Feature Cricket

Australia’s Choices Defy Logic...

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 12 February, 2019, 4:40 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Langer was simply biding his time before giving Saker the boot
  • Ponting has been announced as assistant coach for the ICC Cricket World Cup
  • Ricky Ponting may have to first contend with a potential conflict of interest scenario

Fuelling the speculation that Justin Langer, the current Australian coach, had wanted David Saker out of the support staff long before the latter resigned, Australia have made some bizarre appointments while being at the doorstep of the World Cup.

There was perhaps a catch to Cricket Australia announcing former captain, Ricky Ponting, as an assistant coach to Justin Langer for Australia’s campaign heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England as defending champions and five time winners. Ponting is after all the Australian captain who took Australia thrice to the final and to a trophy on two occasions. It stands to merit that Australia made this decision in the interests of the team and in a timely fashion at that, going into the World Cup’s final preparations with tours against India and Pakistan.

However, there seemed to be a deliberate timing to the events because not shortly before the announcement of Ponting joining Langer as part of Australia’s support staff in time for the ICC Cricket World Cup, David Saker turned in a quiet, unceremonious resignation that ironically spoke rather loud.

That Nathan Lyon, considered Australia’s best spinner at the moment, claimed to have no knowledge about the now former bowling coach and assistant coach resigning with immediate effect, it says a lot about the manner in which Australian cricket is operating at the moment. Those with an inkling seemed to suggest that Langer was simply biding his time before giving Saker the boot. To that end, it seemed convenient that Langer spoke about being in discussion with Saker about the decision for more than six months. Was the feud with the bowlers and difference of opinion the straw that was used to break the camel’s back as it were. Is there more than what meets the eye or is this merely a case of putting two and two together and making five?

There is another corollary to Saker’s exit following what he himself admitted to being a heated debate and discussion with the bowlers as India faced Australia on the field during the Test series. Whether it was the players’ fallout or the current coach’s wishes to appoint someone else for the job and the differences coming at a rather convenient time to roll out the changes, h w does Australia explain the fact that while Ponting has been announced as assistant coach for the ICC Cricket World Cup, Saker’s replacement, Troy Cooley, has only been appointed for the limited overs tours of India and Pakistan?

Does this mean Cooley is on trial and if things go south, Australia will pick another bowling coach appointment on the brink of the World Cup or is Cooley going to be the stop gap replacement as many suggest until Langer decides the time is right for him to ring in the changes of his choice?

In the meantime, Ricky Ponting may have to first contend with a potential conflict of interest scenario given that his proximity with one of the franchises of the Indian Premier League for 2019, the newly named Delhi team, could put him at odds given that there are likely to be worries that Ponting’s position gives me an inside track on some of India’s promising players in line to make the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup. That is something neither Delhi nor the IPL officials would have perhaps contemplated unless Ponting accepted the role with Cricket Australia after due intimation and blessing.

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News Cricket

Ross Taylor announces his retirement plans

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 4:49 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

IPL started the trend of franchise-based T20 leagues around the world. These leagues are lucrative and one can make a big sum of money in a short period of time. But Kiwi veteran, Ross Taylor doesn't find these T20 leagues too alluring. Many players have hung up their boots from international cricket so that they can actively participate in cash-rich T20 leagues across the globe. But Taylor is not going to go that way.

“I don’t think I will retire earlier from international cricket just to go and do the T20 circuit because I love playing for New Zealand,” Taylor was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times.

“Playing for a different franchise every month is not something that appeals to me as much as playing in front of family and friends here in New Zealand.”

The 34 years old also revealed that he has no plans of taking retirement anytime soon and has a lot of things on his mind that he wants to achieve.

The right-hander said, “The day you are satisfied is the day you need to retire. There are still things I would like to achieve. I joke a little bit that I am old because I am the oldest in this team. But I still feel young and have still got a few years to contribute to New Zealand cricket. I love playing for my country and I feel I can still get better as a player. The day I don’t feel that I will have to retire. I want to score a few more runs and wins, and give my best.”

The 90-Test-old also made clear that Test cricket is high on his priority list besides naming few things that he is keenly looking forward to in the coming times.

“Test cricket is still high on my priorities. I would like to play 100 Tests. New Zealand hasn’t played a Boxing Day Test in Australia since the 1980s, so there are quite a few things I would like to hang around for. At the same time, you don’t want to do just that and want to be playing an active role in the team. I still have a desire to go on, so no date or timeframe yet,” said Taylor.

News Cricket

Matthew Hayden takes a pot shot at Sehwag, says never take Aussie’s for a joke

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 4:33 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Virender Sehwag is known for his humor and spot on replies on social networking sites. The former Indian opener, in a new TV commercial, has turned babysitter ahead of Australia's tour of India.

The new commercial featuring Sehwag is hilarious. In an advertisement for Star Sports, he is seen with kids wearing Australian jerseys.

"Jab hum Australia gaye the, toh unhone poocha tha babysitting karoge? Humne kahaa sabke sab aajaao. Zaroor karenge."

This didn't go down well with the former Aussie cricketer Matthew Hayden, who took to twitter to register his protest.

“BeWarned Never take Aussie's for a joke Viru Boy @virendersehwag @StarSportsIndia Just remember who's baby sitting the #WorldCup trophy,” Hayden tweeted ahead of the series.

During one of the Test matches, Paine had asked Pant if he would like to babysit his kids while he is out with Mrs. Paine. After few days, when Team India went to meet the Australian Prime Minister, Pant was pictured with Paine’s wife and kids and she captioned the photo 'Best Babysitter.'

During the last Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Bharat Army even dedicated a song to Babysitter Pant.

News Cricket

Kumar Sangakkara makes a big statement on Virat Kohli’s greatness

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 4:17 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Virat Kohli is rewriting record books in international cricket. The Indian skipper led India to maiden Test series win in Australia and even defeated the hosts in one-day internationals. He was not finished with this and scripted Men in Blue’s triumph in one day internationals in New Zealand.

He won all the major ICC awards and was the best player across formats in 2018. Following Virat’s sublime form, Kumar Sangakkara has lauded the Indian skipper and claimed he is destined for greatness.

"Everything about Virat's game stands out. I think he is head and shoulders above anyone else in world cricket today," Sangakkara told a news channel.

"And I think going forward, he will be one of the greatest ever cricketers, if not the greatest ever," he added.

He is mighty impressed with the way Virat has amassed runs in Tests and limited overs cricket without changing his basic game.

"He has this incredible knack of scoring runs and has a very, very solid method that he believes in..." said the former Sri Lanka captain.

"If you see the tempo which he bats with, it hardly changes. He does read the situation very well.

"He is a very passionate guy, you see that in his expressions on the field... it's the overall aspect of both the person and how he has sorted his batting and his attitude."

News Cricket

Cheteshwar Pujara targets Sachin Tendulkar, points out to his slow batting

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 4:01 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Indian batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara had a great Test tour Down Under. He was leading run-scorer in the four-match Test series between Australia and India with 521 runs. He smashed three centuries and shunned up all his critics in style. There have been question marks over his slow batting in Tests but he put all the criticism to bed with his run-spree that was perhaps the difference between the two sides in the Australia Test series.

India's Test no.3, Pujara pointed out Sachin Tendulkar to justify his batting style. “Obviously Tendulkar was a different player, he liked to dominate, but there have been other players who have played Test cricket the way it has been played. Even Tendulkar, when the situation demanded, has scored just 50 runs in 150 balls, so there is nothing wrong in that. You just need to understand what situation you are playing in and bat accordingly."

Pujara also reflected on the fact that his batting has found great acceptance ever since the Australia Test series. He said he always kept believing in his abilities than worrying about the talks regarding his intent and strike-rate.

“People have realized what’s required to perform well in Test cricket. People started appreciating the way I was batting, not just the Indian team management.Everyone has realized that there are different methods of playing this format. And because of white ball cricket, there’ve been players who’ve been playing many shots … they’ve been very aggressive. I still respect that. When talk about intent and strike rate was going on, I just kept believing in myself, in my ability. I actually don’t get worried about what people are saying. Sometimes you just need to do the right thing for the team,” said Pujara.

News Cricket

Star Aussie bowler to make comeback against Pakistan

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 3:27 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Star Aussie bowler is hopeful of making a return to international cricket for the for the ODI series against Pakistan in March. Mitchell Starc sustained the injury during the second Test against Sri Lanka was told to take couple of weeks rest to attain full fitness.

He will miss the upcoming T20 and ODI series against India.

"The UAE is around the 15th of March so if all goes to plan I should be pretty sweet to be available for that one," Starc told cricket.com.au. "Obviously the boys go to India, hopefully it's a good tour for them there. I don't think I'll be ready for any stage of that. So it's up to the rehab group and the selectors and see how the rest of this summer goes."

Australia will play two T20 internationals and five ODI matches against Men in Blue. The five-match ODI series against Pakistan will start from 22 March.

News Cricket

Yuvraj Singh loses his cool, comes up with a tweet

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 2:58 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

After Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh also took to Twitter to lambast those who attacked Amit Bhandari and even demanded justice for the former Indian cricketer.

The head of senior selection committee of Delhi was hit with hockey sticks and rods by unidentified men at the St Stephen’s Ground. He was assisting the trials of the U-23 team for the upcoming Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

“I’ve given my statement to the police. I’ve given them the reason of selection and the names (of attackers) as well,” said Amit Bhandari.

Virender Sehwag was furious with what happened with his former teammate.

“The attack on Delhi selector Amit Bhandari for not picking a player is a new low and I am hopeful that stringent action will be taken against the culprit and adequate measures will be taken to avoid such incidents.”

In response to Viru's tweet, Yuvraj wrote: “Absolutely agree with Viru! This kind of inhuman act can never be tolerated. Strict action needs be taken against all the culprits involved, wishing Amit Bhandari a speedy recovery.”

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News Cricket

Harbhajan names his Indian squad for World Cup, springs a couple of surprises

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 2:31 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Harbhajan Singh, who is quite active on social media these days, has named his Indian squad for the World Cup. Speaking for Sports Tak, the off-spinner, brought in Umesh Yadav while leaving Rishabh Pant out in favor of Dinesh Karthik. The left hand batsman was not part of the ODI series against Australia and New Zealand but was among runs in the three-match T20 series in New Zealand.

He included Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja in his team for the showpiece event. Bhajji, who was part of the World Cup winning team in 2011, has named Mohammed Shami in the squad after his impressive performance in Australia and New Zealand.

Harbhajan’s 15-man squad for the 2019 ICC World Cup: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav and Vijay Shankar.

News Cricket

KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane to make ODI return?

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 2:07 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • Ajinkya Rahane is the front-runner to stage another ODI comeback
  • Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal could be rested
  • Virat Kohli will lead India against the visitors

Keeping the hectic schedule in mind, the national selectors are expected to rest senior players like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan from the upcoming ODI series against Australia. KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane are likely to be recalled.

Virat Kohli, who was rested from the last two ODIs and T20 internationals against New Zealand, will lead India against the visitors.

In Rohit's absence, Ajinkya Rahane is the front-runner to stage another ODI comeback, as per reports in The Hindu.

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal could be rested considering their workload in international arena. Jasprit Bumrah, who was rested from the ODI series against Australia and the entire New Zealand tour, is expected to lead the attack in absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, the two pacers who could be rested.

News Cricket

MS Dhoni on the verge of breaking world record

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 1:46 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

MS Dhoni has hit the right notes in the ongoing year. From a dismissal performance in 2018 to three consecutive fifties in the ODI series against Australia, the former skipper has turned around his questionable form. Dhoni has accomplished a lot in his career and holds several record to his name.

He is on the verge of breaking Mark Boucher's world record of most international matches as wicket-keeper. The former South African stumper has got 596 caps to his name while MS Dhoni has represented India in 594 matches.

He needs just three more international matches to surpass Boucher.

They are followed by Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara with 499 while Adam Gilchrist comes fourth with 485.

India will take on Australia in the T20 and ODI series.

The two teams will play 2 T20Is and 5 ODIs, beginning February 24.

News Cricket

Harbhajan Singh names three players who must play in Australia ODIs

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 12:50 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • India will play home series against Australia
  • It will comprise of two T20Is and five ODIs
  • Bhajji feels the Men in Blue should rest some senior players and try out youngsters

Now, the Men in Blue have only seven games before the commencement of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. India will play home series against Australia, which will comprise of two T20Is and five ODIs. India will look to fine-tune their team ahead of the all-important ICC megaevent that takes place every four years. According to Indian off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, India should rest some senior players and try out youngsters in the five-match ODI series against Australia.

In an interview with India Today, Harbhajan Singh said, "I don't think you need to put the best 11-13 players in play because they had a very long tour of Australia and New Zealand. If they are asked to play in India, it might be too much for their body and then there is IPL also. So it will be good if the senior players can be rested as much as possible.

"This can be taken a chance for players like Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal and similarly you can see Siddarth Kaul and Mayank Markande, these young players can be given a chance and the pool should be expanded. If the pool is large, more and more players will come.

"Don't think only about the World Cup but there has to be cricket after that too and a look should be given to people who will play after that and those should be looked at. Some senior players should be rested and some young players should get the opportunity in India vs Australia series and it should be a mix-and-match," Harbhajan said.

News Cricket

Warne puts his weight behind Pandya and Rahul, terms the outrage on KWK saga "ridiculous"

Harshit Anand Updated: 12 February, 2019, 12:30 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • Warne feels these days its all about being politically correct
  • KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya were called back from the tour of Australia
  • They made controversial remarks on Koffee With Karan

Australian cricket legend, Shane Warne has defended Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s comments on TV entertainment show ‘Koffee With Karan’ and termed the outrage in aftermath of the show as "ridiculous." Warne feels these days its all about being politically correct but people want to see the real side of the sportspersons than their over the top diplomatic behavior.

KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya were called back from the tour of Australia after their controversial comments on the TV talk show, which is hosted by famous Bollywood director, Karan Johar.

“Good lord. As I said, it’s all about political correctness these days. If a player steps out of line, everybody has an opinion and I thought that this particular thing was ridiculous. Just let them be,” said Warne to Times of India.

“We live in a world that’s increasingly becoming politically correct. And what we want to see from sportspersons is them being real. We want to see their emotions, see them playing with freedom, expressing themselves. We don’t want to see them conforming. For instance, most player interviews these days go like this: Question: Well, that was a fantastic result today. How do you feel? Answer: Well, it was a great team effort. Everybody played well and did their part. I’m just trying my best and happy to contribute to the team – That’s what everyone says. Guys have to get more real,” the legendary Aussie spinner added.

News Cricket

Nothing wrong with being gay: Joe Root tells Shannon Gabriel during verbal duel

Staff Writer Updated: 12 February, 2019, 12:20 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • Joe Root scored a century as England manhandled a depleted West Indies attack to lead the dead rubber
  • Root was 111 not out, reaching his first half-century and century in eight innings
  • The English skipper was involved in a verbal duel with Windies pacer Shannon Gabriel

Joe Root scored a century as England manhandled a depleted West Indies attack to lead the dead rubber third test by 448 runs after three days on Monday.

England, 123 runs up on the first innings, cruised from 19 without loss at the start of the day to 325-4 at stumps.

Root was 111 not out, reaching his first half-century and century in eight innings, with the West Indies already having won the series 2-0.

Beside Root was Ben Stokes, on 29 not out.

The English skipper was involved in a verbal duel with Windies pacer Shannon Gabriel. He was heard saying “There is nothing wrong with being gay.”

Gabriel was warned about using abusive language by the on-field umpires following his verbal slugfest with Joe Root.

Root was clearly not happy and was seen answering back to Gabriel who may have said something not pleasing to him. The West Indies pacer was constantly targeting Root.

The stump microphone clearly picked Joe Root’s words but Gabriel comments were not heard. Root refused to elaborate on the issue after day’s play.

"Sometimes people say things on the field that they might regret, but they should stay on the field," said Root.

"It’s Test cricket and he's an emotional guy trying to do everything he can to win a Test match. He's a good guy who plays hard cricket and is proud to be in the position he is. The battle was a good contest, he's had a wonderful series and he should be proud," he added.

News Cricket

Shane Warne reveals what makes Virat Kohli so charming

Harshit Anand Updated: 12 February, 2019, 11:51 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • Warne is a big fan of Indian skipper Virat Kohli
  • Kohli is the best batsman across formats at present
  • Shane Warne feels Virat's honesty and openness is refreshing to see

Indian cricket captain, Virat Kohli wears his heart on his sleeves. He doesn't shy away from expressing his feelings and emotions on the field of cricket. He is passionate to the core and that is a major way for him to bring the best out of himself. There is different level of intensity and fire in Virat, which arguably makes him the greatest batsman of the current generation.

In an interview with the Times of India, Australian legend, Shane Warne admitted that he loves watching Kohli bat and is a big fan of him.

Warne said, “He's fantastic. I love watching him bat and I love listening to him. I am a big fan. You know what he does? He stands up for what he believes in. He speaks how he feels and he's real. He's emotional, a bit too emotional sometimes on the field. But that's the part of the charm.”

He added, “I think world cricket loves him. Everyone loves Virat Kohli because it's refreshing to hearing him talk so honestly and openly. He loves confrontation. That's why he has those 100s in chases. How many, 23, 24? The next best is how much? I can't remember who's second. That's something inbuilt into you. That's not skill or talent. He's got a lot of that. That is just pure competitiveness and pure desire - to get the job done.”

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Feature F1

Hendrick sends statement with sweep to open Daytona

AP Updated: 12 February, 2019, 11:27 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

  • He moved personnel and split up seven-time NASCAR Cup champions Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus
  • Hendrick organization is using NASCAR's biggest stage to show how serious the boss is about rebounding from 2018
  • Hendrick still has his folksy Southern charm, still longs for those simpler days of racing

Rick Hendrick was telling the truth when he insisted this year was going to be much improved from last season, the worst in team history.

He moved personnel and split up seven-time NASCAR Cup champions Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. He had a Navy SEAL deliver an inspirational speech to all of Hendrick Motorsports, met with all four of his teams and held luncheons and team-building events.

When he sent his teams to Daytona for the 36th time, he sent them to win.

Message delivered.

Hendrick horsepower routed the competition in qualifying for the Daytona 500 with a 1-2-3-4 sweep for Chevrolet. A few hours later, Johnson finally won a race after none last season.

Hendrick Motorsports is now 2-for-2 at Speedweeks with the front row for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 and Johnson's victory in the exhibition Clash. The proud Hendrick organization is using NASCAR's biggest stage to show how serious the boss is about rebounding from 2018, when Johnson was winless for the first time in his career, Alex Bowman and William Byron had forgettable first seasons, and Chase Elliott's three late victories were among the few bright spots.

"Last year sucked. I ain't gonna do that no more," Hendrick told The Associated Press just one week before his cars left North Carolina for Daytona.

If this was a sequel to "Days of Thunder," with Randy Quaid again playing a version of Hendrick, the car owner might guarantee a Daytona 500 victory. Hendrick, after all, is from a romantic time in NASCAR when a car salesman from Virginia could scrape together the money to enter the Daytona 500 and turn a fledgling little Chevrolet team into one of the most valuable properties in sports. He still believes that with hard work and the right people, a team can step back and admire a glistening race car, confident that girl is a winner.

Hendrick still has his folksy Southern charm, still longs for those simpler days of racing, still wants to arrive in Daytona knowing his cars are the very best in the field.

So consider Sunday the first day in a new era at Hendrick Motorsports, where William Byron and Alex Bowman gave NASCAR its youngest front row in Daytona 500 history by qualifying first and second. Byron recently turned 21 and begins his second season with Knaus, who split with Johnson after 17 years.

Knaus made a statement in 2002 when he and Johnson debuted at Daytona and won the pole in their first race together. He opened this chapter of his career the same way: winning the pole with Byron in their first race together at the Daytona 500.

It was the fifth consecutive year a Hendrick car has won the pole for the Daytona 500 and it was the 700th pole for Chevrolet, the only partner Hendrick has had in racing. As Hendrick last season worked through a massive personnel consolidation, Chevrolet struggled with its NASCAR introduction of the Camaro and won just four of 36 Cup races.

Rolling off the trucks as the four fastest cars for the Daytona 500 was an important message for the carmaker and its flagship team.

"Well, you know, Chevrolet has been awfully good to me," Hendrick said. "That was my first dealership. It's all I've ever raced. It's all my dad ever raced. That bowtie, we're bowtie-proud. What a great day for Chevrolet, our organization, and these drivers. I'm really proud."

And that was before Johnson bulldozed his way into victory lane.

Johnson is tired of losing and tired of social media trolls telling him he should retire. He also was under mounting pressure from his youngest daughter, who had prayed every night for Daddy to win again.

Johnson's opportunity came as a race-ending rainstorm descended on Daytona International Speedway. It was time to go, and his aggressive pass on Paul Menard triggered a 16-car wreck in a field of 20. It was what he had to do to win an exhibition race worth little more than a trophy, and he was unremorseful as he watched video replays that showed him causing the crash.

Johnson for a year has insisted he can still win a record eighth championship, and now he must do it with first-year Cup crew chief Kevin Meendering. Just as Knaus used qualifying to prove he's motivated in his new role, Johnson used the Clash to prove he's got a lot of fight left in him.

The best car rarely wins the Daytona 500. And the racing formula for the showcase race is unlike the remainder of the NASCAR schedule, in which a completely different rules package will be used to determine the champion.

These season-opening wins at Daytona are morale victories, nothing more. But it's exactly what Hendrick needed for his team to show it will be better this year.