England all-rounder Stokes denies affray charge


Ben Stokes arriving at court

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Ben Stokes arriving at court in Bristol for a previous hearing

England cricketer Ben Stokes has pleaded not guilty after being accused of fighting outside a Bristol nightclub in September.

The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder is charged with affray after a man allegedly suffered a broken eye socket.

At Bristol Crown Court on Monday, Mr Stokes denied the charges via video link from New Zealand where he is on duty with the England squad.

Mr Stokes is accused jointly with Ryan Hale and Ryan Aslam Ali.

Mr Hale, 26, and 28-year-old Mr Ali, both from Bristol, also deny the same charge of affray.

The trial date has been set for 6 August and the three defendants were granted unconditional bail.

Mr Stokes, Mr Hale and Mr Ali were detained early on 25 September following a disturbance in the Clifton Triangle area of the city – several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies.

What is affray?

The charge of affray is made under the Public Order Act 1986 and effectively relates to fighting in public.

It is a triable either-way offence, which means it can be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court.

It carries a maximum penalty when tried summarily – in the magistrates’ court – of a fine or up to six months in prison, and when tried on indictment – in the crown court – of up to three years in prison.

As a result of the charge, Mr Stokes missed the Ashes series, which hosts Australia won 4-0, although he was allowed to play some domestic matches in New Zealand.

England declared him available once more after he indicated a plea of not guilty at Bristol Magistrates’ Court in February.

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Ben Stokes made his Test debut in Australia in 2013

England are due to play the first test match of a five-game series against India at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham between 1-5 August, with Mr Stokes’s trial due to start a day later.

The trial is expected to last between five and seven days, which means there is a risk Mr Stokes could miss the second test which starts at Lord’s Cricket Ground on 9 August.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said: “We fully respect the legal process and the player’s right to defend himself against the charge.”

In January the ECB said that, “given the potential length of time to trial”, it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period”.



India's Shami charged with attempted murder, rape and domestic violence


Mohammed Shami

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Shami has represented India 87 times in all formats of the game since 2012.

Top Indian cricketer Mohammad Shami has been charged with domestic violence following a complaint by his wife.

Police say the 27-year-old fast bowler has also been charged under laws related to attempted murder, poisoning and criminal intimidation.

Mr Shami was dropped from a list of contracted players for the national team announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India on 8 March.

He denied his wife’s allegations earlier this week.

The charges against the player, who has represented India 87 times in all formats of the game since 2012, carry prison terms of 10 years or more.

How did the allegations emerge?

Mr Shami’s wife, Hasin Jahan, accused him earlier this week of adultery and domestic violence.

On Tuesday, Ms Jahan posted a series of messages that Mr Shami had allegedly sent to women during their four-year marriage on her Facebook account.

He had several affairs, she alleged, and “tortured [her] physically and mentally over and over again”.

The player, who has won 30 Test caps, dismissed the claims, calling them “part of a big conspiracy” against him and “an attempt to defame” him.

“What is being said about my personal life is completely false,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ms Jahan has also filed a rape complaint against Mr Shami’s elder brother.

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What is the cricket board’s position?

A BCCI supervisory committee said the allegations had put them in a difficult position.

“We are in a bit of Catch 22,” Vinod Rai, chairman of the committee, told cricket website ESPNcricinfo.

“Ordinarily you would distinguish and say that is a personal issue and the contract is a professional issue.

“But someone could easily point out and say this allegation is an unsavoury one and you are still rewarding him.”



Inside the mind of Ganguly – India's 'greatest' captain?


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Media captionSourav Ganguly on captaining India during match-fixing scandal

Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly has released a memoir which chronicles his achievements, disappointments and controversies. The BBC’s Vikas Pandey spoke to him in Delhi.

Ganguly is considered to be one of the best captains in international cricket.

His aggressive form of leadership heralded a new era in Indian cricket and helped the team secure many memorable wins at home and overseas in the early 2000s.

He didn’t mince his words during his tenure as the captain – an approach that won him plaudits but also sparked controversies.

One would expect his memoir to be revelatory and aggressive.

But critics say “A Century Is Not Enough” is neither.

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His memoir serves as a life manual for his fans.

You will be disappointed if you are expecting revelations about some of the biggest scandals and controversies in Indian cricket.

But it’s a treat for fans who want to know more about the former captain’s approach to the game and life.

It tells the story of a man who faced several struggles, betrayals and setbacks on his way to sporting greatness.

Unexpected captaincy

Legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar unexpectedly gave up captaincy in 2000, paving the way for Ganguly to take over.

That was the same year a match-fixing scandal involving several Indian and South African players came to light – they were accused of taking bribes to underperform.

Ganguly writes that this was a “very critical stage in Indian cricket”.

“The dark days of the match-fixing era were slowly being revealed. The unit was battered and demoralised. I knew my job was going to be tough,” he writes.

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The memoir, however, doesn’t go into more details about the scandal.

Ganguly says that was deliberate.

“This book is for a different purpose. When I write a biography someday, I may talk about it,” he says.

Despite the scandal, Ganguly’s captaincy started on a winning note and he went on to win many more tournaments for India.

Many credit him for turning relatively inexperienced players into a match-winning unit.

He says he followed a simple formula for success.

“I picked talented players from all parts of the country. And I backed them and gave them enough space. The main thing was taking the fear of failure and insecurity away from them,” he says.

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His captaincy started on a winning note in 2001.

The beginning of mind games

Indian cricket changed forever in 2001 after the team snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat against a formidable Australian side led by maverick captain Steve Waugh at Eden Gardens in Kolkata (Formerly Calcutta).

VVS Laxman scored a brilliant 281 to help India recover from a follow on to win the game.

Ganguly describes the match as “arguably the greatest Test played in India”. The match also marked a shift in the attitudes of Indian players.

The players stood up to the notorious Australian sledging and gave the tourists a taste of their own medicine. Ganguly in fact, infamously made Waugh wait for the toss.

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Ganguly has said that being captain is the toughest job after prime minister.

“Cricket is a game that needs mental strength. When you get an opportunity to get into the mind of the opposition, you take it,” he says.

But this attitude was reserved for the games.

“Off the field I was docile, introverted, a little withdrawn. I became aggressive on the field.”

‘A massive drop’

Ganguly had a very public falling out with coach Greg Chappell in in 2005, which he describes as the main reason behind his removal from captaincy.

He was eventually dropped from the team as well.

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The public feud with coach Chappell led to Ganguly’s dismissal from the team.

He has described the incident as “unthinkable, unacceptable and a massive drop”.

“History hasn’t recorded many instances of a winning captain dropped so unceremoniously, that too after scoring a hundred in the last Test series,” he writes.

Ganguly eventually made a comeback to the side as a player after scoring well in several domestic tournaments.

The book gives great insights into his mindset during that time.

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Ganguly made a comeback after scoring well in domestic matches.

“It was not easy playing in front of half empty galleries, staying in hotels which offered little comfort, playing against opposition teams which were light years away from the international standard,” he writes.

“You get dropped when you are not playing well. But I was playing well and scoring runs and wasn’t being picked. That was a bit of a scare,” he says.

“It was a tough situation, but there was no option but keep playing cricket and scoring runs. I had tremendous belief in my abilities and I worked hard. And that’s what I tell youngsters in cricket or any other profession, soak in pressure and work hard,” he says.



Gender pay gap in cricket angers Indians


Indian women's team captain Mithali Raj is a top player, but earns much less than her male counterpart Virat Kohli

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Indian women’s team captain Mithali Raj is a top player, but earns much less than her male counterpart Virat Kohli

Indians have expressed outrage on Twitter after data from the cricket board showed that men players will earn 14 times more money than women.

Top players of the men’s team will earn 70m rupees ($1.07m; £774,900) each per year, while women in the same category will make 5m rupees ($76,950; £55,344).

The board announced the new contracts for both teams on Wednesday.

The pay gap has remained despite great performances from women’s team, including reaching the World Cup final.

Many on social media found it ironic that the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced this “huge pay gap” a day before International Women’s Day.

Skills matter

Some people pointed out that men’s national team plays more matches than the women’s and brings in more advertising revenue for the board.

But many feel that that this can’t be given as a reason for the massive difference pay and remuneration should be based on skills.

Fight for equal pay

Gender pay gap also exists in other cricket boards.

Sportswomen like tennis star Sarena Williams and England cricketer Tammy Beaumont have been campaigning for equal pay in sports.

But many say much more needs to be done to achieve equal pay for men and women in sports.



Crowds attending women's sport to top a half million in 2018


Chelsea v Liverpool in WSL football

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Action from Chelsea v Liverpool in England’s Women’s Super League football

The number of fans attending elite women’s sport in the UK is set to break the half million barrier for the first time in 2018, new research suggests.

Since 2013, attendances for UK women’s sports have grown, on average, 38% year-on-year, according to sports marketing agency Two Circles.

They now predict the number of fans watching women’s sport will increase by 49% on 2017 to hit 682,000 in 2018.

They say growth has been driven by increased awareness and media coverage.

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Meanwhile recent major international tournaments hosted in the UK, such as the 2017 ICC Women Cricket World Cup, which sold-out three games including the final, have boosted interest and viewing numbers.

On Saturday, Harlequins Ladies rugby club are set to achieve a world record attendance for a women’s club match when it hosts Richmond in the Tyrrells Premier 15s at the Twickenham Stoop.

Cricket’s Kia Super League, football’s Women’s Super League and netball’s Vitality Superleague have all contributed significantly to the growth in attendances.

This year’s attendance figures will also receive a boost from the Women’s Hockey World Cup at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this July and August.

“Fans will pay to watch quality, elite sport and rights-holders prepared to invest in both women’s teams and events are reaping the rewards as interest in women’s sport continues to grow,” said Gareth Balch, chief executive of Two Circles.

Their attendance data does not including events where men’s and women’s sport take place at the same time such as multi-sex events and male-female double-header games.



'We paid for everything' – when winning the World Cup was no money-spinner


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Llanelli-born Lynne, batting, played for England from 1966 to 1979

“When people ask me what I’d have been if I’d not been a cricket player, I say… a millionaire,” laughs Lynne Thomas, who 44 years ago helped England to victory in the first ever cricket World Cup.

The women’s game beat the men onto the global crease, with their inaugural World Cup in 1973 coming two years before the first male event.

Not only was batswoman Lynne, now 77, part of that wider trailblazing moment for sport, she played her part on the pitch too, scoring 263 runs in four innings, and making the first World Cup century.

What makes her and the England team’s victory the more remarkable is that they played and promoted the women’s game in the 1960s and 1970s for no financial reward, in fact their love of cricket left them regularly out of pocket.

By way of contrast, when England take to the field in Sunday’s sell-out 2017 final at Lords they will be playing for a cool $660,000 (?512,000). Even the losing team will collect $330,000. It is all part of an ICC pot of $2m prize money this year.

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Royal approval

“It is great for the girls that they can now make a career out of cricket if that is what they chose to do in life,” says Lynne, who combined playing cricket for England with playing international hockey for Wales, and holding down a full-time job as a PE teacher.

“I am pleased for them. When I was playing I never imagined that one day it would be something that could provide a living.”

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Lynne (second left) represented England in Test matches and one day internationals

The inaugural Women’s World Cup was the result of the vision of the late Rachael Heyhoe Flint and a ?40,000 backing from businessman Sir Jack Hayward, both from Wolverhampton (the latter went on to own football club Wolves).

Organised as a round robin event, England – whose team included nine teachers – beat Australia in the final deciding match on 28 July 1973.

“We didn’t get given any medals for winning the World Cup, although we were introduced to Princess Anne,” recalls Lynne of that historic day at Edgbaston.

“We drove ourselves to all of the England games in the tournament, and after the game against Australia I had to be back at work in south Wales on the Monday.”

Tour costs

It was the same story throughout her cricketing career – playing solely for the glory of winning, and for meagre playing expenses, interspersed with bouts of fundraising to keep the women’s cricket show on the road.

“I can tell you exactly about our finances – we paid for everything,” she recalls of an international career that saw her play 10 Tests, and 12 one day internationals for England over a 13-year period.

“We paid for our playing kit, our playing equipment, and most of the cost of our tours.”

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Lynne (front, right) and team mates played numerous fund raising games

To raise money towards the cost of those overseas tours. cricketing legend Rachael Heyhoe Flint organised fund raising across England, and beyond.

And that meant a lot of travelling for Lynne, the sole Welsh player in the England team.

“Those games covered the whole of England,” she says. “We also played a fund raising game in Edinburgh one time. We played there on the Sunday, and drove back on the Sunday night.

“We worked, most of us had jobs, and had to be back at work on the Monday. It was pure dedication.”

The Women’s Cricket Association – all volunteers – who ran Women’s Cricket at the time, also paid a small amount towards the cost of overseas tours.

Woolworths bat

Lynne went on a four-and-a-half month tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1968-69, and fortunately her understanding employers Neath Girls Grammar School gave her the time off with pay.

She also went on tour to the West Indies in 1971, when Sir Jack Hayward stepped in to fund the fares of the travelling party.

“When we were away on tour we only stayed in hotels when we played Test matches, when we played friendly matches we were put up to stay with local families,” recalls Lynne.

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Lynne (r) with the legendary Rachael Heyhoe Flint on their return from the 1971 West Indies tour

Lynne got interested in cricket through father Raymond, a keen village cricketer and member of Dafen cricket club in Llanelli.

“From the age of six I used to watch him play every weekend. When I got to eight or nine I got my own cricket bat from Woolworths and would play with a tennis ball.

“There was no girls’ cricket when I was growing up, I played in a boys team at Christchurch church in Llanelli.”

She went on to play for Cardiff, Sussex Women, Glamorgan Women and West Counties Women.

“For the first couple of my playing years I didn’t have a car, and friends would have to drive me around,” says Lynne, a full MCC member.

“Then I managed to buy a little Singer Chamois car. I would drive thousands of miles each year playing cricket and hockey.”


Lynne Thomas on cricket pioneer Rachael Heyhoe Flint

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Sir Jack Hayward and Rachael Heyhoe Flint – prime movers behind the first World Cup

“She was wonderful person and a tremendous captain. She had a very good rapport with people from all levels of society.

“She was a good leader, and we would have done anything for her. She was one of the girls – on and off the field.

“She fought for women’s sport, truthfully and in an honest way. She started it all off, if it wasn’t for her the present day women would not enjoy a cricket career, and we wouldn’t have had the World Cup in England this year.”


Love of the game

Lynne, who with her team-mates were belatedly awarded winners’ medals this summer, will be at Lord’s on Sunday for the culmination of a tournament which she says “will have helped spread the game around the world”.

During the 1973 event she and Enid Bakewell put on 246 – an English opening partnership record that stood until Sarah Taylor and Caroline Atkins made 268 at Lord’s against South Africa in 2008.

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Lynne (second left) and batting partner Enid Bakewell, with Sarah Taylor and Caroline Atkins

“I was at Lord’s when our record was broken, and we were interviewed in the pavilion for three-quarters of an hour by the media,” she says. “But when we broke the record in 1973 nobody knew we had done it, not even ourselves.

“It was only decades later that my niece read about it in the Guinness Book of Firsts. We just played for the love of if, and did not worry about records.”

She adds: “It was the same all through my career – in fact we paid out for the pleasure of playing, it was all about money going out, not coming in.”