Plenty of excellent batsmen are playing their last Cricket World Cup.
Hashim Amla. Shikhar Dhawan. MS Dhoni. JP Duminy. Mohammad Hafeez. Shoaib Malik. Shaun Marsh. Shakib Al Hasan. Ross Taylor.
None, however, will be as missed as Chris Gayle.
Some of those others have more trophies, some more runs, even more wickets, and some have more match-winning knocks, but none make a stadium shake like Gayle.
When Gayle appears in his 35th and last World Cup match on Thursday in Leeds, for West Indies against Afghanistan, cricket followers won't be watching to see him nudge the ball around to keep the fielders busy. They want to see the self-proclaimed great live up to his self-styled hype and hit sixes. Smear the bowlers to every boundary, and soaring over those, too. They want to see balls rainbowing into stands of dancing and singing fans.
Nobody hits sixes like Gayle. He can make it look he's chipping from just off the green. He doesn't even have to middle the ball with his planks of willow stamped with "The Boss" on them. They still fly far.
In one of his great one-day international innings, a 42-ball 80 in 2009 at Kensington Oval, one of his sixes went up the pavilion stairs and into the England changing room. Fetch that.
Back in Bridgetown again, against England again, in February, he launched the white ball out of the stadium five times, all of them last seen heading toward the docks. In the second match, also at Kensington Oval, another six cleared the roof from a mere paddle sweep of Moeen Ali. At Gros Islet, he sent a Chris Woakes delivery on to the pavilion roof. He splattered a record 39 sixes in that series, averaged 106, and ensured he was coming to England for a fifth World Cup.
To hit 39 at age 39 made him happy, and not surprised. Hitting sixes, he said at the time, "just comes naturally."
"If it's one thing about me, my mindset is that even when I'm 60 I still think I can do it. I feel that when I reach age 60, I can still go up against the best bowlers in the world and still score runs. That's how I feel. That mindset will never change; it's just the body that is the worrying part for me."
In the history of ODIs, only the retired Shahid Afridi has more sixes, 351 to Gayle's 326. Then again, Afridi played 101 more matches, and he didn't face the new ball and fresh bowlers like Gayle has. Nobody else active is even close to them. Rohit Sharma has 230 sixes, Eoin Morgan 211, Jos Buttler 125.
Gayle has a dozen sixes at this World Cup, his second best tally. He hit 16 alone in one match at the 2015 World Cup, in a then-record 215 score against Zimbabwe in Canberra.
He started here in style with consecutive sixes back over pacer Hasan Ali's head in a 34-ball 50 against Pakistan.
Gayle was unlucky against Australia, being limited to 21 runs. He creamed Pat Cummins for three consecutive boundaries, then was lbw to Mitchell Starc. But it should have been a free hit. Starc no-balled the delivery beforehand but it was missed.
Gayle sent a six back over Woakes and made Jofra Archer get out of the way in 36 against England.
Bangladesh gave him the second duck of his World Cup career, 16 years after it gave him the first.
Then there was the New Zealand game at Old Trafford. He flicked consecutive sixes off Matt Henry, was dropped three times, then lashed consecutive sixes off Mitchell Santner 20 rows up into the stands. The party ended, until Carlos Brathwaite came alive, when Gayle was out trying to hit another six but top-edged a slower ball.
He added a couple more sixes in 35 against Sri Lanka, but this World Cup hasn't been vintage for him. Gayle has looked all of his 39 1/2 years on the slow, sticky pitches of England. The grey flecks in his dreadlocks and beard have looked greyer while he has dealt with back and groin issues. His showmanship while fielding has appeared to try and hide his inability to expertly cover his patch of grass.
West Indies accepted his cautious starts long ago, rightly believing he can quickly make up for the string of dot balls with power shots. He often appears rooted to the crease, hardly moving his feet, and yet the ball still finds itself buried in excited crowds. Two half-centuries in seven innings show he hasn't quite clicked like the rest of the batting lineup.
To hear his coaches and teammates, it doesn't affect him. He accepts his time is nearly up but lives in the present, sure he can smother any bowler. He's proud of his achievements — this year passing 10,000 ODI runs, and 1,000 in World Cups — and wants to make the crowd happy. The likes of captain Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, and Nicholas Pooran have praised his willingness to pass on advice, and the depth of it. They say his relaxed demeanor calms nerves in the changing room.
Venus Williams, who also happens to be 39, once said the joy of winning is fleeting, but addictive. She added she wouldn't forgive herself if she quit playing tennis while she had more left in her.
Back in February, Gayle said the ODI series against England was his last at home, and this World Cup would be his ODI swansong. But last week he changed his mind. He wants to play the three ODIs when India tour in August, and maybe a test match for the first time in five years. The second and last test just happens to be in his Kingston hometown.
Gayle can barely walk. But he can definitely still hit.
He danced on the wicket. He did cartwheels. He escaped the clutches of not one, not two, not three but four flailing members of security.
A streaker wearing nothing but a green hat ran onto the field during a high-stakes match at the Cricket World Cup between host England and New Zealand and provided around five minutes of entertainment that had a packed crowd roaring with laughter.
Stewards and security were extremely slow to react as the spectator halted play by jogging toward the middle of the field and dancing about in front of New Zealand batters Tom Latham and Mitchell Santner. He then set off on a gentle run, weaved around security staff as they attempted to stop him, before he was brought to the ground and a coat placed around his midriff.
With the crowd cheering inside the quaint Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street, northern England, the streaker briefly broke free from four members of security who had a hold of him — their attempts to stop him resembled rugby players missing tackles — and ran back toward the middle.
He was stopped for a second time and led away. The sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council, later said he had been arrested.
England fans had another reason to smile — their team won by 119 runs and advanced to the semifinals.
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur is not happy with India's poor performance against world's no.2 ODI side England. England had defeated India by 31 runs at Edgbaston on Sunday. Had India won that game, it would have boosted Pakistan's chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup. Now, they will depend on how England fares against New Zealand apart from their own game against Bangladesh.
Mickey Arthur said that, "How they (India) played, again that's the issue which we can't control. Obviously, I was following the game intently and was disappointed that India did not get up because that would have opened the door for us.
"Now all we want is to get to Friday with a real opportunity and our destiny in our own hands," Arthur said. "I just hope New Zealand get it done for us," he added.
Australia and India are the only teams so far which have qualified for the World Cup semi-finals. Teams like England, New Zealand and Pakistan are still in contention to qualify for the final four of the ICC's marquee event.
Rohit Sharma has been the show stealer in the World Cup for India. He is in fact, the highest run-getter in the World Cup so far with 544 runs in seven innings to his credit. Rohit has made four centuries and a fifty. He made his 26th ODI century against Bangladesh at Edgbaston.
Now, he has equaled the record for the highest number of (four) centuries in a single edition of the World Cup. Rohit now has five centuries in World Cup and is one ton away from equalling Sachin's overall record of most (six) centuries in the World Cup.
Indian skipper, Virat Kohli hailed India's vice-captain Rohit Sharma as the best ODI batsman in the world. "I have been watching it for years now. He's (Rohit) the best One-day player around and we are so delighted to see him. When he plays like that, everybody is happy to see him strike this so well," Kohli said.
Virat Kohli is the no.1 ranked ODI and Test batsman of the world. But, he has failed to convert even of his fifties into a hundred so far in the ongoing World Cup. But, he has five fifties to his credit.
When they landed in England for the World Cup the Indian team was a semifinalist in the list of the vast majority of cricket fans. Their No 2 ranking, their recent form and the balanced team personnel made an entry into the last four almost a certainty. Now that they have made sure of that berth it is time to look back at the campaign and also look forward and assess their chances of going a couple of steps further and lifting the trophy for a third time.
Both Australia and India who occupy the first two spots in the points table are likely to finish first and second what with the former set to play South Africa in their last game and India up against Sri Lanka in their final encounter. India are certainly deserving of second place for they have played cricket of a high order despite the fact that they faced injury problems that can affect the balance of any side. The No 4 slot and the middle order did present headaches but Rishabh Pant might have solved the first problem and it is to be hoped that MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya will take care of the latter in the remaining matches. However the top order of Lokesh Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will continue to remain the fulcrum with the captain and his deputy looking unstoppable.
The bowling is another reason why India’s progress has been smooth. The pace attack has come out with flying colours despite having to bowl on pitches that have generally favoured batsmen and Hardik Pandya has given admirable support as an additional seam bowler besides of course doing more than his bit with the bat. Jasprit Bumrah has easily been the pick of the lot but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are not far behind. The spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal has not performed up to expectations with the former being particularly off colour. Perhaps it is time to bring in Ravindra Jadeja.Looking ahead it is just a question of two good games in the knock out but of course that goes for all the four teams making the grade. Interestingly the only match Australia has lost so far has been to India but the defending champions are peaking at the right time so they should be the team to beat irrespective of which of the three contenders - Pakistan, England and New Zealand - fill up the last two places.
MS Dhoni's snail-paced batting can be questioned. But his absolute dedication for the country remains unquestionable and undebatable Now, his picture of spitting blood during the game against England is going viral.
Notably, he was going through pain while batting against England at Edgbaston on Sunday. Dhoni had taken a hit on his thumb twice in the game, first while wicket-keeping and then again while he was batting in the middle.
Fans on Twitter are also praising Dhoni for his dedication.
It was a match where Dhoni's slow-batting got him severely criticized. He had made 42 runs off 31 balls but most importantly, he didn't go for the big shots in the last 31 deliveries when the team needed 71 runs. He and Jadhav added 39 runs off the final 31 balls and were questioned by social media users and cricket pundits, at large.
The days when cricketers would shield their teams from a looming retirement so as to not shake their composure are almost gone. These days, for some high profile cricketers, the decisions about retirement involve more than just their will to play.
Very few players around the world can boast of the luxury of choosing their own swansong. What was once the privilege of the old guard is no longer true for the current generations. Even former captains such as Sourav Ganguly recently touched once more upon the fact that even during the tumultuous period under Greg Chappell’s captaincy when he was dropped, he believed he had a few good years left in him but was forced into retirement.
The retirement agenda in the Indian cricket team has been raised once more over the concern about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s less than flamboyant batting thus far in the few opportunities that have come his way in England in the course of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The alarm bells have been ringing for a while. But they were brought to the fore even by former cricketers and critics alike as India seemed to playing a different game when the former Indian captain and current wicketkeeper is batting and when the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli play.
This dichotomy has caused a puzzling dilemma as well as speculation about Dhoni’s impending retirement, yet unannounced in the public sphere. While rumours are rife that Dhoni is on his last legs as far as playing for India are concerned - rumours that gather storm in an event such as the ICC Cricket World Cup several such have been proven wrong in the past.
Sachin Tendulkar himself stayed on after India’s second victory at the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy in 2011. As baffling as it was, the realization of a childhood dream would not be his swansong. Dhoni himself has dodged the bullet several times when as much as after the same triumphant World Cup, as India struggled to come to terms in Test cricket, Dhoni won the battle against a selection panel and continued to stay on in Test cricket as a captain even when there was conjecture that Dhoni had lost the penchant for playing the long game.
While it seems sometimes a case of giving an illustrious cricketer the privilege to choose when he bows out, there is, also, sometimes the case of such cricketers clutching at straws, continuing to believe they are still indispensable to the team. This is not to say Dhoni is past his best. But that he has not fired in the vintage manner in which the world has come to know him has raised some cause for concern as well as leading people to believe that a retirement announcement is being held back so as not to create a farewell circus party around England instead of keeping the focus on the job at hand – winning a third world cup trophy for India.
However, matters are not as easy for high profile players with a prominent face in the limelight. With endorsements, sponsorships and also, part ownership of other teams in other sports leagues at stake, the players continue to be in reckoning more often when they are playing than when they have retired. Prior commitments on the dotted line cannot, also, be ruled out as possibilities for players to sometimes choose uncanny ways to hang up their boots.
There have question marks in regards to India's Test opener Mayank Agarwal's selection in the 2019 World Cup. He replaced injured all-rounder, Vijay Shankar in the ICC's mega event. It is being said that the Indian team management insisted on Mayank Agarwal's selection and the selectors had no choice than agree with team management's directive.
Mayank Agarwal was nowhere close to India's ODI selection in the sense that top-order players like Ajinkya Rahane and Shubman Gill were tried in the lead up to the World Cup ahead of him. Sources told IANS that, “The team management had made it clear that they wanted Mayank as replacement for the injured Shankar. There was no question of the selectors debating that,” the source said.
“If you see the record he had during the one-day series against the ‘A’ teams, you will see that he scored 287 runs in four innings with two hundreds. Not to forget his 151 against Leicestershire in the warm-up game. That series was also played in June and July and the general thought is that he is versatile and can adapt well,” the source pointed.
Mayank also provides the option to bat in the middle-order. He has proven his credentials batting in middle-overs in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab.
Sri Lankan cricket is going through a turmoil at the moment. They failed to qualify for the final four of the World Cup. They were once a force to reckon with when players like Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene were at their pomp. But, now they are struggling big time.
Former Sri Lankan captain, Mahela Jayawardene feels that youngster Avishka Fernando can help revive cricket in Sri Lanka.
"It has been a tough couple of years for Sri Lanka but we have learned our lessons," Jayawardene wrote in a column for the International Cricket Council (ICC).
"It is important that we plan around a group of players who will be there for the next four years and I think Avishka has shown he has to be a big part of that."
"He will take a lot of confidence from this and he has now proven to himself that he can go on and do it on the international stage," added Jayawardene.
"I thought he might start the tournament but the selectors understandably went with experience. But as this tournament has progressed, it's been clear we have needed a spark. And there it is."
Rishabh Pant had to bear the brunt of Virat Kohli's anger because of his poor fielding against Bangladesh. His throwing technique was also not upto the mark and India's fielding coach R Sridhar wants Pant to be more athletic in the outfield.
He admitted that Pant is still a work in progress.
"A lot of work has to go into him (Pant). First of all, he needs to improve his technique in throwing and also needs to be a little more athletic to be an outfielder," he said.
Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are taking deep interest in Pant’s fielding abilities.
"We have to use him inappropriate (fielding) positions, that is what Virat and MS are keen on. Keep him at the right places at the right time. In the last game (vs England), he saved at least five runs which is a huge bonus. He took a catch as well," he added.
According to R Sridhar, Dinesh Karthik is a better fielder than Rishabh Pant.
"Obviously, Dinesh despite being a wicketkeeper is a good outfielder. He pulls off some good saves at backward point. Rishabh is developing and he needs to do this a bit more to develop the awareness, to get a hang of it. That's why we harp about getting fielders in same positions so that they get an idea."
Two-time champion India survived a late scare to secure its place in the semifinals at the Cricket World Cup with a 28-run win over Bangladesh, which was eliminated from playoff contention.
India won the toss at Edgbaston and reached 314-9, with opener Rohit Sharma scoring a 92-ball 104 — his record-tying fourth century of the tournament.
Sharma and Lokesh Rahul shared the highest opening stand for this tournament of 180.
Sharma's ton matched Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara's record of centuries at a single World Cup in 2015.
Rohit Sharma reached his record-matching fourth century of the Cricket World Cup before falling to Soumya Souma in the next over as India continued to dominate Bangladesh.
Sharma made the century mark in 90 balls by taking a single. That pitted him against Soumya Sarkar and he was caught by Liton Das after a mis-hit drive with India on 180-1 in the 30th over.
Sharma hit seven fours and five sixes in his 92-ball 104.
Sharma scored 122 not out against South Africa, 140 against archrival Pakistan, and 102 on Sunday against England. The only other batsman to hit four centuries in a World Cup is Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara in 2015.
Sachin Tendulkar praised Rohit Sharma for his classy innings.
"Rohit was playing chess with Bangladesh. he knew where they were going to bowl to him," Sachin Tendulkar told India Today.
"Catches win you matches - you cannot drop someone like Rohit. He has consistently proven that if he is not feeling too great at the start of his innings, that's when you can get him out.
"The way Rohit Sharma has batted in this tournament... Everyone needs luck from time to time. He understands his batting, when to pace himself and when to rotate the strike. He is a smarter player than he was a couple of years ago. He is more matured and understands his game much better now," he added.
Hyderabad batsman, Ambati Rayudu has announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket. This move comes after he was overlooked twice from getting a call-up in India's squad for the ongoing World Cup. Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar were replaced by Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal in India's WC squad.
Despite being named as one of the standby players for the World Cup, Rayudu didn't get a look in the side. He was also not named in the original WC squad as all-rounder, Vijay Shankar was preferred over him for his three-dimensional skills.
In the 50 ODI innings that the right-hander played, Rayudu scored 1,694 runs at an average of 47.05. He hit three centuries and 10 fifties and has a strike rate of 79.04. In the five T20Is, he scored 42 runs at an average of 10.50.
Cricket transcends boundaries of age, sex, caste, religion and what not. It's such a beautiful sport that those watching it are ready to go miles as such is the joy it exudes for its viewers.
In yesterday's game of India, which took place against Bangladesh at Edgbaston, an elderly lady as old as 87, who has been identified as Charulata Patel came cheering for the Men in Blue and caught everyone's attention. It so such an amazing sight that someone as old as her came cheering for the team.
Players were so touched by her presence that Indian skipper and vice-captain, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma went to meet her after India defeated Bangladesh by 28 runs to ensure a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Twitter was also engrossed by her presence in the stands. Take a look at how Twitter reacted:
India, champions in 1983 and 2011, has 13 points, one behind leader Australia, and plays Sri Lanka in its final game at Headingley on Saturday.
Sharma and Lokesh Rahul shared the highest opening stand for this tournament of 180. But Bangladesh struck back to reduce India to 237-4 when Mustafizur's double-wicket maiden claimed Virat Kohli on 26 and Hardik Pandya for a two-ball duck.
Sharma's ton matched Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara's record of centuries at a single World Cup in 2015. After he was out, Rahul went shortly afterward for 77, also in 92 deliveries.
Rishabh Pant added a 41-ball 48.
Mustafizur dismissed Mohammed Shami on the last ball of the innings to finish with a five-for. Shakib, the top-ranked ODI allrounder, took 1-41 in 10 overs and then top-scored in Bangladesh's reply.
Bangladesh had proved it can reel in large totals, pulling off the second highest successful run chase in tournament history — 322 — to beat the West Indies by seven wickets with eight overs left. But the Indian bowlers provided tougher opposition and pacer Jasprit Bumrah mopped up with wickets in the 48th over, the last of the match.
"Whenever I practice in the nets, I practice each and every situation, be it with the new ball, be it with the old ball, bowling at the death," said Bumrah, who bowled four batsmen. "So if I've ticked all of the boxes in the net, so in the match it's all about execution and keeping a clear head."
It worked as Bumrah ended on 4-55 and Pandya took 3-60.
India is through but Bumrah does not want to be rested against Sri Lanka.
"This is my first World Cup, so I want to play as many games as possible. I don't think I've become an experienced player that I could say I don't want to play some games," Bumrah said. "I always look forward to playing, and the more number of matches you play, you enjoy more."
Top-ranked ODI allrounder Shakib Al Hasan has reached 500 runs overall at this World Cup, the first time by a Bangladeshi at a single World Cup.
Only three other batters have reached the 500 mark, India opener Rohit Sharma (544) in this match, and Australia openers David Warner (516) and Aaron Finch (504).
He also became the first cricketer in the history of the ICC World Cup to score 500 plus runs and also claim more than 10 wickets in a single edition of the showpiece event.
Earlier, Two-time champion India survived a late scare to secure its place in the semifinals at the Cricket World Cup with a 28-run win over Bangladesh, which was eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday.
India won the toss at Edgbaston and reached 314-9, with opener Rohit Sharma scoring a 92-ball 104 — his record-tying fourth century of the tournament. Seamer Mustafizur Rahman took 5-59.
Bangladesh was 286 all out in reply with Shakib Al Hasan again providing the main resistance with a 74-ball 66 including six fours.
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