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CA scrambles to save Shield from COVID crisis

Cricket’s scheduling uncertainty continues, with the Sheffield Shield draw likely to be changed at the last minute.As CA continues to sweat on final Government sign-offs before it can announce its long-awaited international schedule against India, unforeseen circumstances surrounding Victoria’s hard quarantine has forced organisers to go back to the drawing board with the Shield.Watch every…

Cricket’s scheduling uncertainty continues, with the Sheffield Shield draw likely to be changed at the last minute.

As CA continues to sweat on final Government sign-offs before it can announce its long-awaited international schedule against India, unforeseen circumstances surrounding Victoria’s hard quarantine has forced organisers to go back to the drawing board with the Shield.

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The two opening round matches starting on Saturday in Adelaide are unaffected, but Victoria may now only play two matches instead of four in the one-month window, due to fears the strict restrictions placed on the team could leave it underprepared and put young fast bowlers at risk of injury.

The looming alterations have laid bare the challenges ahead for CA this summer with a draw that could continue to be ever changing due to case numbers and border closures.

It’s understood six white-ball matches against India will be played in Queensland at the Gabba and Metricon Stadium between November 27 and December 8, while the BBL may now not start until December 10 – but no dates have been confirmed.

On top of scheduling challenges, Cricket Australia is at war with Channel 7 and must next week decide how it will respond to a push from the broadcaster to have the value of the TV rights independently assessed at a tribunal. The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration has confirmed to both parties it would begin the process to appoint an expert.

Due to Melbourne’s COVID-19 predicament, Victorian players are locked down in Adelaide with far less freedom than any other Shield team. Vic players only allowed to train in groups of four for the entirety of their two weeks, otherwise spent entirely isolated in their hotel rooms.

Cricket Australia is determined to make the playing field as even as possible in the COVID-19 affected environment and, while nothing is finalised, sources say there could be significant changes coming with the schedule that would look to ease Victoria’s physical load and alleviate the mental demands of players trapped in a bubble.

In the four rounds so-far released, Victoria was originally scheduled to play back-to-back matches against NSW on October 17 and then again on October 22, before playing Tasmania October 30 and Queensland November 8.

Now it’s looking like it won’t play NSW at all and may only play two matches – leaving extra games to make up from February when the second half of the draw will start.

NSW is not currently scheduled to play its first match until October 19 but is already in Adelaide, jumping quickly in case borders to South Australia were shut on the back of new community cases in NSW.

The Blues are unsure who they will play, when their first match will be and how many games they will get in the window.

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There were concerns that, under the original draw, some of Victoria’s players would only get a couple of days back at home with their families in Melbourne before then having to go into another hard lockdown to quarantine for the start of the BBL.

If they only play two matches in the coming window, that strain can be eased.

Cramming four matches in with limited rest time in between and reduced capacity to train was also going to be a huge ask on a young bowling attack – without James Pattinson (IPL) and Chris Tremain (now at NSW).

The Vics will only exit quarantine the day before their first game against NSW.

“There are general concerns around the Victorian situation. There’s changes happening all the time with the messages we are getting around exemptions and what they can do,” CA high performance boss Drew Ginn said.

“The main thing is we keep the players safe and the community safe. As long as we are following the guidelines, the tolerance, with the pandemic, we have to acknowledge it won’t be perfect.”

AUSTRALIA’S ANSWER TO BEN STOKES HITS BACK OVER HYPE

By Ben Horne

It seems the only person who isn’t putting pressure on emerging Australian all-rounder Cameron Green, is the man himself.

The next big thing in Australian cricket has listened to the hype that he’s a once-in-a-generation star in the making, and has politely distanced himself from it all.

Green is firmly in the sights of Test selectors due to his tantalising, and importantly, proven ability to score big hundreds with the bat and take wickets at over 140km/h with the ball.

It’s a rare package that England has in freakish matchwinner Ben Stokes and has the potential to catapult Australia’s current Test team into the realms of greatness.

Sir Donald Bradman might have been irreplaceable, but Keith Miller – Australia’s greatest ever all-rounder – was not far behind him, and the country has never seen anything quite like him in the 70 years since.

Even class all-rounders like Shane Watson who have followed have been marked by extremely high standards, and are often injured due to the taxing role they play, and this is the high-pressure environment Green is coming into.

But according to the unassuming 21-year-old, the excitement is far too premature and for that reason he doesn’t feel affected.

“Yeah, I’ve been OK. I think in my mind it’s been pretty unrealistic about myself,” Green told News Corp.

“So I think that’s how I’ve kind of dealt with it. That if I don’t really believe the hype, than it can’t affect me.

“I think it’s been a little bit over the top. I’ve only had one really good season with the bat and to be fair that was probably just half the season. I haven’t been reliable with my back (and haven’t bowled as much).

“In my head, it’s been a little bit unrealistic (the plaudits), but obviously it’s a goal for the future.”

The great Keith Miller averaged 37 with the bat for Australia, and with the ball was in Dennis Lillee territory, taking a wicket for every 23 runs conceded.

From 15 first-class games for WA, Green – who has looked to Australian destroyer Stokes for inspiration – averages 43 with the bat and a startling 21 with the ball.

For that reason, big fans, Australian coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine have refused to rule out a shock debut for Green this summer – with Langer’s mantra, ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough.’

Green won’t bowl for WA in Saturday’s Sheffield Shield opener in Adelaide as he recovers from a rib injury which has followed his recovery from back stress fractures last summer – but he is bowling in the nets and hopes to be sending down his rapid deliveries at some stage in the opening four rounds in October.

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The talented prodigy who has everyone from Paine to Greg Chappell in awe of his talents, wouldn’t say no to a Test debut against India this summer if it came, but deep down the West Australian feels he might need another season of Sheffield Shield bowling under his belt before he’s ready.

“Obviously you would never turn down playing for Australia, but yeah, I think in my mind I would like to get (my bowling) ready first before I put my body up to a five-day game for example,” said Green.

“At the moment I’m obviously not looking too far ahead. I’m just looking to get my body right, but at the same time you’d never turn down an opportunity like that.

“If there’s ever opportunity for a new guy coming into the team at the moment, it doesn’t really look like you’re going to get thrown in the deep end. You probably bat five or six behind three world class batsmen (Warner, Smith, Labuschagne) and same with the bowling, you’re not going to get chucked the new ball or even first-change.

“It definitely helps that you’ve got absolute class with the bat and ball so if there’s ever an opportunity for a new person going into the Test team, you’re going to be pretty well looked after.”

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.