Aiden Markram would give an "arm and a leg" to captain the South Africa Test team but said landing the role is not the "be-all and end-all".

Faf du Plessis stepped down as Test skipper in February and also decided not to continue as captain of the limited-overs sides.

Quinton de Kock took over as the leader of the ODI and Twenty20 International teams, but a new Test captain has not yet been appointed.

Markram led South Africa to World Cup glory at Under-19 level in 2014 and the 25-year-old batsman would relish the chance to take the Proteas job, yet said it would not be the end of the world if he is overlooked.

The opener said: "I really enjoy captaincy. I enjoy the responsibilities that come with it.

"I would give an absolute arm and a leg to be able to do it, but I have said it before in the same breath, it's the not the be-all and end-all, so I don't want to become desperate about it."

He added: "I thoroughly enjoy captaining and would be honoured if it were the case, but I don't want to look too much into it.

"If it were to happen, it would be amazing. But if not, there are plenty good leaders within the environment that will take the team forward along with the management.

"My main focus is trying to get back into the side and stay on the field."

Markram broke a finger during the Test series defeat to England  last December, having also suffered a broken wrist when he reacted angrily to a dismissal against India last year.

Shane Warne is more sentimental about representing Australia than he lets on, his former team-mate Jason Gillespie said.

In the wake of a recent Amazon documentary about the Australian cricket team, Warne hit out at the "verbal diarrhoea" from some of the country’s current and former players over the significance of the Baggy Green.

Warne pointed to an example of players wearing them when they went to watch tennis at Wimbledon, labelling it "embarrassing".

He auctioned off his Baggy Green to support the bushfire relief fund earlier this year and often preferred to wear white floppy headgear when he was playing.

Gillespie believes the hat has important significance to many players and believes it still means a lot to Warne, even if he has been "dismissive".

"If that's what Shane believes then... he's probably more sentimental about it as he probably lets on," Gillespie said to Stats Perform News.

"It did mean a lot to him. I think he was making a point and I think the point he was trying to make was that is it a piece of cloth at the end of the day."

Gillespie added: "What it symbolises and what is symbolises for me is the hard work, the sacrifice.

"The sacrifice not just for myself but I think of my parents, driving me around to cricket practice every week to play games on the weekends. 

"I remember at Christmas time when Santa got me a new bat or a new ball and after opening presents I would hound my dad to go up to the nets before Christmas lunch.

"I'm thinking, 'The poor man, all he probably wanted to do was to have a Christmas drink and to settle down for an hour but he's with his 12 year-old son up at the nets on Christmas Day'. 

"The pride in yourself for the hard work you put in and the reward - ever since I was six years of age, I wanted to play for Australia, it was just my whole being, my whole dream. 

"Everything revolved around doing the best I could to play for Australia and that's what the cap symbolises. I look at that cap and I think, 'I earned that cap'. 

"I know that Shane has maybe been a little bit dismissive about it but it still means a lot to him. He thinks of all the hard work that he had to put in. 

"But everyone is allowed to feel slightly differently about it and what it means to them. It doesn't mean that Shane cared any less, it was just his way. 

"He used to wear a more floppy hat and for more practical reasons. He didn't want to get sunburn from the harsh sun. 

"It meant a lot, it still means a lot to all of us. I'm fortunate to have my Baggy Green and it's tucked away safely so it's all good."

Former England batsman Rob Key has revealed he suffered a mini stroke over the weekend.

Key, who turned 41 last Tuesday, posted a picture of himself smiling in a hospital bed on Monday 

He wrote alongside the picture on Instagram: "Long weekend. Turns out I've had a mini stroke.

"Thanks to everyone at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital especially Charlie And Dr baht. Now got to eat food with no flavour and take pills #triffic."

The former Kent captain, who now works in the media, played 15 Tests, five ODIs and one Twenty20 International.

Ricky Ponting believes it will be "difficult" for Usman Khawaja to force his way back into the Australia Test side.

Khawaja was a notable absentee when Cricket Australia announced its list of centrally contracted players last month.

The 33-year-old batsman has not played for his country since the drawn Ashes series in England last year and Marnus Labuschagne has looked very much at home at number three.

Former Australia captain Ponting thinks we may have seen the last of Khawaja in the longest format, despite the left-hander saying he believes he is among the top six batsmen in the country.

Ponting told ABC Grandstand: "I honestly think now he's going to find it difficult [to regain his place] and I feel for him.

"I love Usman Khawaja, I got really close to him over the last 10 years since he made his debut and I talk to him quite regularly.

"I've always felt he's a very good player and we probably never saw the absolute best of him at international cricket.

"We saw glimpses of it, and dribs and drabs, but not the consistently good player I thought he could have been for Australia."

Jason Gillespie believes criticism of England fast bowler Jofra Archer might well be rooted in lazy stereotyping.

Archer excelled on his introduction to the international game last year, starring in England's Cricket World Cup win and then the 2-2 home Ashes series draw against Australia.

The 25-year-old claimed 55 wickets across all formats in 2019 but a tough tour of New Zealand and mixed fortunes as England were subsequently victorious in South Africa brought his performances into question.

Conjecture generally whipped up whenever the Barbados-born paceman let his speeds slip below the high speeds that allow him to thrill spectators and terrify batsmen.

Gillespie takes charge of Archer at Sussex when his commitments for England and in global T20 leagues allow.

A world-class seamer during his playing days for Australia, he feels the slights directed towards the player "couldn’t be further from the truth".

“I've been very excited by Jofra," he told Stats Perform. "Obviously, he plays at Sussex and my dealings with Jofra have been nothing short of fantastic.

"He's a very likeable young man, loves his cricket, very passionate, he's very hardworking.

"I’ve been pretty disappointed with some of the criticism levelled at Jofra. I think he suffers a little bit from perception. There's that laid-back demeanour that he has.

"He's got a few gold chains, he's got the different hairstyle, he’s got that sort of laid-back West Indian approach. He's Barbadian-born, so he has that approach.

"That perception of that laid-back attitude, people assume that he doesn’t care or he’s not putting [effort] in, and that couldn't be further from the truth. The kid lives and breathes cricket, and I think he's been fantastic."

Gillespie was tipped by some to be leading Archer in the next stage of his international career, with his name linked to the vacancy that emerged when Trevor Bayliss stepped down at the end of the Ashes.

The England and Wales Cricket Board ultimately entrusted bowling coach and former Essex head coach Chris Silverwood to step up.

Content in his roles with Sussex and Big Bash outfit the Adelaide Strikers, Gillespie insists his association with the role never amounted to anything more than gossip – although he would consider offers to work at international level.

“My name was linked with it but at no stage have I had an official interview or anything like that for any role," he explained.

"I think my name got bandied around along with a number of other coaches in the world. I'd love to be involved with international cricket at some point in the future.

"Right now, I’ve got a wonderful job at Sussex, a wonderful job at the Adelaide Strikers, and I'm really enjoying those roles.

"If something does come up in international cricket, you’d certainly have a look at it. As a career coach, you want to progress and work with the best players. Anyone would be open to having those conversations, but at the moment, my focus is on Sussex and the Strikers." 

England players will be able to undertake individual training sessions from next week ahead of a potential resumption of international cricket in the country.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced skills-based sessions can be carried out at various county grounds while behind closed doors, thereby adhering to distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bowlers will be the first to return, doing so on a staggered basis with a coach, physio and - where possible - a strength and conditioning coach in attendance.

Both players and staff will have their temperatures checked prior to the training sessions, while dressing rooms and other facilities at the venues being used will be closed.

After a two-week period for the bowlers, batsmen and wicketkeepers will start their individual programmes as the ECB begins working towards playing fixtures during the English season.

"These are the first steps for players return to training ahead of international cricket potentially resuming later this summer," Ashley Giles, managing director of the England team, said.

"The safety of players, staff and our community is our first priority throughout this protocol. We are committed to adhering to public health guidelines and government directives intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"To be clear, we will only train and potentially play cricket behind closed doors if we know it is absolutely safe to do so and is fully supported by the Government.

"We are in constant dialogue with players, coaches and counties to determine what is possible during this period and what facilities will be available to us.

"We are thankful that we have a united front across all of cricket’s stakeholders to prepare the players in a safe and secure environment."

England's Test series with West Indies, originally scheduled for June, was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, while Australia, Pakistan and Ireland are still due to visit this year.

The England women's squad is expected to be able to resume training in late June, while the ECB is continuing to work with the 18 first-class counties to "ascertain when a 'back-to- training' protocol can be rolled out" for the domestic game.

Australia batsman Travis Head has backed proposals to stage the entire upcoming Test series against India at the Adelaide Oval.

Last month, the South Australian Cricket Association put forward its venue as a solution to make the four-match rubber between the number one and three Test nations viable during the coronavirus pandemic.

A 138-room hotel at the Adelaide Oval is due to be completed in September and the proposal would see Virat Kohli's team stay and train at the venue for the duration of the series, with interstate travel in Australia still problematic amid lockdown restrictions.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said at the time that the organisation was "not ruling anything out" as it looks to establish a biosecurity plan to host India.

For Australia vice-captain Head, who is also South Australia skipper, there would be an obvious benefit.

"It'd be nice to stay at home for the whole summer," he told reporters.

"Adelaide Oval is such a good ground. It's unique. If it comes down to that, I know that it will definitely be able to cope and withstand back-to-back Test matches.

"We've had instances where there'll be A-League games, rugby league or concerts going on. Houghy (Adelaide groundsman Damian Hough) has been able to prepare a Shield wicket and drop it in the middle of the square, day of the game or two days out of the game.

"And you wouldn't even notice as a player."

The playing surface at Adelaide has drawn widespread praise from players since the adoption of drop-in wickets at the venue, while it also has also hosted four day/night Tests since 2015, with Australia winning on each occasion.

"The bowlers and batters would probably be happy with [a whole series in Adelaide], it's probably been the best cricket wicket the last four or five years," Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood said in April.

"It gives a bit to both batting and bowling, I wouldn't mind it.

"It's not ideal though. We want to get around to all parts of Australia and challenge ourselves on all those different wickets."

India were victorious on their previous trip to Australia in 2018-19, winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1 as the hosts were depleted by the suspension of Steve Smith and David Warner for ball tampering.

Babar Azam has been confirmed as Pakistan's new one-day captain, while Azhar Ali will remain in charge of the Test team.

Batsman Babar is to lead his country in white-ball cricket for the 2020-21 season, the Pakistan Cricket Board confirmed on Wednesday when announcing the new list of central contracts for the upcoming campaign, which begins on July 1.

The 25-year-old averages 54.17 in his 50-over career for Pakistan and sits third in the International Cricket Council’s batsmen rankings, behind India duo Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

He had already replaced Sarfraz Ahmed in charge of the Twenty20 side but will now be skipper in the ODI format too, though it is unclear when Pakistan will next be in action.

A one-day tour to the Netherlands was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning they may not play a 50-over fixture until they take on South Africa in October.

Ali, meanwhile, is to continue in the Test job, with Pakistan scheduled to play a three-match series against England during a tour that also includes a trio of T20 games.

"I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam for getting captaincy extensions," Misbah-ul-Haq, chief selector and head coach, said. "This is absolutely the right decision as they also require certainty and clarity on their future roles.

"I am sure they will now start looking to the future and start planning so that they can build sides that can perform at the expected levels."

Meanwhile, Naseem Shah and Iftikhar Ahmad were the two new additions to receive central contracts – but Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz were all absent from the 18-man list.

Amir and Wahab "remain in contention", however, as Misbah is hopeful the experienced duo can help aid the development of Pakistan's up-and-coming fast bowlers.

Misbah said: "The selectors have made the tough decisions to leave out Amir, Hasan and Wahab but considering Hasan missed most of the season due to an injury and Amir and Wahab decided to focus on white-ball cricket, this was the right move.

"However, Amir and Wahab are senior and experienced bowlers and they remain in contention as we believe they can still contribute to the Pakistan men’s cricket team and also mentor our young battery of fast bowlers."

Adam Zampa still harbours aspirations of pulling on the baggy green for Australia's Test team, a dream he believes would be helped by more spinner-friendly wickets.

Leg-spinner Zampa, who turned 28 in March, has played in 55 one-day internationals and 30 Twenty20s since debuting for his country in 2016.

A first Test cap has so far proved elusive, though, with Nathan Lyon established as the five-day team's premier spinner and home conditions rarely calling for a second spin option.

"I think that's still my ultimate goal, to play red-ball cricket, to play Test cricket for Australia," Zampa told reporters.

"I think you'd be silly if you didn't take your chance as a spinner in Australia at the moment. So that's the ultimate goal.

"I'd love to get some more first-class cricket under my belt first, but I think with the way that I've been improving over the last couple of years, particularly at international level, the last 12 months have been a really good test for me and I've come out the other side pretty well.

"I've still got the goal to play Test cricket for sure."

Zampa's case would be helped if he could impress during Australia's domestic competition, the Sheffield Shield, though his international commitments have limited his involvement in the longer format.

Former Australia international Steve O'Keefe recently said it was "a matter of urgency" that the country produced more pitches conducive to spin if they wanted to win a Test series in India, something they have not done since 2004.

"Personally, I'd love to see that obviously as a spin bowler," he added.

"There's a lot said about bowling on flat wickets but I think Nathan does that really well himself. I think realistically us other spinners are going to be partnering Nathan in the upcoming subcontinent tour.

"I don't really know what it's like to bowl on a spinning wicket in Shield cricket. The closest thing I've ever had to a spinning wicket in Shield cricket is Adelaide Oval when it's green and thatchy. That then limits the amount of overs you bowl as well, so I think there should be an emphasis put on it.

"I think we put a lot of effort into playing the swinging ball in England, we've had the Dukes ball over the last few years in Shield cricket too.

"I think it's really important and I don't know if it has to be every wicket but there has to be some sort of emphasis in bringing spin bowlers in the game."

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will take up to four weeks to make a decision over whether the tour of England will go ahead.

Pakistan are due to start a three-match Test series against England at Lord's on July 30, with three Twenty20 Internationals also on the schedule.

Yet there are doubts over whether the tour will be staged due to the coronavirus crisis, with spectators highly unlikely to be allowed into venues if matches can go ahead.

PCB chiefs and the counterparts at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will hold talks on Friday.

Wasim Khan, the chief executive of the PCB, says there will be no rush to make such a big decision, with Pakistan's trip to the Netherlands already having been postponed.

He told reporters: "Health and safety is paramount for our players and officials and we are not going to compromise on it.

"The situation in England is poor right now, and we will ask them about their plans. We are not making any decisions, but we will assess and decide in the next three to four weeks.

"This isn't an easy situation, and it isn't an easy decision to make, because things are changing every day in England. There are so many things to be considered - flights, hotels and they are talking about bio-security stadiums… so if people ask me, I will tell them to wait and be patient.

"The longer they stay there, the more our players will be exposed. So there is speculation that the tour might be extended, but I can confirm that this is presently not on the table.

"The West Indies tour to England is also uncertain, and we don't know what to expect. So we are looking forward to the May 15 meeting and will see what are the options."

Khan stressed that will not be influenced by whether England are prepared to make a long-awaited return for a tour of Pakistan when they make their decision.

He added: "It's a tough situation for everyone right now, and I don't think it's fair to take advantage of the situation.

"The most important thing for us is to revive the game for all countries. If we don't, we will be facing a lot of problems going forward.

"The next 12 months will be tough for cricket financially. Thankfully, the PCB is fine for the next 12 months but thereafter, in 18 months' time, we will also have problems.

"Hopefully, by then, cricket will resume and I don't think we are going to take our discussion with the ECB [with a tour of Pakistan a big factor], but we will definitely talk about it when we tour them.

"Look, the MCC toured Pakistan, an Australia delegation came as well, so there is no reason why England and Australia shouldn't be here in 2021 and 2022."

England Test captain Joe Root is in support of finding a way to make sure his side can welcome a visit from the West Indies as early as July.

For that to happen, the players would have to go through rigid isolation and testing protocols, as well as austere social distancing measures.

Of course, the proposal will include officials as well as media and the England skipper thinks it can work.

“I’m optimistic about it. It would be a real shame if it doesn’t happen. The public are desperate for some live sport and the guys are missing it,” said Root.
“The players would be sectioned off in one part of the hotel and would be in isolation together. There would be no interaction with the media, the TV crews or even the opposition when off the pitch.

“We would have separate lunchrooms. It would have a different feel to it but it’s probably manageable. Hopefully that is the case.”

According to the proposals, the three Tests would be played at ‘bio-secure’ venues behind closed doors.

Those venues, the proposal points out, are those that have hotels on location, like Manchester, Southampton and Headingly.

Root, while optimistic, is cognizant of the fact that Cricket West Indies (CWI) would have to take the risk.

In response, West Indies Test captain Jason Holder, has said his side would have to be certain of their safety before saying yes to such a proposal.

“This thing has been really, really serious as we all know and has claimed quite a few lives throughout the world and that’s the last thing any of us would really want,” said Holder.

“I think we’ve got to play the safety card first before we can even think about resuming our normal lives.”

In the meantime, CWI Chief Executive, Johnny Grave, has said the England Cricket Board’s proposals were being considered but that first all the moving parts would have to be understood.
England will be desperate to get back the Wisden Trophy they lost to the West Indies last year for the first time in a decade.

Graham Ford feels Graeme Smith's leadership qualities and intelligence make him the "ideal" man to bring success to South Africa.

Former captain Smith, 39, was appointed Cricket South Africa's (CSA) director of cricket on a permanent basis last month having initially filled the role on an interim basis.

He has already brought some familiar faces on board, with former international colleague Mark Boucher named head coach ahead of the home Test series against England and Jacques Kallis, another South Africa great, joining as a batting consultant.

Last November Smith actually withdrew from consideration for the role he later took due to a lack of "confidence" in the CSA hierarchy, though a restructuring changed his feelings, and ex-Proteas head coach Ford believes he will be a success, provided there is no meddling at boardroom level.

"I think that what he's shown as a player and leader over the years shows he's ideal for this job," Ford, now head coach of Ireland, told Stats Perform.

"He's incredibly driven, he wants to achieve, he's proud. He's been criticised maybe a little bit about some of the appointments he's made. But, from what I know of him, he's only making those appointments because he knows those are the guys that will get it done. It's his reputation at stake at the end of the day.

"You've got a high-quality guy, he knows cricket, he's got an amazing presence about him. Wherever he wants to impact on South Africa cricket, whether it be the women's game, the men's game, dressing rooms or whatever, he will be able to have an impact.

"The bloke is a hell of a cricket thinker as well. I've got no doubt they've got the right chap.

"As long as the rest of the support around him – the upward management – give him the freedom to make decisions, they're in a good space."

Ford was in charge of South Africa when Smith made his debut in 2001 as a 21-year-old against Australia, making 68 in his second innings against a vaunted bowling attack that featured Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Brett Lee.

The batsman went on to captain South Africa in 109 Tests, which remains an international cricket record.

"If I think back to his debut, [he was] a very young lad, 21 years of age, and he wasn't actually going to play and then Daryll Cullinan pulled out and Graeme sought as much information from the senior players and players around him as possible," Ford recalled.

"We were playing Australia, the mean machine at the time, and he made 60-odd. He took a lot of abuse and for a young lad like that to handle that situation was absolutely amazing.

"He went from strength to strength, he just got better after that. He showed great qualities early on."

Steve Smith and Virat Kohli are talismanic figures who set the tone for their respective international sides, according to David Warner.

Australia's Smith and India's Kohli are two of the finest batsmen of their generation, occupying first and second spot respectively in the current Test rankings.

The duo are set to meet if India's tour of Australia – scheduled to begin in October – goes ahead, although significant doubt remains as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a threat.

If it should go ahead, Warner expects to see great things from the two leading men, who he says act as figureheads for their sides.

"When it comes to cricket, they both have got the mental strength, the mental capacity to score runs," Warner told Cricbuzz.

"They stabilise, they boost morale – if they score runs, everyone else's morale is up. If they are out cheaply, you almost sense that on the field that everyone is … [down on morale and thinking] now we all have to step up. It's a very bizarre situation.

"They both love spending time in the middle. Virat's passion and drive to score runs is different to what Steve's would be.

"Steve is going out there for a hit in the middle, that's how he sees things. He's hitting them out in the middle, he's having fun, he's enjoying himself, just does not want to get out.

"Virat, obviously, doesn't want to get out, but he knows if he spends a certain amount of time out there, he's going to score plenty of runs at a rapid rate.

"He's going to get on top of you. That allows the guys coming in [to play their own game], especially in the Indian team you've got a lot of players who can be flamboyant as well."

Graeme Smith made an immediate impact as South Africa's director of cricket and his full-time appointment can help the Proteas build for a brighter future, according to Enoch Nkwe.

After initially taking over on an interim basis late last year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed in April the former captain will be remaining in the role for a two-year period.

The 39-year-old - who scored 9,265 Test runs and a further 6,989 in ODI cricket - appointed Mark Boucher as head coach ahead of the home Test series against England, while another ex-international in Jacques Kallis joined as a batting consultant.

Nkwe is part of the staff as an assistant coach and feels Smith has already made a difference in the job, aided by his standing within the game.

"From a cricketing perspective, to have someone of his stature, you can almost see the confidence in general from a cricketing space, especially from the team," he told Stats Perform.

"He is an ex-player and an ex-captain who has a very good cricketing brain.

"It all happened very quickly in a short period of time. He was only initially in the position for three months and there was so much he needed to do. Understanding of systems, then at the same time try and help the Proteas and give as much support as possible to try to win and build the confidence of the public, so he had quite a lot on his plate I must say.

"Looking at the circumstances, I think he's done well. He's well aware of the circumstances and there is still a lot he needs to put in place from a system point of view.

"There's no doubt that will happen in the next couple of months and years, to ensure the foundation is as strong as it's ever been."

South Africa have struggled in all forms of the game, including failing to progress beyond the group stage of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, but Nkwe is confident Smith can help bring some much-needed stability, both on and off the field.

He added: "The fact that now we know we are dealing with someone for the next two years at least, we are able to strategically plan certain things and he will be accountable for that. Also, it will give us confidence in us being able to execute our plans properly.

"There are just so many things around his full-time appointment that, as a team, we know where we are going, what we need to do, and I look forward to not only the next two, but the next three years, because I signed until the 2023 World Cup.

"Even just in our meetings, his energy is felt and he's someone who has always has that presence. That's something that is very, very exciting and something we needed in South African cricket."

Misbah-ul-Haq says the prospect of Pakistan facing England behind closed doors is "not ideal" but believes it could provide a much-needed lift for "depressed" cricket lovers.

Pakistan are due to start a three-match Test series against Joe Root's side at Lord's on July 30, with three Twenty20 matches also on the itinerary

The coronavirus pandemic has left that schedule in doubt, with England's Test series versus West Indies already having been postponed.

Spectators appear unlikely to be allowed in to venues if and when cricket returns and although Misbah would be disappointed to see the tourists play at empty venues, he thinks international action can help to lift the gloom.

The Pakistan head coach and chief selector told Stats Perform: "It's not ideal obviously, you'd love to go there and perform in an atmosphere with spectators - they are the most important part of any sport.

"It's not ideal, but if you look at it another way, people are mostly locked down in their homes and no sport is going on at the moment.

"They have nothing to watch and mostly COVID-19 news everywhere and people are depressed. In that sort of situation, if we can start sports, if we can start cricket, at least fans can watch that cricket on TV sitting at home and they can enjoy it.

"If you look at in that way, I think if we can do that with proper safety barriers and nobody is in danger, I think we can just go ahead and start from somewhere."

Misbah expects Pakistan players to be ready to hit the ground running when they are able to take to the field again.

He said: "I think in this situation, it's more towards individual responsibility as professionals; what we can do, how we are working.

"We are obviously just trying to communicate to the players that whenever we hit the ground again, the basic thing we need would be fitness. Obviously if we are fit enough, if we maintain our fitness levels, we can regain our form or skill quickly.

"If we lose our fitness in these isolation periods then it's going to be tough because once we are back on the job it will be difficult for us to either work on the skill or fitness. it's important for the players to physically and mentally prepare yourself."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.