Suspend Test skippers for slowing up the game

DETERRENT: Howard Kotton believes slow over rates could be avoided if offending captains received suspensions. Australia's Pat Cummins and England's Joe Root are pictured during the first Test. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

DETERRENT: Howard Kotton believes slow over rates could be avoided if offending captains received suspensions. Australia's Pat Cummins and England's Joe Root are pictured during the first Test. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The scourge of poor over rates continues to plague Test cricket and the penalties for not completing the required quota should be much tougher.

The International Cricket Council has a long-standing rule that 90 overs must be bowled on each of the five days, but it is rarely achieved.

If the ICC is serious about improving the situation, offending captains should be suspended for one match for a first offence and more if it continues to occur.

The onus should be on umpires and match referees to ensure the game is kept moving.

This summer play has been halted or delayed on numerous occasions when little more than light drizzle was falling.

Umpires often meander onto the arena and have a chat with the ground staff before deciding if play is possible.

While it is imperative that conditions are safe for the batsmen and fielding team, there should be more urgency from umpires.

Spectators in the stadiums and watching on TV want to see play as soon as possible - not in 15 minutes or half an hour but immediately.

Umpires are also responsible for deciding if the light is fit for play.

While many stadiums around the world have artificial lights, the red cricket ball is hard to pick up in gloomy conditions and play can still be stopped for bad light.

This begs the question - why are the lights on anyway?

Three overs are lost with each innings break, but there are too many other delays in play.

So much time is chewed up with the Decision Review System and injuries to players.

Captains and bowlers can be too tardy with their field placements and batsmen pursue too much "gardening" of the wicket or frequent mid-pitch chats.

On top of the normal drinks break each session, batsmen often receive refreshments after they call for new batting gloves.

This summer, England players were fined their match fees and the team penalised five ICC World Test Championship points for a slow over rate in the first Test at the Gabba.

At the end of a tense, gripping fourth Test at the SCG, only 384 overs were bowled over the five days.

Even taking persistent rain and three change of innings into account, that was still well short of the required target, despite attempting to make up lost time.

Just reward for Kokkinakis

Thanasi Kokkinakis' breakthrough ATP Tour win at the Adelaide International last Saturday was just reward for his hard work to resurrect his tennis career.

HARD WORK: Thanasi Kokkinakis pictured after his breakthrough ATP Tour win. Picture: Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HARD WORK: Thanasi Kokkinakis pictured after his breakthrough ATP Tour win. Picture: Peter Mundy/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kokkinakis has endured a terrible run and deserved some overdue good fortune, appropriately in his home city.

He has shown enormous potential since turning professional in 2013, but numerous injury setbacks prevented him from playing.

Kokkinakis has been working hard with strength and conditioning coach Jona Segal in the past year and has emerged much fitter and stronger to help him cope better with the game's physical and mental demands.

Before his triumph over Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech to win his first ATP Tour singles title, Kokkinakis had reached only one final - in 2017, when he lost to American Sam Querrey in the Los Cabos Open in Mexico.

In the previous tournament in Adelaide this summer, the tall South Australian reached the semi-finals before losing to Frenchman Gael Monfils.

The greatest victory of his career came in the second round of the Miami Open in 2018 when he defeated Roger Federer.

Kokkinakis became the lowest-ranked player to defeat a world No. 1 player in 15 years.

But soon after, during a first-round match in Monte Carlo, he suffered a hairline fracture in his kneecap after crashing into advertising padding.

Federer, who was quick to congratulate Kokkinakis on his win over Rinderknech, has taken a keen interest in the Australian's career since that 2018 victory and wanted him to be his training partner.

Kokkinakis, 25, has the right mental attitude and work ethic to lift his ATP ranking substantially in the next few years - he just needs an injury-free run.

Take a bow, Sam

Sam Stosur's massive contribution to tennis should be acknowledged as she makes her final appearance as a singles player at the Australian Open.

The Queenslander has been granted a wild card for the tournament.

She will play American Robin Anderson in the first round of the competition.

She equals Lleyton Hewitt's record of 20 appearances by an Australian at their home Grand Slam.

Stosur, 37, has been a great ambassador for the sport and her country.

Undoubtedly, her greatest achievement as a singles player was in 2011, when she defeated Serena Williams in the US Open final.

At the French Open, she reached the final in 2010 and was a semi-finalist on two other occasions.

But as a doubles player, Stosur has enjoyed even greater success.

She is ranked fifteenth in the world and intends to continue playing in that format.

Overall, Stosur has won 28 doubles titles, including four Grand Slam championships.

Her most recent Grand Slam victory was at last year's US Open with China's Zhang Shuai, the pair also having success at Melbourne Park in 2019.

Stosur, who has also won three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, should be lauded for her understated involvement in the game's development in Australia.

Has Howard got it right?

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59