Angry fans threaten players
A group of hardcore Caserta fans have stormed a training session and threatened to hold the players hostage following a run of poor performances, the Italian team’s coach said on Thursday. Around 50 supporters invaded the court and said they would prevent the players from leaving the arena on Sunday if the top-flight strugglers lose against Benetton. “There was no physical contact but we came close to it because some of the players didn’t like having their work interrupted,” coach Fabrizio Frates said. “There were threats and they were clear and unequivocal.”
Balaji back after four years
India’s cricket selectors yesterday picked Lakshmipathy Balaji for their New Zealand tour, after a four-year Test absence for the fit-again seamer. Balaji, 27, who last played a Test match in March, 2005 before suffering a career-threatening stress fracture to his back, was named in a 16-man squad for next month’s three-Test series against the Kiwis. The Tamil Nadu seamer claimed 27 wickets in eight Tests before being laid low by injury. Balaji joins a five-man seam attack that includes 20-year-old rookie Dhawal Kulkarni, who took 41 wickets in his maiden first-class season to help Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy last month. The selectors, who announced the team through a media release, retained the nucleus of the squad that beat Ricky Ponting’s Australia 2-1 and England 1-0 in home Test series late last year. But only six players — Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh — have played a Test on New Zealand soil before.
Pakistan great to tour China
Former Pakistan great Javed Miandad will next month tour China as a cricket ambassador to promote the game in the Asian giant. “As part of Pakistan’s support plan to promote the game of cricket in China, we have decided to send Miandad to China so that he can explore ways to help lift the game in that country,” said a sports ministry official, Ashraf Khan. Miandad, 51, will tour China from March 9 to March 15. “I have high hopes of China competing at a top level very soon because the feedback I have is that they have potential and can excel in the field of cricket, like they did in other sports,” Miandad told reporters. Pakistan has previously provided assistance to China, such as training and coaching facilities, to prepare its national cricket team. Former Pakistan player Rashid Khan is China’s national cricket coach and guided their female team to the semi-final of the Asian Cricket Council women’s tournament in Malaysia last year.
Rain has final say
There was no result in the final match of the one-day international series between Australia and New Zealand in Brisbane yesterday after rain forced its abandonment. Australia reached 168 for 4 off 22 overs in their rain-shortened innings, with Brad Haddin cracking an unbeaten 88 off 65 balls with five fours and three sixes. Callum Ferguson contributed an unbeaten 55 from 35 balls with seven fours. New Zealand reached 123 for 6 after 14 overs before the weather had the final say. Martin Guptill was unbeaten on 64 off only 34 balls with debutant Brendon Diamanti on 26 not out from 22 deliveries. The series finished 2-2, which meant that holders Australia retained the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.