Many hardly pay any attention to the rankings, but try telling that to the Australians. The cricket-crazy country is in shock after the country slipped to No. 10 in the latest International Cricket Council Twenty20 list behind Ireland.
What the Aussies find embarrassing is that Ireland, like Canada, is an associate country and there is no way that should happen. The Aussies slid down the rankings after losing that thriller in Dubai to Pakistan on Friday.
Australia’s captain George Bailey was red-faced about the standings at a news conference and he will want to make sure the Irish are put in their place when the teams meet in the World T20 championship that starts in Sri Lanka on Sept. 18.
“If Ireland is a better side than us then I guess it will show in a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka,’’ Bailey said.
Australia has only won four of its past 13, but its opponents have been Test-playing nations South Africa, Pakistan, England, India, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Ireland has won eight of its past 10 matches, but all against minnow nations.
Pakistan, who took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series to move into No. 6 in the ICC standings, face the Aussies in the third match today ... Jacques Kallis teamed up with Jean-Paul Duminy to put on 90 runs for the fourth wicket and help South Africa stroll to a seven-wicket win over England in the first of three T20 matches at Chester-le-Street on Saturday. England managed a paltry 118 for seven and the Proteas barely worked up a sweat in making 119 for three with six balls to spare. Kallis made 48 from 44 balls and Duminy 47 from 54 balls.
YUVRAJ MUST WAIT
India’s World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh’s return to the national team after a 10-month absence will have to wait. The 27,000-seat Dr. YSR Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium at Visakhapatnam for the first T20 international between India and New Zealand was packed to capacity but the game was called off because of heavy rains. A giant banner read “Goodbye Cancer, Welcome Back Sixer.” Singh, who has recovered from rare germ cell cancer, wore a badge “YouWeCan.” The fans though had fun as the broadcaster kept showing highlights of the India-England 2007 T20 World Cup when Singh lifted Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over.
KP HIT IN THE POCKET
On the field England and South Africa are involved in an exciting T20 series. Off the field its wayward star Kevin Pietersen continues to hog the headlines despite being dropped by England for insubordination. The latest headline grabber: KP will not be awarded a central contract for the 2013 season and that means an automatic loss of $250,000 and possibly more than a million in bonuses and endorsements. Pietersen, of course, was dropped after sending provocative texts to South African players about his skipper Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower. A statement by the England board admitted it is still in talks with the 32-year-old Pietersen. “In respect to Kevin Pietersen, discussions are on-going - and they remain private.’’
AND IN THE RED CORNER
Andrew Flintoff is back in the limelight. The 6-foot-4 all-rounder, who became an instant hero in 2005 after leading England to its first Ashes series victory over Australia in almost two decades, is going to don gloves. Considered England’s greatest all-rounder along with Ian Botham, Flintoff is scheduled to make his debut at the Manchester Arena Nov. 30
against an opponent yet to named. Flintoff is being trained by Shane McGuigan, son of Ireland’s former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan. Injuries forced Flintoff’s retirement in 2010 and he has since made a number of media appearances including being a guest commentator during the 2011 darts world championship. Promoters are already eyeing a matchup against All Black World Cup winning rugby player Sonny Bill Williams if Flintoff shows promise. Bill is heavyweight champion of New Zealand.
Pakistan is up in arms over its star spinner Saeed Ajmal’s omission from the ICC’s list of player of the year. This column, too, was surprised by Ajmal’s exclusion, but he hasn’t cared to make a statement. Instead, his national body has registered a protest with the ICC and former Pakistan internationals have asked the body to boycott next Saturday’s presentation ceremonies in Sri Lanka. If Pakistan boycotts the event, it won’t be the first time it has been done. In 2009 South Africa failed to show up when a couple of its players were ignored.
The four candidates in the race for the top honour are Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, Australian Michael Clarke and South Africans Vernon Philander and Hashim Amla. Who else but Amla for the trophy?
WHERE IS JADEJA?
Some four months ago Indian Ravindra Jadeja became an overnight celebrity when he became the highest-paid player in the Indian Premier League. The Chennai Super Kings splashed out a record $2 million for his services but he failed to live up to his billing — scoring a measly 191 runs and taking 12 wickets in 19 matches. His fall from being among his country’s top T20 players has been swift. He hasn’t been included in India’s squad for the World T20 later this month and a bigger slap is that he wasn’t included in India’s A team that is on a tour of New Zealand.
Normally Indian players wanting to regain their places at the national level sign up with the National Cricket Academy to sharpen up their skills, but Jadeja hasn’t. Jadeja is apparently playing at the inter-district level.
GANGULY EYES JOB
It has been four years since Saurav Ganguly retired from international cricket, but India’s most successful captain says he would be interested in returning to the team — as a coach. The current coach is Englishman Duncan Fletcher who is likely to hold on to the post until the 2015 World Cup if he continues to get good results until then. During his playing days Ganguly was a firm believer in foreign coaches, but he now believes a local could do the job as well if not better ... Another former star interested in hooking up with his national team is Shane Bond. The former New Zealand paceman wants to take over as bowling coach when Damien Wright steps down after the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later this month.
FALL OF WICKETS
Afghanistan is appealing for more technical help from the Test-playing nations to develop the game in the war-torn country. Afghanistan board boss Hamid Shinwari says even the Taliban laid down their arms when the country played Pakistan in a one-dayer in February because “cricket is more than a game in Afghanistan.’’ Afghanistan currently receives financial support from the ICC and the Asian CC, but Shinwari wants additional help because he says the sport gives hope to millions of people in his country. Afghanistan and Ireland are the cream of the associate countries ... Zaka Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board has taken on an added responsibility. He has been appointed chairman of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) development committee. His role will include developing the game in associate member countries in the ACC.