed Delhi Capitals by six wickets at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi.
CSK, who have won the league thrice, are the defending champions, having defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad in the finale of the last edition. The way they have played in the ongoing season, their fans are sure of seeing them romping to fourth IPL title victory.
Kedar Jadhav was celebrating his 34th birthday when Kings emerged victorious against Capitals. After the victory, Jadhav’s birthday was celebrated in style by his teammates. The cake was smeared on his and during the course of cake cutting ceremony and joyful moments, MS Dhoni called Suresh Raina as a ‘Harami Launda’.
The Indian Premier League has taken the intensity to another level in the ongoing season. From few controversial calls to close finishes, the cash rich league is living up to its top billing in the world. Virat Kohli's RCB will take on Mumbai Indians at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
In today's game, Virat Kohli has a chance to become second batsman after Suresh Raina to touch 5,000-run mark in the cash rich league. The right hand batsman is just 46 runs away from reaching this landmark. Suresh Raina, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, had achieved the feat in the opening game of the season against Royal Challengers Bangalore on March 23.
The outing against the defending champions didn't panned out positively for the Bangalore based team. Batting first, they were dismissed for a below-par score, which was easily chased down by the home team.
RCB are still waiting to win its maiden title in the league, and Virat Kohli is confident of a better r