India are ready to kick-off their final preparations ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup. The Men in Blue will battle Australia in a two-match T20I series, which will be followed by five ODIs. Last time, when these two teams met in a T20Is, the series it culminated at a scoreline of 1-1.
But, now both the teams would be keen to enforce a result in this chapter of their fight in the shortest format and get the momentum going into the ODI series. After all, every team wants to put their best foot forward as we are closing in on the World Cup.
Let's take a look at 5 Players to Watch Out for in the India-Australia T20Is:
After been rested for the final two ODIs and T20I series against New Zealand, Virat Kohli returns to lead India in the two-match T20I series, which will be followed by five ODIs. Virat Kohli will look to get into his groove and with the likes of Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson in Australia's bowling line-up, the Indian skipper will be properly tested. And he would love that given this limited-overs series against Australia is going to be India's final international series before the much awaited and anticipated World Cup starts.
With 2,326 runs in T20I cricket, Rohit Sharma is the highest run-scorer in the format. Rohit Sharma absolutely cherishes the shortest format. He has four centuries in T20Is. Rohit's last T20I knock, wherein he scored 38 runs off 32 deliveries cost India the series-deciding game against New Zealand. Now, the Indian white-ball vice-captain would look to make amends and get back to his smashing form. Rohit has an average record against the Men in Yellow and cometh the T20I series, he will love to get back to the "Hitman" mode.
Well, this Indian youngster will be one of the major talking points in the India-Australia series. India have to pick one among Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant for the reserve wicket-keeper's slot in the World Cup. Keeping that in mind, Pant has also been named in India's ODI squad against Australia. Pant played good knocks in last two T20I appearances against Black Caps and that went a long way in his selection for ODIs as well. Now, the southpaw would look to continue his merry run in the format he relishes the most. If continues to cash in on his good form, he might find himself a spot in the ICC World Cup.
Pat Cummins is ranked no.1 in ICC Test rankings for bowlers. He has been in amazing form in red-ball cricket. But, his numbers in T20Is are also quite impressive. The lanky pacer has 23 wickets in 18 games and his economy is also under 7. The Aussie speedster has played very few matches in limited-overs cricket. But, now as World Cup is coming closer, he is likely to be part of the Australian team regularly. Cummins has pace, bounce, and ability to pick crucial wickets that makes him a dynamite bowler for the Kangaroos.
Marcus Stoinis, who recently won the Australia ODI Player of the Year award, is a great all-round option for Australia. He is someone, who puts his hands up in pressure-cooker situations and this attitude of his, makes him a big-match player. Be it bowling in slog-overs or batting well under pressure, Stoinis is a fine player. But his T20 numbers are bad and it is a format, he needs to leave his mark given the enormous potential that this 29-year-old cricketer possesses.
The end of a successful series always brings with it questions about where it stands on the rank of a team or a nation’s greatest wins. To put things in perspective, while it is only natural that Virat Kohli is going to be hounded about the stature of the Test series win in Australia, some balance has to be struck keeping in mind the expectations of a World Cup are far different from a Test series though ambition is common.
Undoubtedly Kohli has returned to India with a feather in his cap, having led his team to conquer down under for the first time in seven decades. Arguably the four Test series of Australia did not see Kohli as quite the same prolific batsman as he was in England, on the positive note, that the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara proved their mettle once more about the value of having a more subtle, ambitious, equally driven batsman in their ranks was a worthy lesson in itself.
India’s bowling over the past three decades or so has become a force to reckon with, although often caught in a situation alien to them or finding their efforts led down by the underperforming though extremely talented batsmen. In many ways, the tour of Australia highlighted India’s learning from the previous tours but also, from the tours undertaken under Kohli himself, particularly the tours of South Africa and England which revealed that having a plan was not enough and that Kohli and the support staff needed to come up with better answers on the go if they were to change history. To Kohli’s credit, India were generally on the mark and instead of being bogged down by the fact that they had a real opportunity against England only to squander it rather tragically by their inability to keep their finger on the pulse as it were, they improvised, hung in strong and were duly rewarded.
Naturally a rare overseas Test series win is bound to draw accolades as it has somewhat bizarre comparisons about a World Cup win. Kohli was part of the Indian team that lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup for only the second time in 2011. While both successes would have been enthralling for Kohli, it would have had their own significance, winning one as a young prodigious player set to take on the mantle vacated by Sachin Tendulkar at the end of that tournament in 2011 and then winning the other as India’s Test captain, a hat Kohli carries him with equal pride.
Perhaps the more challenging and interesting question to ask of Kohli in the forthcoming days is how that tour has shaped his own ambitions for himself and for the team and what is the benchmark India indeed to set for themselves in terms of what they think they can conquer and sustain. Keeping in mind, India did not always and still don’t have the answers, particularly when it comes to filling in some crucial roles such as the openers, it would be more interesting which way the weathervane turns for Kohli given that he has quite a few young players, not unlike him at one point, knocking eagerly at the doors of international cricket, which could make it an interesting and intriguing time for the team that will look to keep its eyes on the summit and also, look to blood in youngsters whom the team thinks can be groomed than persistent with the seasoned players who have not made much of the long end of the rope.
For some time there has never been any doubt that Ross Taylor is one of New Zealand’s greatest batsmen. Statistical confirmation came during the final ODI against Bangladesh when he went past Stephen Fleming’s record as the highest run getter in this format for New Zealand. And he reached the mark in fewer innings (203 to Fleming’s 269) with a much better average (48 to Fleming’s 32). And surely it is only a matter of time before he goes past Fleming and becomes the highest run getter for the country in Test cricket too. He needs just another 650 runs and has played 90 Tests to Fleming’s 111. He averages almost 46 to Fleming’s 40 and has hit 17 centuries to Fleming’s nine.
New Zealand have produced very few really great batsmen. The two pioneers Martin Donnelly and Charles Dempster can be straightaway placed in this category despite their limited appearances in Tests. Bert Sutcliffe the stalwart from the late 40s to the mid-60s was at his peak in the fifties acknowledged to be the finest left hander in the game. Then came Glenn Turner who was one of the hardest batsmen to dismiss in the 60s and 70s thanks to his impeccable technique and intense concentration. In the 80s and 90s even in an era of several great batsmen Martin Crowe was one of the stars and was considered to be New Zealand’s finest batsman ever.
New Zealand these days is doubly fortunate that they have not one but two outstanding batsmen in Taylor and Kane Williamson. Taylor who turns 35 next month was the first on the scene and by his brilliant strokeplay and his ability to excel in both Tests and ODIs was certainly the finest Kiwi batsman since Crowe. The appearance of Williamson has in no way dimmed the lustre over Taylor and the two in tandem have worked wonders for New Zealand’s batting.
Williamson of course has made giant strides and is considered to be one of the four best batsmen in the game today along with Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. It surely is only a matter of time before he goes past Taylor’s marks. In fact he is already the highest century maker for New Zealand with 19 ahead of Taylor and Crowe both on 17. With almost 6000 runs and an average of 51 after 70 Tests, he can lay claim to being his country’s finest ever batsman. But that is in the future. Right now it is Taylor’s moment to savour and the honour could not have come to a nicer person and one of the few gentleman cricketers around.
India all-rounder, Hardik Pandya has been ruled out of the limited overs series against Australia, which will be starting from February 24. It will be a two-match T20I series, followed by five One-dayers. It will be final series for the Men in Blue ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup beginning from May 30 in England and Wales.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has been named as Pandya’s replacement for the five-match ODI series. Notably, BCCI didn't name a replacement for the T20I series preceding the ODI series. Ravindra Jadeja wasn't there in the original Indian squad, which was named earlier.
BCCI announced, “Hardik Pandya ruled out of Australia’s tour of India due to lower back stiffness. Jadeja has been named a replacement for Hardik Pandya for the 5 ODIs.”
Pandya had returned to international cricket against New Zealand. He had made an instant impact there and again proved why he is such an important part of India's white-ball teams.
MS Dhoni had revealed his new hairdo few days back and now Virat Kohli has come out with a new look ahead of the T20 series against Australia. The Indian skipper shared a picture of his new hairstyle on social media, leading to praises from his fans.
Kohli is followed by millions across the globe and he is regular when it comes to sharing picture on social networking sites.
After a well deserving break during the limited-over series in New Zealand, Virat Kohli will be leading India in the T20 and ODI series against Australia.
Earlier, MS Dhoni paid a visit to his hairstylist Sapna Moti Bhavnani. She gave him a clean cut with short sides.
The former Indian skipper regained his lost touch in the ODI series in Australia winning Man of the Series award for his exceptional display with the willow. He scored three consecutive fifties which led India to its maiden bilateral ODI series win in Australia.
Rishabh Pant has been handed another chance by national selectors to book his place for the upcoming World Cup in England. He was preferred over Dinesh Karthik, who was shown the door despite some impressive performances over the last few months.
Opinions are still divided about the prospect of taking Pant to the World Cup in place of Karthik. The left hand batsman, however, is not convinced with the viewpoints of his critics and has blasted them for their takes on his batting style.
He stated that he is questioned when his flamboyant hitting doesn’t pay rich dividends but there are no takers when he is able to score heavily because of his style.
Pant further added that he knows how to perform in different conditions.
“I just focus on my processes. I don’t see whether I am doing well or badly. Because results obviously matter, but at the end of the day, your processes are important. Whatever processes have brought me here, I need to focus on that,” Pant told ESPNcricinfo.
“Formats make all the difference. If you are playing days cricket and get out trying to hit a six, everybody knows and says it is irresponsible. But when it comes off, nobody says anything. The percentage is what matters. If you are getting out in ten matches but are getting the results in nine of them, that is important. If my percentage of results is high, I only focus on my process,” Pant added.
Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi has lambasted Reliance for pulling out of the Pakistan Super League after Pulwama attack. When asked about broadcaster’s decision to stop sponsoring the league, he said, “You find out who your friends are at difficult times. What are they trying to show the world that they are educated? Educated people don't behave in such a manner.”
He even backed Imran Khan following his take on the gruesome terror attack in Kashmir.
“Without any proof they are putting all the blame onto Pakistan straight away. PM Imran Khan has once again spoken on this matter in a positive & clear way to explain that Pakistan wants to have good relations with not only India, but also Afghanistan, Iran & China,” Afridi was quoted as saying by a Pakistan journalist.
Gayle ended his six-month exile from the team by hitting 12 sixes in a knock of 135.
Gayle, beginning a lap-of-honor that will end with retirement after this summer's World Cup, was nearly caught when he was on just nine from 33 balls when he fended Liam Plunkett just over the grasping Roy at point.
Four balls later he struck his first six and began working through the gears, clattering four sixes from Plunkett's 14 balls at him.
Where Gayle's first 50 had occupied 76 balls, his second 50 required only 24. He celebrated the moment by dropping to his knees and hailing the pavilion before getting to his feet, balancing his maroon helmet on top of his bat.
He finally fell in the 47th over, turning a Ben Stokes slower ball into his stumps.
He surpassed Shahid Afridi's world record of most sixes across formats. The left hand batsman dispatched Moeen Ali for a hug six to take his tally 477 and went ahead of Afridi's tally of 476 sixes.
The Committee of Administrators (CoA) and the BCCI have not prepared any note seeking a ban on Pakistan from participating in the upcoming World in England.
“There is absolutely no constitutional or contractual way this could happen. The ICC constitution allows members the right to participate in ICC events as long as they’ve qualified,” a BCCI official told PTI.
According to a top BCCI official, even if a note is sent to governing body of international cricket regarding to restrict Pakistan from competing, India is likely to lose as member nations won’t support BCCI’s idea.
“In case India writes to ICC for Pakistan’s removal, then we have to build consensus first to move a resolution at it’s Annual Board Meeting in April. We no longer enjoy majority in the ICC board right now. If this goes for floor Test we are certain to lose,” he said. “Not only that, serious doubts will emerge on our chances to host 2021 Champions Trophy and 2023 World Cup,” he added.
Sunil Gavaskar has stated that India should play Pakistan in the World Cup and beat them rather than gifting two points.
Speaking to India Today, he completely differed from the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin and Harbhajan Singh, who feel Men in Blue should boycott Pakistan in the showpiece event.
According to him, dropping two points could hurt India in the World Cup.
"If India decide not to play Pakistan in the World Cup, who wins? Pakistan will get two points. We have beaten them every time in World Cups. We can play them and beat them and make sure they don't reach the semi-finals. Not playing bilateral series vs Pakistan hurts them.
"I know India are strong enough to qualify by not playing Pakistan. Not playing bilaterally hurts them. But it's a World Cup, it's two points...," Gavaskar said.
He further added that banning Pakistan from the event is not possible.
"It will not happen because the other countries have to agree. India can certainly go ahead but that is not likely to happen.
"The right forum is at the United Nations. I am not too sure the International Cricket Conference is the right forum to bring this up. We are all down with the tragedy. I am not too sure it will work because the other countries might say it's an internal issue between two countries so please don't involve us," Gavaskar said.
Very few people know that Australian cricketer, Usman Khawaja is also a qualified pilot. He has also got his degree and license to fly airplanes. So, Australia's Test no.3 has his plans sorted after retirement from cricket. Khawaja learned this art at the University of New South Wales - School of Aviation. And, he flew Airbus A380 - the world's largest passenger aircraft - recently, to showcase that he might have turned into a professional cricketer but he has not forgotten how to fly airplanes.
Take a look at the video released by Cricket.com.au:
"I travelled a lot as a kid. My dad worked in Saudi Arabia for about 5-6 years, so I use to travel back and forth to see them and then come back here to play cricket. I just grew a fascination with planes. As I was coming towards the end, year 11-12, I thought 'what about flying'. I found UNSW (University of New South Wales - School of Aviation), which offered both a degree to make my mother happy and get my licence to get my wings," Usman Khawaja told cricket.com.au.
"I think flying helped me a lot in terms of cricket. Probably the biggest way was discipline and keeping up with the learning, making sure you are on top of any changes that has happened. There are a lot of things that go hand in hand between flying and especially playing Test cricket. The discipline part of flying and discipline of being a sportsman, especially being a cricketer and being a batsman, I think there are a lot of similarities," added the Australian cricketer.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who is a Test specialist for India, made an unbeaten 61-ball 100 for Saurashtra in the Group C encounter of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 against Railways at Indore. The 31 years old has been in red-hot form of late. This was Pujara’s maiden T20 century. Before this knock, he had failed to convert his six-fifty-plus scores into a century. But that wasn't the case today.
Opening the batting for Saurashtra, Pujara hit 14 fours and a six to score his century and led his side to a competitive total of 188/3.
Pujara completed his first 50 runs in 29 balls, while his second fifty came off 32 deliveries. He also became the first player to score a Twenty20 century for Saurashtra. Now, only Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal and Pujara have scores of 300 in First-class, 150 in List-A, and a century in T20 cricket, when it comes to Indian domestic tournaments.
Two of Formula One's three races in North America are facing financial issues that are raising concern about their future.
Organizers of the U.S. Grand Prix won't be reimbursed at least $20 million from the state of Texas for the 2018 race after missing a paperwork deadline set by law. And new questions lurk about the future of the Mexican Grand Prix after the country's new president suggested the government may not spend on the race like it has the last four years.
Both races have been popular with drivers and fans, and enjoy key dates on the F1 calendar. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched season championships in Texas in 2015 and in Mexico City in 2017 and 2018.
Officials in Formula One and at the Circuit of the Americas, host of the U.S. Grand Prix, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Both races get huge government financial support.
The U.S. Grand Prix has reaped about $150 million since 2012 from Texas' Major Events Reimbursement Program, which is controlled by Gov. Greg Abbott's office. That money has been considered critical to paying F1's annual rights fee to host the race. In 2015, track President Bobby Epstein said a $5 million reduction that year could have jeopardized the future of the race, but it has survived.
Officials at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin have known for months the 2018 money wasn't coming. Track officials were informed in an Oct. 8 letter — 11 days before the U.S. Grand Prix — that race organizers would not get money from the fund because they had missed a state-mandated deadline to submit an anti-human trafficking plan 30 days before the event. That plan wasn't submitted until Oct. 3 and a previous letter of temporary approval was rescinded.
Two months later, track President Bobby Epstein contributed $50,000 to Gov. Greg Abbott, who had just won re-election.
The state requires major events that apply to the fund to have anti-human trafficking plans in part to help combat spikes in prostitution. The missed deadline and lost money were first reported Wednesday by the Austin American-Statesman . Abbott's office provided a copy of the letter to the AP.
Epstein didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Abbott spokesman John Wittman said the state had no choice but to withhold the money.
Any future damage to the U.S. Grand Prix is yet to be measured and could still be mitigated. Wittman said the state is already working with race organizers to plan for the 2019 race. Formula One has it on the calendar for Nov. 3 with no suggestion it could be wiped out. The F1 season starts March 17 at the Australian Grand Prix.
"The State of Texas and COTA have a productive partnership that has had a tremendous economic impact on the city of Austin and the state as a whole, and our office is already working with COTA on next year's race," Wittman said.
The 2019 Mexican Grand Prix will be the final race in a five-year contract, with the Mexican government providing about $213 million in the five years. Formula One returned to Mexico City after a 23-year absence and the race has drawn huge crowds each of the past four years and twice crowned Hamilton as champion.
But Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said this week that government financial support for the race could be reduced or vanish as money is directed to other projects, such as a 1,000-mile railway.
"If it does not imply money, I will endorse it. But I*m a little penny pincher in these cases. I don't know how are the Formula 1 contracts, but if they are not signed already we can't do it. In many cases they were paid by the tourism fund and now those funds are going to be used for the Maya train."
Racing Point driver Sergio Perez, the only Mexican driver in F1, said he doesn't want to lose a race that can showcase his country. This season's Mexican Grand Prix is Oct. 27.
"It does not look good, but I wish we can have some good news later, I think it*s important for our country to keep it," Perez told Motorsport , noting the massive crowds the last four years.
"There are a lot of countries that want to host a Grand Prix, and once you lose your spot it*s very hard to get it back. It cost us so much to get it, and if we lose it now it's probably the end and we might have to wait 30 or 50 years to get it back. It would be a shame to lose it."
Atletico Madrid's vaunted center-back pairing finally got the better of Cristiano Ronaldo, even providing the goals after holding their long-time rival scoreless for once.
In a match where Atletico had more trouble with video review than Ronaldo, the Spanish team kept the Portugal star in check but had to overcome two key VAR decisions to defeat Juventus 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League's round of 16.
Central defenders Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin scored late to give Atletico the win, after the hosts had a penalty kick taken away and a goal disallowed by VAR.
Ronaldo, jeered nearly every time he touched the ball, had a quiet performance in his first match in the Spanish capital since leaving Real Madrid last summer. He came close to scoring with a booming shot from a free kick less than 10 minutes into the match, but had few opportunities after that.
Heavily marked from the start, Ronaldo wasn't able to add to his good record against the old rival, which he helped eliminate in four straight seasons in the Champions League while playing for Real Madrid.
Atletico had a first-half penalty reversed by VAR after it determined that Diego Costa was fouled outside the area, and the referee also consulted video replays on the pitchside monitor before disallowing a second-half goal by Alvaro Morata for a push on Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini.
"We hope the VAR keeps improving and helping make things right, but do you really believe that a person who is 1.87-meters tall can fall that way in a game action like the one with Morata?" said Simeone, who celebrated his team's first goal with an obscene gesture and could face UEFA sanctions.
The hosts dominated after an even first half at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, and both Costa and Antoine Griezmann missed clear scoring chances before Gimenez found the net after getting to a loose ball inside the area in the 78th and Godin added to the lead with an angled volley in the 83rd after defenders failed to fully clear a free kick cross by Griezmann. The shot seemed to take a slight deflection off Ronaldo, who was the closest player to Godin but wasn't able to block the effort.
"Luckily we were able to overcome the calls that went against us with the VAR," Godin said. "It was a great result, scoring twice and not conceding, but we will have to be prepared for the final 90 minutes in Turin."
Ronaldo was loudly booed when his name was announced before the match, and he drew even louder jeers from the Atletico crowd when he prompted the game to be interrupted because he remained on the ground after getting his foot stepped on later in the first half.
Ronaldo almost scored when his long-range free kick forced Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak to make a difficult save in the ninth minute. He had another attempt with a deflected shot a few minutes later, but didn't come close to the Atletico goal again until a late header sailed over the crossbar.
"Ronaldo played a good match, he is used to this type of match," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "The entire team had a letdown in the second half. It's a lesson we need to learn going into the return match."
Ronaldo had not played in Madrid since joining Juventus in a blockbuster transfer at the end of last season. He had played with Real Madrid for nearly a decade, leading the Spanish powerhouse to four Champions League titles in five seasons, including in the last three.
Entering Wednesday's match, Ronaldo had scored 22 goals in 31 matches against Atletico in all competitions. In the Champions League, he helped Madrid beat Atletico in two finals (2014 and 2016), one quarterfinal (2015) and one semifinal (2017). He had scored four goals in six Champions League games against the city rival.
Atletico Madrid is back in the round of 16 after failing to make it out of the group stage last season.
Ferrari's early dominance in Formula One preseason testing has caught Lewis Hamilton's attention.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have been among the fastest drivers in the first week of testing in Spain, with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas unable to keep pace.
Daniil Kvyat, back in F1 after a one-year absence, was the fastest in his Toro Rosso on the third of four test days at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit on Wednesday, ahead of former Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, now with Alfa Romeo. Daniel Ricciardo was third with Renault, ahead of Vettel.
"Ferrari are very, very strong right now," said Hamilton, who was 12th fastest, just behind Bottas. "As you have seen, they are racking up great mileage as well and it appears that they have a better package than they had last year, which means it is going to be even more of a challenge for us this year."
Hamilton won his fifth world title last year, beating Vettel and Raikkonen in the drivers' championship.
"Ferrari always looks particularly strong, for the last few years they have looked very strong, so that is to be expected," Hamilton said. "For us, we are just going about our process and trying to understand, so everyone is working incredibly hard."
He said it's too early to be overly concerned with the rival's performance.
"It's not a time when we need to focus on others, we let everyone else do their thing and really dig deep and focus on making sure our processes are better than ever before, that we are analyzing the data better than ever before and that from a driver's point of view the feedback is more accurate than ever before," Hamilton said. "That is what we are trying to focus on and making sure we get through our run plans."
There was some concern that Mercedes may lose ground this year because it didn't do as well as Ferrari with the design of the new front wings, which are part of regulation changes for this upcoming season. Red Bull, which also is using a similar front-wing design to Mercedes, had Max Verstappen fifth-quickest after 109 laps on Wednesday.
Kvyat's time of 1 minute, 17.704 seconds was the fastest of the week. Raikkonen ran the most laps with 138, one more than Kvyat, and four more than Vettel.
Williams finally made it to the track after missing the first two days of testing because of delays with its 2019 car. Rookie George Russell managed only 23 laps and was the slowest driver of the day.
"It's embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years," Williams team principal Claire Williams said. "We can only apologize."
There were three red flags on Wednesday, all prompted by problems with Haas cars.
Testing will continue through Thursday and then again from Feb. 26-March 1 at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The season-opening Australian GP is on March 17.
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