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January, 2019

Laxman implores India to focus on overseas improvement

Very strong at home, India’s problems while travelling have been well documented with the team losing 13 of their last 17 test matches on foreign soil.

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The last time India toured Australia they were blanked 4-0 and with another four-test series starting on the bouncy tracks Down Under next month, Laxman felt India should reassess their preparations.

“In an ideal world, before we travel to Australia or South Africa, we would spend weeks together in camps, honing techniques against the bouncing ball or working out the lengths that are optimal to bowl on surfaces with pace and bounce,” Laxman said while delivering the annual Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Kolkata on Wednesday.

“But we do not live in an ideal world, with tours packed into the calendar. Today, we need to substitute extensive preparation with smart preparation.”

Laxman, who retired in 2012, said while India should not give up the home advantage of playing on spin-friendly tracks, they should identify centres across the country where they can try and replicate foreign conditions.

“India has been the number one test team in the past, a position we held for nearly three years,” Laxman, who was a batting mainstay in India’s middle order, said.

“As we seek to return to the top of the test rankings, it therefore becomes non-negotiable that we improve our performances away from home.”

Laxman also lauded the International Cricket Council’s efforts to identify and sanction bowlers with suspect actions but called on the governing body to do more for the survival of test cricket.

A big fan of Twenty20 cricket, Laxman wants both formats to co-exist and said drawing spectators to tests was the “biggest challenge” for administrators.

“The survival of the longer version of the game is critical for the future of cricket,” the 40-year-old added.

“Day-night test cricket is being suggested, and while we are not sure whether it can meet technical requirements, it might draw newer audiences for its sheer novelty value.

“So maybe day-night cricket is worth a shot, no doubt, especially when the shot doesn’t compromise the inherent core fabric of the longer version.”

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)

Smith out, Watson back for first ODI vs. South Africa

Smith was named man-of-the-series when Australia swept Pakistan 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates, but will be grounded until at least Sunday’s second match at the WACA.

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Watson, fit for an ODI for the first time since he faced England in Adelaide in January, will bat at number three, captain Michael Clarke told reporters in Perth on Thursday.

Watson missed out on Australia’s one-day tournament in Zimbabwe with South Africa after hurting his foot when he stepped on a ball at training and then missed the UAE tour against Pakistan after straining a calf.

“I think it’s great that Watto’s back on the field, first and foremost,” Clarke said. “I’ve said for a very long time that if he’s batting and bowling, he’s in any team.

“If he can stay fit and healthy I think that can help us a lot in all three formats of the game.

“He’s a senior member of the team so his leadership and experience is really important.”

Seamer Josh Hazlewood returns for his first ODI in over a year, joining Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Coulter-Nile in a three-pronged pace attack. No specialist spinner has been picked for the WACA’s fast and bouncy wicket.

Matthew Wade will replace injured wicketkeeper Brad Haddin as Australia battle South Africa for a chance to dislodge India at the top of the world rankings.

Selectors have chosen a squad for only the first two matches of the series, suggesting they remain some way off deciding on a final 15 for the World Cup starting in February on home soil and in New Zealand.

Clarke, who is not a member of the selectors panel, said he hoped they would pick the final squad before Australia’s triangular tournament with England and India starting Jan. 11 to allow time for the team to gel before the World Cup.

Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood, Steven Smith (12th man)

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Weakened Spain distracted by commitment debate

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas was the latest to pull out on Tuesday, joining Chelsea team mate Diego Costa on the sidelines, and the fact that Fabregas played the whole of Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win at Liverpool and Costa 90 minutes prompted suggestions club had taken priority over country.

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Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, like former team mate Fabregas a proud Catalan, has also been accused of lacking commitment to Spain, although he has vehemently insisted otherwise.

Centre back Sergio Ramos, a squad heavyweight who has made 122 appearances for La Roja, was grilled about the situation on Spanish radio on Wednesday and said he would like to see players show the same devotion to Spain as to their clubs.

“It can create doubts,” Ramos told Radio Marca ahead of the match in Huelva.

“Not only in the squad but among the fans as well debates can start about issues like this,” the Real Madrid defender added.

“I would not have allowed it because I would have come out and spoken to clear up the issue a bit so that it didn’t gain in significance and so that people understood the problem.”

Even with a number of key performers missing, Spain should have far too much quality for the Belarussians, who have a solitary point from their three Group C matches and are joint bottom with Luxembourg.

Spain, rebuilding after their failed title defence at the World Cup in Brazil, slipped to a surprise reverse to Slovakia last month that cost them top spot in the group and are second on six points with Ukraine.

Macedonia have three points in fourth place.

After a poor start to qualifying, Belarus are unlikely to secure a spot at the tournament in France in two years’ time but midfielder Anton Putilo is refusing to throw in the towel.

“They are former world champions and current European champions,” Putilo said on UEFA南宁桑拿会所,.

“It is an away match. It is obviously a tough one but you just cannot take the field thinking about defeat,” he added.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

RFU probes homophobic abuse of ref

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Thursday announced an investigation into reports referee Nigel Owens was subjected to homophobic abuse by supporters during England’s game with New Zealand last weekend.

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The Welsh official, who is openly gay, is reported to have been targeted by fans during England’s 24-21 loss to the All Blacks at Twickenham.

“We take any allegations of any abuse very seriously and are investigating this matter,” said an RFU spokesperson.

“The RFU condemns all forms of discrimination and aims to ensure that all people, irrespective of their age, gender, ability, race, religion, ethnic origin, creed, colour, nationality, social status or sexual orientation, have a genuine and equal opportunity to enjoy rugby union in whatever form, on or off the pitch, at all levels and in all roles.”

The matter first came to light when a spectator wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian in which he accused a group of male fans of “hurling … nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse” at Owens.

Owens, who is one of the sport’s most high-profile referees, has called for supporters to be issued with stadium bans if allegations of homophobic abuse are proven.

“If someone has gone to the trouble to send a letter to the paper and say that this was disgusting and the behaviour was totally out of order, then I would think what they shouted was pretty bad and if that is the case then these people should be banned from the game,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“They need to be told that some behaviour is not acceptable, that crossing the line of what is humour and banter is a fine line, but if you cross it then you have to put up with the consequences.”

US-China deal like Direct Action: Hockey

Treasurer Joe Hockey has rejected suggestions Australia is out of step with the world’s superpowers on climate change by labelling the historic US-China deal as a “Direct Action plan”.

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In a surprise announcement, the US says it will cut emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2025, while China has set a goal for its emissions to peak in 2030.

Labor and the Greens say the historic deal exposes the paucity of the government’s plan to reach a reduction target of five per cent by 2020.

When asked how Australia was not out of step with China and the US when the Abbott government had abolished the Climate Change Commission, scrapped having a science minister, and shifted to Direct Action, Mr Hockey replied: “Well, because the United States and, in fact, China both have Direct Action plans.”

“I might’ve missed it … but I don’t recall either the President of China or the President of the United States saying they were going to introduce a carbon tax,” he told the ABC.

He said Australia was focusing on renewable energies and new technologies.

“That’s a very similar path to what China and the United States are doing,” he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says while the US-China deal on greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, it shouldn’t necessarily put climate change on the G20 agenda.

Climate change was “hardly mentioned” at APEC in Beijing and there were other forums for discussing the issue, he said.

“This is a major economic conference. It is the world’s premier economic conference,” he said in Nawpyidaw, referring to the weekend’s G20 summit in Brisbane.

“I certainly expect the focus will be on economic reform, economic growth, how do we drive growth and jobs.”

The government says it will consider the US-China agreement when settling on a post-2020 target before the UN climate change summit in Paris next year.

Labor wants an emissions trading scheme in place by then, arguing the government has no interest in tackling climate change.

“They have got egg on their face because the rest of the world is dealing with an issue that Tony Abbott doesn’t want to talk about,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

The Climate Institute says the government would need to aim for a 30 per cent cut by 2025 to match the US.

The Greens want zero per cent emissions by 2050.

Leading businessman Tony Shepherd, while lauding the US-China agreement as a move in the right direction, cautioned against accepting it as fact.

“Let’s be a little bit realistic. It’s still go to get through a hostile US Congress,” he told ABC radio.

Pakistan to appeal for Amir but not for Butt, Asif

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said the board wile file an appeal with the ICC within a week for the 22-year-old Amir.

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“Our legal department is preparing the documents to file in Amir’s case but at present we have no plans to do the same for Salman Butt or Asif,” Khan told reporters in Lahore on Thursday.

Former captain Butt, Asif and Amir were all banned for spot-fixing during the Pakistan team’s tour of England in 2010. The spot-fixing took place during the fourth test at Lord’s.

The trio, who also served jail sentences in the United Kingdom, have been given minimum five year bans by the anti-corruption tribunal of the ICC but while the ban for Butt and Amir ends in August, the former also has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

“Amir’s case is different from those of Butt and Asif. These two have still not really accepted their guilt. We want them to do more first to convince us they are repentant,” Khan said.

“First they convince us they want to reform themselves and then we will decide when to approach the ICC.”

He said Amir had co-operated with the PCB and ICC in reforming himself. Khan, however, ruled out an immediate return for Amir to competitive cricket.

“It is a process under the new anti-corruption code and it will take time. Only the ACSU can give relaxation to a banned player,” he said.

Under the revised code, a banned player can apply to ICC’s ACSU to allow him to resume playing domestic cricket before the end of his ban.

Former Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria is also serving a life ban for spot-fixing since 2012.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Take reins on climate at G20: Labor

The Abbott government is being urged not to squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take the lead on climate change at the G20 leaders summit.

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Federal Labor is pressuring the government to put global warming on the agenda for the weekend gathering in Brisbane, claiming it could be the turning point on climate change action.

“The Brisbane G20 could become famous for the fusing of the economic, environmental and security imperatives for climate action,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the Sydney Institute on Thursday.

So far, the Australian G20 presidency has resisted making climate change a top agenda item, but concedes it will likely be discussed after this week’s historic carbon emissions reduction deal between the US and China.

Just days before world leaders congregate in Brisbane the two major polluters announced an ambitious agreement to slash their greenhouse gas output by 2030.

Mr Shorten said the tide was turning and the world would not wait for Australia to play catch-up.

While Australia maintains a commitment to reducing its overall emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, it’s yet to determine further measures beyond this deadline.

The coalition government has scrapped the previous Labor government’s carbon tax and its negotiating – so far unsuccessfully – with the opposition on its renewable energy target.

Mr Shorten warned Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “doubling down on denial” on real action on climate change would affect Australia’s competitiveness.

“Sooner rather than later, Australia’s refusal to act on climate change will affect our trade negotiations,” he said.

Future trade deals – and possibly the long-awaited China-Australia free trade agreement – could involve a built-in carbon price of sorts, he warned.

Mr Shorten is expected to meet Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday in Canberra.

The Chinese leader will address federal parliament and is expected to announce the long-awaited trade deal with Mr Abbott.

Terrorism is the worst crime we face: AFP

Police have defended a proposal to give them easier access to unprecedented powers by claiming terrorism is greater than any other crime.

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Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan wants streamlined access to control orders, he told a parliamentary committee reviewing the foreign fighters Bill on Thursday.

Control orders, which must be issued by a court, impose obligations and restrictions on a person to protect the public from terrorism.

The order may include a curfew, wearing an electronic monitoring tag, restrictions on communications, regular reporting to police, and a range of other measures.

But they’re controversial.

They have only been sought and issued twice since their introduction in 2005 – to Jack Thomas and David Hicks.

The UK abolished its control order regime in 2011.

The AFP wants to streamline the process of applying through the attorney-general to save time and paperwork.

When asked by the committee why the AFP needed control orders instead of arresting and prosecuting terrorist suspects, Mr Gaughan replied there was a legal hole when it came to the admissibility of foreign collected evidence.

“In a perfect world, I agree, we would be arresting people,” he said.

“If we don’t have sufficient evidence for beyond reasonable doubt to get a prosecution, this provides us another alternative.”

When asked by Senator Penny Wong why that wasn’t an argument for lowering the threshold for a range of other crimes, Mr Gaughan replied: “Because I think the impact of terrorism on the Australian community is distinctively greater than any other crime we face.”

The reply startled a number of the federal politicians present, with deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek asking Mr Gaughan to repeat himself.

“The impact on the Australian community of a terrorist attack, in my view, will have a greater impact than any other crime.

“In relation to public confidence, morale and how people respond.”

Deputy Chair Anthony Byrne then put the following to Mr Gaughan: “Be truthful. Just say what (this request) is instead of this piecemeal rubbish.

“You’ve got an emergency situation … you’ve got an agency that’s struggling to cope … you’ve got control orders that in the past haven’t been used, so what you’re doing is you’re desperately trying to find a legal mechanism that you can use to disrupt or prevent terrorism?

“Correct,” Mr Gaughan replied.

Spain’s Koke undaunted by challenge of succeeding Xavi

As the holders prepare for Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus in Huelva, Koke said he was focusing on working hard, “being himself” and helping Spain secure their place at the tournament in France in two years’ time.

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“No pressure at all,” Koke told a news conference when asked about being Xavi’s successor. “I want to continue going forward and growing with the national team,” he added.

“All of us who are here have to take a step forward, the youngsters and the veterans. An era was defined and we have to keep working and get to the European championship.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is looking to rebuild after their failed title defence at the World Cup in Brazil earlier this year and players like Koke are vital to his plans.

He has similar passing ability to Xavi, who made 133 appearances for La Roja winning every major trophy, but has perhaps yet to fully develop his illustrious predecessor’s calm on the ball and ability to control the flow of play.

Koke is probably the more tenacious ball winner, however, and is just as adept at delivering telling corners and free kicks into the danger areas.

His performances for Atletico Madrid helped them win their first La Liga title in 18 years last season and reach the final of the Champions League.

“They are different styles,” Koke said, comparing the way Spain and Atletico play.

“In the national team we have more possession and I feel more comfortable.”

Spain slipped to a surprise defeat in Slovakia last month that cost them top spot in Group C and are second on six points, as many as third-placed Ukraine.

Slovakia lead on nine, Macedonia have three points in fourth and Belarus and Luxembourg have a point each in fifth and sixth.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Karolos Grohmann)

Watson the latest wing option for England

Watson edged Marland Yarde in the fight to replace the injured Semesa Rokoduguni in the only change from the team beaten by New Zealand last week.

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Watson, 20, won his first cap as a second-half replacement for Bath team mate Rokoduguni in the 24-21 defeat last Saturday and starts on the right wing.

Yarde is on the bench while Jonny May, who scored a scintillating solo try after four minutes against the All Blacks, starts on the left.

England have struggled for consistency in their wide positions and now former regular Chris Ashton and prolific Premiership scorer David Strettle seem out of favour, the positions remain up for grabs going into next year’s World Cup.

“Anthony has been pushing hard for a while and has been in impressive form for Bath and in training with us,” Lancaster said of Watson, who toured New Zealand with England this year but did not make the test team.

“It was great that he got on against New Zealand (last week) and we feel he is ready to start. Equally, it’s good to have Marland back in the 23.”

Rokoduguni suffered a thigh injury after making his debut last week, when he defended strongly but had few opportunities to impress with ball in hand.

May, often criticised for his lateral running, showed what pace he has in a straight line with his brilliant try, his first in internationals, and has a great opportunity to secure his position.

Christian Wade, who last year seemed poised to challenge strongly, is feeling his way back to form after missing nine months with various injuries, as is Jack Nowell, a regular in last season’s Six Nations but who missed the New Zealand tour due to injury.

Such is England’s injury list, and so high the turnover of players in recent years, that only four of their starting team on Saturday – back-rowers Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood, and backs Brad Barritt and Mike Brown – started in the last meeting with South Africa in November 2012.

The Springboks won that one 16-15, one of their 10 victories in the last 11 meetings. The teams drew 14-14 in Port Elizabeth in 2012 but South Africa, beaten by Ireland last week, remain the only major nation England have yet to beat under Lancaster.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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