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Tanveer Sangha, the 19-year-old legspinner, has been rewarded for a prolific first season in the BBL with a place in the Australia squad for the T20I series in New Zealand next month.

Sangha, part of the Sydney Thunder attack, has 21 wickets at the end of the group stage and will join the established spin pair of Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar in the squad.

With a number of players who would have been part of the T20I squad in normal circumstances set to be in South Africa for the Test series there is a fresh look to the group heading across the Tasman.

"It's been the last couple of years that we've started to hear about Tanveer and now seeing him perform in the Big Bash and performing very well at a young age is very exciting," national selector Trevor Hohns said. "We have high hopes for him going forward, however we don't want to put too much pressure on a young player, especially a legspinner, because as we know it's hard for young players.

"If he gets the opportunity in New Zealand we have to make sure we look after him because experienced players at international level will target a new guy. It's a great opportunity for him and exposure for him to find out what the standard is like."

Josh Philippe's second impressive season in a row for Sydney Sixers has pushed him further towards a maiden cap while Hobart Hurricanes quick Riley Meredith could also make his debut during the five matches.

Hohns suggested that Matthew Wade, who was dropped from the Test squad, could be the favourite to start as wicketkeeper although Philippe will push him close and both could play as specialist batsmen.

Ben McDermott, Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff have been recalled on the strength of their BBL seasons while Ashton Turner has another chance at a middle-order role. Mitchell Marsh, who has had an injury-hit tournament for the Perth Scorchers, is also among the collection of allrounders.

With Richardson, who is the leading wicket-taker in the BBL with 27, it was decided that the T20 tour represented a better route back to international cricket which he has not played since dislocating his shoulder against Pakistan in the UAE in early 2019.

"Jhye was discussed at length regarding inclusion for the South Africa tour," Hohns said. "However, we took advice from the medical people and in the end it was decided his comeback to international cricket should be gradual and that coming back in a T20 tour would be ideal."

T20I squad Aaron Finch (capt), Matthew Wade (vc), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa

Cricket Australia has confirmed India's players were subjected to racial abuse during the third test at the SCG but cleared the six spectators who were taken from their seats and questioned by police at the ground.

CA launched an investigation with New South Wales Police after India fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj complained of hearing racist slurs while fielding near the boundary rope.

Problems first emerged at the close of the play on the third day when a group of senior India players were seen in conversation with the umpires as they left the field.

On the fourth day, play was held up for about 10 minutes after Siraj approached an umpire to voice his concerns before police stepped in to take six male fans from their seats.

"CA confirms that members of the Indian cricket team were subjected to racial abuse," CA head of security and integrity Sean Carroll said in a statement.

"CA's own investigation into the matter remains open, with CCTV footage, ticketing data and interviews with spectators still being analysed in an attempt to locate those responsible.

"CA's investigation concluded that the spectators filmed and/or photographed by media in the Brewongle Stand concourse at the conclusion of the 86th over on day four of the test did not engage in racist behaviour."

CA said it had submitted its report on the investigation to the ICC. The board added that it was awaiting confirmation from police that they had completed their own investigation.

Speaking shortly after the incidents at the SCG, R Ashwin said abuse from the crowds had been a regular feature of his visits to Sydney.

"This is my fourth tour to Australia and in Sydney, especially, we have had a few experiences even in the past," he said. "I think one or two times even the players have reacted and got into trouble in the past, and that's not because of the player, it is actually because of the way the crowd has been speaking, especially the people close to the boundary edge."

"They have been quite nasty, they have been hurling abuses as well, but this is the time they have gone one step ahead and used racial abuse."

Source: Seahawks plan to hire Waldron as OC

Published in Breaking News
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 22:00

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks are planning to hire Los Angeles Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron as their new offensive coordinator, a source tells ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The 41-year-old Waldron has not called plays in any of his seven seasons as an NFL assistant. He spent the past four seasons with the Rams and was their passing game coordinator for the past three seasons.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cast a wide net and took his time in his search for a new offensive coordinator to replace Brian Schottenheimer. Carroll interviewed candidates both with and without quarterback backgrounds, with former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and Las Vegas Raiders running backs coach Kirby Wilson among those in the latter category. The Seahawks requested an interview with Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey.

In the end, Carroll plucked from the Sean McVay tree for his fourth offensive coordinator since he was hired by Seattle in 2010. Waldron followed McVay to Los Angeles from the Washington Football Team, where he was an offensive quality control coach in 2016. Waldron held an additional title of quarterbacks coach in 2019.

The Seahawks set a franchise record for points in 2020, Schottenheimer's third season as their coordinator, but most of that success came early in the season before Seattle's offense hit a wall midyear. Their struggles continued in their 30-20 wild-card loss to the Rams.

The Seahawks announced their split with Schottenheimer on Jan. 12, citing philosophical differences.

Quarterback Russell Wilson made it clear both to the team and to reporters that he wanted his voice heard in the search for Schottenheimer's replacement. Wilson's personal quarterback coach, Jake Heaps, tweeted his excitement over Schefter's report that Waldron was the pick.

Waldron's departure marks more turnover for McVay's staff. Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley was hired as the Los Angeles Chargers head coach, and assistants Ray Agnew, Joe Barry and Aubrey Pleasant have taken coaching jobs elsewhere. The Rams' front office lost Brad Holmes, who was hired by the Detroit Lions as their general manager.

NBA analyst Sekou Smith dies due to COVID-19

Published in Breaking News
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 22:00

Sekou Smith, a longtime NBA reporter and television analyst, died Tuesday after a battle with COVID-19. He was 48.

A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Smith went to college at Jackson State in Mississippi before starting his career at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. He then went on to become a fixture in the NBA universe -- first as a beat writer covering the Indiana Pacers for the Indianapolis Star and the Atlanta Hawks for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before joining Turner Sports in 2009.

For more than a decade, Smith starred across all platforms for Turner, serving as an analyst for NBA TV, a writer for and a host of the Hang Time Podcast.

Smith is survived by his wife, Heather, and their three children: Gabriel, Rielly and Cameron.

"We are all heartbroken over Sekou's tragic passing. His commitment to journalism and the basketball community was immense and we will miss his warm, engaging personality," Turner Sports said in a statement. "He was beloved by his Turner Sports and NBA friends and colleagues. Our deepest condolences are with his family and loved ones."

Smith was universally beloved within the basketball world, both for the work he produced in his nearly two decades covering the sport and, more importantly, for being a kind and decent person, one with an ever-present smile and a wonderful laugh. Those virtues, and many others, were reinforced in the outpouring of messages on social media in the wake of the news of his death.

In addition to his colleagues across the journalism industry, the tributes came from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as well as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy.

"The NBA mourns the passing of Sekou Smith, a beloved member of the NBA family," Silver said in a statement. "Sekou was one of the most affable and dedicated reporters in the NBA and a terrific friend to so many across the league. He covered the game for more than two decades, including the past 11 years with Turner Sports, where he showed his full range of skills as an engaging television analyst, podcast host and writer. Sekou's love of basketball was clear to everyone who knew him and it always shined through in his work. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Heather, and their children, Gabriel, Rielly and Cameron."

Both Kerr and Van Gundy spent time working with Smith at Turner Sports, and took time to recognize his death after their respective teams practiced Tuesday.

"I just heard the news about Sekou Smith, and I am just devastated," Kerr said. "I know I speak for our entire organization, just crushing news today. Sekou has been a part of the NBA family for a long time.

"I just want to express our organization's condolences to Sekou's family."

"It just hit hard," said Van Gundy, who worked with Smith at Turner Sports before taking the Pelicans job prior to this season. Van Gundy said he learned the news shortly before practice began.

"I think for all of us, this COVID thing has been painful, to say the least. But when you lose somebody that you know, and that you admire and respect and who is young. I mean, he might not be young by some of your guys' standards, but young by my standards -- it's just really, really hard.

"This thing is so scary and has brought so much grief to so many people. ... Today is one those days. There's a lot of people in Atlanta today grieving a great man in Sekou."

NBA players past and present also offered their condolences on his death, including Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.

Smith, a passionate fan of the Michigan Wolverines, mentored countless colleagues in the business as a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He also was one of a handful of journalists who spent time inside the NBA's bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, to cover last season's playoffs, including the NBA Finals.

Both the NABJ and the Pro Basketball Writers Association issued statements honoring his life and legacy, as did the Pacers and Hawks, the two teams he covered as a beat writer.

"The passing of Sekou Smith due to COVID-19 complications hits so many members of the NABJ Sports family extremely hard," the NABJ said in a statement. "He was more than a colleague; he was a friend and brother to us, and so many others.

"Our deepest prayers go out to his wife, Heather, and their children."

"Our members are devastated by the passing of our beloved friend and trusted colleague Sekou Smith," the Pro Basketball Writers Association said in a statement. "He was a kind, caring person and a tremendous journalist. We love you, Sekou. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his co-workers at Turner Sports."

Longtime Hawks PR man Arthur Triche, who worked with the team when Smith was covering it, told ESPN, "He was my friend before he took the job here, and he became my best friend.

"He was my sidekick on the road, and people probably thought I was giving him company secrets, but that couldn't be further from the truth. He was always telling me what was going on."

No one, however, summed up Smith better, and more succinctly, than Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce after his team beat the LA Clippers in Smith's adopted hometown of Atlanta on Tuesday night.

"As genuine of a person as there is in the industry," Pierce said.

Wall, Russ resume trash talk, sparking double T's

Published in Basketball
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 22:02

John Wall and Russell Westbrook, the pair of point guards with maximum salaries swapped for each other just before training camps opened, stood near the free throw line midway through the fourth quarter and barked at each other Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.

Wall, who readily acknowledged that his adrenaline was pumping hard in his first game against the Washington Wizards after spending the previous decade with the franchise, had the upper hand and apparently wanted to make sure Westbrook heard about it.

Wall had just accounted for all of the Rockets' points during a critical 9-2 run -- getting two buckets, sinking two free throws and dishing for a 3 in the key spurt, giving Houston a double-digit lead in what turned into a 107-88 win. The heated exchange of words that prompted double technical fouls to be called -- "just basic basketball trash talk," Wall said -- happened after Wall stumbled on a Westbrook drive that resulted in a foul with 5:16 remaining.

"That's what two competitive guys do," said Wall, who had nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter of the Rockets' third consecutive victory. "Russ been kicking my ass for years. This is only my third win against Russ, I think, since I've been in the league. So that means that he's a hell of a talent.

"I know he's going through injuries, same as I was, and we're just trying to keep getting better, trying to lead our teams. But (it was) just two competitive guys trash-talking. This ain't the first time we trash-talked before, and we know how good that he can be."

Westbrook, whose career record in meetings with Wall dropped to 11-3 with the loss, didn't take such a diplomatic approach when asked about the on-court discussion.

"Now listen, I don't start talking s---," Westbrook said. "I defend myself because I don't just allow people to say just anything, especially when I know the facts as it pertains to anybody on the court playing against (me). So, I think (Wall and DeMarcus Cousins) just started talking s--- because they just started to win, started winning at that time. So, you know, it's cool, though. We play them again."

Westbrook downplayed the meaning of his return to Houston, which had only one player in the starting lineup that was his teammate last season. He spent only one season with the Rockets before requesting a trade.

"I don't like losing to anybody," said Westbrook, who had 19 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 turnovers in the loss, his second game back after recovering from a quadriceps strain.

The Wizards, however, have lost a lot this season. Washington, which is still missing several players after several games were postponed due to COVID-19 cases, is 3-10 overall and 1-8 in games Westbrook has played.

On the other hand, this was a game Wall was looking forward to since the Wizards traded him, along with a protected future first-round pick, to the Rockets for Westbrook. Wall has admitted several times that he felt slighted that the Wizards didn't give him a chance to continue his career in Washington after coming back from heel and Achilles tendon injuries that sidelined him for two years.

"I just feel like the organization thought I was done, no matter how much hard work I put in over the summer," Wall said during a postgame interview on the Rockets' television broadcast. "They came and watched me. I thought they thought I was done. That's why I came out here and did what I did."

Wall had 15 points and four assists in the first half, highlighted by him going coast-to-coast before going behind his back in the lane and finishing with his left hand in traffic. Wall, who was on a minutes restriction in his second game back after a five-game absence due to a sore knee, struggled in the third quarter, missing all four of his shots from the floor and committing two turnovers. But he closed out the Wizards in the fourth, when Wall combined with Victor Oladipo to score 19 of Houston's 32 points in the new backcourt partners' first game together.

"I've known this guy (Wall) for a long time," said Cousins, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. "I've seen his approach to big games and games that have some type of importance to him. I've seen him perform every time at a high level, so I didn't expect anything less."

Australia's T20 captain Aaron Finch believes players will need to be rested from tours moving forward as he thinks months on end in Covid-19 bubbles are unsustainable following a nightmare BBL season.

Finch will lead Australia's T20 tour of New Zealand which departs Australia on February 7, one day after the BBL final.

The 18-man squad was announced on Wednesday, just a day after the final round of BBL season where his Melbourne Renegades claimed a morale-boosting consolation win over Hobart Hurricanes despite finishing last on the table for the second-straight year.

Finch scored just 179 runs at 13.76 from 13 innings and although he took full responsibility for his own form, he did concede the endless cycle of Covid hubs for touring Australian players had taken its toll on him.

"I had an absolute shocker with the bat," Finch said. "The harder I trained the worse I got, which is the opposite to what everyone tells you to do.

"My wife worked it out the other day that I've had 20 or 21 days since April that I haven't been in lockdown or in a bubble. I'm going down to the beach for a few days to relax. My kit bag won't be coming out of my car, I can tell you. It will be locked away.

"We've got 14-days of quarantine and training once we get to New Zealand. That plenty of time. For me personally, it will be maybe four or five hits once I'm there and that should be good enough. I know what I need to do to get ready. Just a clear mind. That's the most important thing."

Australia will send two separate squads overseas to New Zealand and South Africa at the same time. The selectors have picked a first-choice Test squad for the tour of South Africa while Finch has a T20I squad without the experience of David Warner, Steven Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood among others, but featuring some exciting prospects who had starred in the BBL.

But in the new post-Covid world where biosecure hubs are the new norm, Finch conceded that Cricket Australia may need to adopt England's model of forcing multi-format players to rest from certain sections of certain tours, as England have done with the upcoming tour of India, in order to keep players fresh and at their best to avoid the type of form slump Finch has experienced.

"I think if you're playing a few formats of the game, there's going to need to be a chop-out from selectors and from Cricket Australia," Finch said. "You notice what England is doing with their squads at the moment, there are guys that aren't travelling for the first two Tests [against India], and then coming in.

"If the Covid bubble and hubs continue for a long time, that will be something that would be looked into, no doubt. The welfare of players is paramount and being locked up for months is pretty unsustainable I think, when you're away from your families and your families can't travel.

"That will be individual as well. Some guys who are married with kids will find it tougher than a young single guy, for example. I think you just have to monitor everything in that regard."

Australia allrounder and Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques, who was selected in the Test squad to tour South Africa has endured an unusual summer by comparison to Finch. He has been in hubs since October but has hardly played while being a squad member for the entirety of Australia's four-Test series against India.

"To be honest, I don't feel like I haven't played much," Henriques said. "When you're away in that set up, when you're away with the Australian team there's a lot of external noise that you take in mentally. You're constantly preparing to play each day and then you train. You don't really have too many days off.

"I think a couple of days off here and there always helps the mind and the body. The other thing you've got to remember as well is for the last 10 years I've almost played cricket for 11 months of the year anyway. I think it's almost a matter of a mindset personally. If I can reframe how I see things and how I want to look at things, it really determines whether or not I feel fresh or not."

But Henriques was keen to stress that the players were well looked after in the various hubs and they did have the chance to opt-out at any stage.

"They're all decisions that at the end of the day are mine," he said. "If I am feeling fatigued or tired or whatever I don't have to go on those tours if I really don't want to. We're not forced to go anywhere. It's always the player's decision. If I'm feeling exactly how I'm feeling now I'll be welcoming any opportunity that comes my way."

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne

West Indies batsman Shai Hope, and his brother Kyle Hope, have withdrawn from the Barbados squad ahead of the the Regional Super50 Cup after testing positive for Covid-19. The brothers are among three players who returned positive tests, alongside Guyana's Trevon Griffith.

The players were tested on Sunday, January 24, ahead of the tournament which is scheduled to begin from February 7 in Antigua, and run until February 27. A press release from Barbados Cricket Association said that Shai and Kyle would be placed in isolation in accordance with Barbados government protocols.

They have been replaced in the 15-man squad by Tevyn Walcott and Zachary McCaskie, who will both be tested before the team departs for Antigua at the end of this month.

The Super50 tournament will be the first round of domestic cricket in the West Indies for the year, after the Caribbean Premier League in September 2020, which happened to be the last form of competitive cricket that Shai played. He was dropped for West Indies' tour of New Zealand following prolonged failures in Test cricket, and wasn't part of the T20 plans. While Shai has been among the best batsmen in the world in 50-over cricket over the last few years, the West Indies are waiting on him to show that spark in Test cricket, where he averages 26.27, about half his ODI average.

Kyle, the older brother, last played competitive cricket in March 2020, before the Covid lockdowns, for Trinidad & Tobago.

The criticism directed at Tim Paine during Australia's series loss against India has been termed "wide of the mark" and some of it "in poor taste" as he was given full endorsement to continue as captain for the Test series against South Africa, which is due to be played in March.

National selector Trevor Hohns said the panel had not spent a moment debating Paine's position as captain when they came to name the Test squad, while head of national teams Ben Oliver said that the result against India had "done nothing to diminish" Paine's standing in the game.

Paine came under scrutiny on a number of fronts over the last two Tests when Australia were unable to turn strong final-day positions into victories - India securing a drew at the SCG before a famous run chase at the Gabba to take the series 2-1, inflicting Australia's first defeat at the ground since 1988.

Prior to the heady conclusion in Brisbane, Paine had come under pressure for his behaviour on the final day at the SCG and particularly his sledging directed at R Ashwin. The day after the match he apologised for his conduct, adding that it had also affected his wicketkeeping during a final day where he dropped three crucial catches.

Paine managed two half-centuries during the series but his tactics were also called into question on the final day at the Gabba when Australia were unable to defend 328.

"Tim's leadership in our mind was never in question, we didn't spend one minute on Tim's leadership during our selection meeting," Hohns said. "He's been a terrific leader through some pretty trying circumstances.

"I must say, too, if you don't mind, some of the criticism he's had to endure in our view has been pretty wide of the mark and in particular some of it has been in poor taste from overseas people. I think Tim has been unfairly criticised in this instance.

"Sure, we are all disappointed with the performance and losing to India, that's difficult to accept sometimes, but I think the criticism of Paine has been totally unfair."

Oliver said: "Tim has the support of the team, the coach and everyone else at Cricket Australia and the result of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series has done nothing to diminish that.

"Tim is in career-best form with the bat and, while the series against India was not his best with the gloves by his own admission, he remains in the top echelon of wicketkeepers globally.

"And as a leader, he has been brilliant. To captain a squad through the many challenges presented by the pandemic - not least the unique pressures of hub life - is no easy task and Tim did that with strength, humility and good humour.

"After a series that attracted so much global interest, it was inevitable there'd be scrutiny. But some of the commentary surrounding Tim and his position as Test captain has been wide of the mark."

"Some of the criticism he's had to endure in our view has been pretty wide of the mark and in particular some of it has been in poor taste from overseas people"

However, while Paine is secure in his role for now the succession plan for when he does leave the job remains uncertain. He would not look further ahead than a possible World Test Championship final when asked at the end of the India series.

Pat Cummins will continue as vice-captain of the Test side and Hohns said there was confidence he could stand-in for Paine if required at short notice, but it is far from certain that he would be a long-term candidate.

There is yet to be a definite answer as to whether Steven Smith would be considered for the role again. Travis Head and Alex Carey have captained Australia A sides this summer although neither are currently in the Test side - albeit Head now looks set to return in South Africa - while Marnus Labuschagne has been another name thrown into the mix but, like Cummins, has no captaincy experience.

"We are always looking for leaders and trying when the opportunity arises to give someone some experience," Hohns said. "Over the last week or two there has been various names thrown up, let's face it we have to canvass all those options and try to come up with a group of leaders that can take Australian cricket forward."

What is becoming clearer, though, is that Carey is in prime position to take the gloves in the Test side when Paine finishes having been included for the South Africa tour.

"Alex has been on our radar for some time," Hohns said. "Over the last 12-18 months has got better and better as a player so our thinking is pretty clear there without rubberstamping it."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Ben Dunk has pinpointed Christmas Day as the moment when he realised that he wanted to terminate his contract with Melbourne Stars after three-and-a-half seasons at the club.

Dunk signed a five-year deal with the Stars ahead of the 2017-18 Big Bash having led the tournament's run charts the previous season, but performed a long way below expectations during his time at the club. In 39 innings for the Stars across four seasons, he made 621 runs at an average of 16.34 and a strike rate of 115.34, regularly moving up and down the order as they desperately tried to help him replicate the form he had shown in the Pakistan Super League and the Mzansi Super League.

This season, he made 69 runs in six matches - including two as an X-factor sub - and after spending Christmas away from his family in the tournament's hub on the Gold Coast, Dunk and the Stars came to a mutual agreement to terminate his contract midway through the season.

The termination allowed him to fly to the UAE to take up his contract with the Qalandars in the Abu Dhabi T10 League. He finished his quarantine period at the start of the week, and trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Tuesday night ahead of their first fixture on Friday.

At a media briefing which coincided with the Stars' elimination from the competition - he had listened to the first innings on the radio after struggling to find TV coverage - Dunk admitted that he had struggled to come to terms with his lack of role security at the club.

"My position at the Stars was not secured in the team," he said. "With the rule changes, I'd been the X-factor player quite a bit - so I was playing some games, some not, keeping wicket in some games, some not. As players, we live for gamedays, and time away from home when you're not playing was proving difficult.

"I've got two young children at home, so Christmas time is really important to me. It really hit home this year when I was in the hub on the Gold Coast and my family were back in Hobart on Christmas Day. I've got a little boy who turns four in February and understands what Christmas is and gets really excited. That made the decision a little bit easier, in terms of trying to free up time to be with family."

And while Dunk insisted that he had no plans to retire from the BBL, he conceded that the uncertainty over the cricket calendar on account of the pandemic and his reluctance to miss another family Christmas meant that he may not make himself available for the full season if approached by a team. At 33, Dunk remains a popular pick in several leagues around the world, and he hinted that he would consider prioritising other tournaments over the BBL.

"The pandemic has thrown the cricket calendar into absolute chaos," Dunk said. "When you include the two weeks of hotel quarantine when I get back to Australia, it's just another bit of murkiness in the water. I certainly want to explore my playing options, especially around the world.

"The Big Bash obviously has that window all the way through to mid-February, which is a long time in a cricket season. Who knows what will be going on, especially with the pandemic? With the Big Bash, [we don't know] whether that's going to stay in that slot for the same period of time, whether the South African comp [Mzansi Super League] gets back up and running, Bangladesh, the T10 - there's a lot of cricket to be played.

"From my own, selfish point of view, it's nice to be free around that sort of time. But I'm certainly not retiring from the Big Bash - there might be an opportunity there to play next year in a limited capacity, depending on what else is going on around the world."

More immediately, Dunk expressed his excitement about the opportunity to play with both Tom Banton and Rashid Khan in the T10 League and the upcoming PSL respectively. He will play for the Qalandars franchise in both competitions, under their Lahore guise in the PSL.

"I've come across [Banton] a couple of times at the Big Bash and the PSL but we've never been in the same team, so I'm excited to see him up close and see how he works. He's an exciting player who I think we'll watch for a long period of time.

"In the PSL, we went on a great journey last year, all the way through to the final where we were beaten on the day by a better team in Karachi. I'm really excited to play with Rashid Khan - he'll be a great addition to our squad and hopefully we can go one better."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98

Vikings TE Rudolph laments use, won't cut pay

Published in Breaking News
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 19:28

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph knows his worth, and he won't be granting any discounts ahead of his 11th season in the NFL.

In an appearance on the "Unrestricted with Ben Leber" podcast, Rudolph expressed displeasure with his role in the Vikings' offense over the past two seasons, having gone from Minnesota's second- or third-leading receiver from 2015 to 2018 to being an afterthought in the passing game in 2020.

Minnesota is projected to be $12.8 million over the cap ahead of the new league year and would gain $5.1 million in cap space if it was to release Rudolph this offseason (which comes with $4.35 million in dead money). The Vikings also could restructure Rudolph's current deal, with three years remaining, to lower his 2021 cap number from $9.45 million to nearly half.

It wouldn't be the first time the Vikings approached the two-time Pro Bowl tight end with a proposal to restructure. In June 2019, Rudolph reworked his contract into a four-year extension two months after Minnesota used a second-round pick to draft tight end Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama. Last season, Smith finished third on the Vikings in receiving and touchdowns (365 yards, five TDs).

Rudolph said he isn't sure how Minnesota's front office will approach his situation ahead of free agency, but he stood firm with his belief that he should be paid the entirety of what his contract entails.

"Obviously, I'm realistic. I see both sides," Rudolph said. "If I were [team owners] the Wilfs, if I were [general manager] Rick [Spielman], I'm looking at this situation like, 'Hey, we're paying this guy a lot of money and you're not using him, so why are we continuing to pay him a lot of money?'

"With that being said, I think I'm worth every dime of my contract. That doesn't mean that I'm used to my potential and I'm used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don't want to go anywhere else. I've somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I've been forced to. It certainly wasn't something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls."

"Early on last season, the writing was on the wall," Rudolph continued. "I saw where our offense was going. I had like seven or eight catches in the first six games. It was just absurd. I was literally blocking all the time."

Rudolph caught 28 passes on 35 targets in 2020, his lowest output since the 2014 season. He churned of 334 receiving yards and one touchdown, the latter of which was a career low for the former second-round pick.

Rudolph was asked to pass block on 43 snaps last season, down from the 68 pass-blocking snaps he played in 2019. The veteran tight end revealed on the podcast the reason for his late-season injured reserve designation that forced him to miss Weeks 13 to 17: a Lisfranc sprain in his foot.

Asked what he would do if the Vikings came to him with a restructure proposal that would keep him in the same role he played on offense, Rudolph made it clear he would not agree to a reduced salary for 2021. He is scheduled to make a base salary of $7.65 million next season.

"It wouldn't happen," he said. "You only get to play this game for so many years, and I feel like I have a lot of good football left. Now we fast forward, I've played these three years on my contract and I'm now 33, 34 and they're like, 'Hey, we want to keep you around for a couple years at a much lower number, but we want you to do X, Y and Z help these young guys out' -- sign me up.

"But like I said, at 31, with how I feel physically, with knowing what I can still do ... it's simply a lack of opportunities. In the past, I was the one getting red zone targets. I can't sign up for that again."


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