first_imgAustralia’s domestic Sheffield Shield tends to open sleepily, with spring sunshine warming the few diehard fans that turn up to regional venues but auditions for coveted Ashes places have given the start of this year’s tournament additional spice.Australia may be comfortable on their own pitches and confident of fending off an England side likely to be without all-rounder Ben Stokes, their most valuable player, for at least part of the five-test series.However, the question of who will bat at six in the order has become an increasing bugbear for a team desperate for a quality all-rounder of their own while also needing some starch in the middle after a worrying string of batting collapses.Queries over the best man behind the stumps have also grown in volume since the incumbent Matt Wade was dropped for a single one-day international in India earlier this month and then reinstated in the next game.With less than a month before the first test kicks off at the Gabba on Nov. 23, the opening matches of the first-class Sheffield Shield will also be a battle-ground for the pacemen as they look to replace the injured James Pattinson as first understudy to Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.One player desperate for red ball form will be Victoria state’s Glenn Maxwell, who scored a fine century at number six against India in March but has failed to surpass 50 in seven test innings since.With selectors keen to have a part-time bowler able to provide relief for the pacemen over the course of a long campaign, Maxwell’s ability to soak up some overs with his off-spin would be valuable.advertisementThe hard-hitting 29-year-old is under pressure from Western Australia’s uncapped Marcus Stoinis, a medium pace-bowling all-rounder who has averaged 86.25 in his eight ODIs and impressed during the recent tour of India.Another Western Australian in Hilton Cartwright is also a contender after his surprise selection at number six for the second test against Bangladesh in Chittagong last month.”In an ideal world you’d want someone like a Ben Stokes who can give you the ideal balance, bat and bowl,” selector Mark Waugh told Sky Sports Radio earlier this month.”But I think your number six as it stands is probably going to be a batsman and ideally he bowls a bit.”The wicket-keeper position has troubled Australia since Brad Haddin’s retirement after the last Ashes in 2015 and Wade’s reinstatement at the expense of Peter Nevill in the last home summer proved divisive.Seemingly favoured for his niggle over the more subdued Nevill, Wade has not justified his selection with the bat and compiled just 17 runs from his three innings during the two-test tour of Bangladesh.Nevill, considered a technically superior keeper to Wade, will captain New South Wales in the absence of regular skipper Moises Henriques as he looks for a weight of runs to dislodge the incumbent Tasmanian.South Australia’s uncapped Alex Carey, who posted an all-time record 59 dismissals in the 2016-17 Shield season, is seen as a dark horse to dislodge the seasoned campaigners.last_img read more


first_imgNEW YORK — Derek Jeter earned five titles for the New York Yankees. His successor at shortstop already has one: Sir Didi Gregorius, proud member of Order of Orange-Nassau.New York’s newest infielder was knighted after playing for the Netherlands in the 2011 Baseball World Cup, where the Dutch beat Cuba 2-1 in the final. He goes by his noble rank on his Twitter account.“Some people actually call me Sir Didi,” he said from Curacao during a telephone conference call. “I don’t really mind if they just call me Didi.”Gregorius was acquired from Arizona on Dec. 5 as part of a three-team trade that sent right-hander Shane Greene to Detroit. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman figures Gregorius will be part of a shortstop platoon with Brendan Ryan, starting against most right-handed pitchers.At the Baseball World Cup in Panama three years ago, Gregorius hit .265 (9 for 34) with a two-run homer in a 19-0 rout of Greece. That Nov. 11 in the Dutch city of Haarlem, Dutch Minister of Sports Edith Schipppers announced knighthoods for the 24 players, Manager Brian Farley and Technical Director Robert Eenhoorn, saying she was acting on behalf of Queen Beatrix. Gregorius joined an order established in 1892.“Instead of giving us money, they decided to just knight us — all the guys that had a clean record,” Gregorius said.He will be taking over a position manned for most of the last 19 seasons by a Yankees icon, who led the team to one of its greatest eras. Gregorius, who turns 25 in February, paints and sketches for relaxation. On Oct. 6, he tweeted a drawing of Jeter with the message: Re2pect to the captain….. Had to draw it superstar.”“I always wanted to play in New York City. Now I’m following in his footsteps,” Gregorius said. “Jeter is still Jeter. Everything that everybody is going to talk about is Jeter. But for me — I’m learning and I’m there just to play the game, so just trying to focus on the game and trying to win every game, that’s all I can say, not worrying about what’s going on around.”Named Mariekson Julius Gregorius, he was born in the Netherlands and grew in Curacao, a Dutch territory until 2010 that is now a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Among the major leaguers from there are Kenley Jansen, Andruw Jones, Jurickson Profar and Andrelton Simmons.He was signed by Cincinnati in 2007, traded to Arizona in December 2012 and hit his first big league homer at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 2013, against Phil Hughes.Known for above-average defense, Gregorius lost Arizona’s starting shortstop job to Chris Owings during spring training this year but was recalled at midseason and hit .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 80 games — just .137 (7 for 51) against left-handers.He speaks English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamentu, language ability that should be useful in multicultural New York. Gregorius doesn’t seem to be worried about the reception he’ll receive from fans at Yankee Stadium.“You got to wait till I get there and then I’ll find out how they’re going to treat me,” he said. “I have some good comments on Twitter, say just be you, don’t worry about what other people are saying.”(RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more