Dubbed as the successor to Rahul Dravid, Cheteshwar Pujara had big boots to fill at no.3 position. But after playing 102 Test innings, he is averaging 50.71 with 15 centuries, which certainly isn’t bad by any means. Since his debut, the gritty right-hander has turned out to be one of the pillars of Indian batting. Pujara is a typical old-school Test batsman. He bases his game on virtues of patience, a solid defensive technique, and a temperament, par excellence. In an era, where flamboyance trumps everything, Pujara is an image of meditation on the 22 yards.
His brilliant century in the ongoing Southampton Test ensured that India didn’t lose the hard-earned momentum in a game that can decide the fate of the series.
Today, we will take a look at five best Test innings by Cheteshwar Pujara:
This is perhaps one of the most important centuries of Pujara’s Test career. After back-to-back poor away tours of New Zealand, England, and Australia, Pujara was dropped from the off-Test against Bangladesh in 2015. He was part of the squad for the subsequent tour of Sri Lanka but couldn’t find a place in the XI until the series decider in Colombo.
In this do-or-die match, Pujara was asked to open. And he made his comeback innings memorable by grinding an unbeaten 145 off 289 deliveries. It was a seaming deck and none of the top seven batsmen from India could even touch 30 run-mark barring Pujara. He led India to a very decent first innings total and after that what happened is history. India registered their first Test series win in Sri Lanka in 22 years. Pujara was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.
Pujara had a terrible County season in lead up to this ongoing Test series between England and India. He was even dropped from the playing XI in the first Test at Lord’s. But cometh the fourth Test at Rose Bowl and Indian no.3 is the man of the moment with a brilliant 132. That’s the quality of the man. India were in a commanding position at one stage with 142 runs on board at the loss of two wickets. But very soon it turned into 195 for 8 and India’s hopes to stay in the series started evaporating. But Pujara along with the tail ensured India didn’t end up with a deficit and instead got the visitors a decent lead of 27 runs. It is perhaps the best of Pujara’s centuries given his travails outside Asia and India’s position in the series.
After a heavy defeat in the series opener, India was on back foot in Bangalore, when second innings started. India had a deficit of 87 runs on a pitch that had plenty for bowlers. It was a sort of wicket where a batsman never quite feels comfortable even after getting set. Pujara scored a remarkable 92, the highest individual score of the match. He deserved to reach the three figures but it wasn’t meant to be. Still given the context of the match and series, and also the quality of Australian bowling, it’s a knock that Pujara would cherish for a long-time.
The third test match at Ranchi was nicely set-up after India made a roaring comeback in the second Test following a massive defeat in the first. Australia had made a mammoth first innings total of 451. But Pujara’s double-ton ensured India got over Australia’s first innings total. In fact, India got a very big lead of 152 runs. Pujara’s vigil at the crease lasted 525 deliveries and was a fair reflection of his unbreakable concentration, solid application, and brilliant temperament.
This was another classic Pujara knock. The Saurashtra batsman could only manage 50 runs but it was worth more than that given the unplayable nature of the Wanderers pitch, which was deemed as dangerous by many cricket experts. Also, South Africa’s fiery pace battery comprising of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Lungi Ngidi made batting even more difficult for the visitors. Apart from Pujara, only Kohli and Amla could reach the fifty run-mark in the game. Pujara faced 261 deliveries for this resilient 50 run-knock. India went on to win the game.
Virat Kohli, the Indian skipper, has welcomed back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman with a heartfelt message. The Indian IAF officer was in Pakistan’s custody after his jet was hit during aerial battle with Pakistan’s Air Force.
Virat took to Facebook and wrote: “Real Hero. I bow down to you. Jai Hind.”
Abhinandan was expected to arrive at 17:00 hours but due to some paper work and judicial intervention, his return was delayed by few hours.
A PIL was filed in one of the courts of Pakistan to prevent the government from releasing Indian IAF officer but it was rejected, paving the way for Abhinandan’s return to India.
Virat Kohli has always stood up for the security forces of the country.
Meanwhile, he is all set to lead India in the first ODI against Australia, which will be played in Hyderabad.
He has stated that the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League will have no bearing on the selection of the World Cup squad.
Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri and chief selector, MSK Prasad had opined that India can shift Virat Kohli to no.4 if the circumstances demand so in the upcoming 2019 Cricket World Cup that commences from May 30 in England and Wales.
Indian ODI team greatly depend on their top three- Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. India’s top three form the backbone of the side. There is a view that slotting your best three together can backfire and make the side vulnerable on a challenging track, so it is better to separate the top three, thereby making Kohli bat at 4. It also makes the middle-order stronger.
Kohli revealed whether he would bat no.4 or not. “If that’s the requirement of the team at a particular stage in the game or before a particular game, I am more than happy to do it,” Kohli said ahead of the Hyderabad ODI.
He added, “I have batted a lot of time at No. 4 and so I don’t necessarily need to try it out because I have done that a lot in the past. My game doesn’t change much from No. 3 to No. 4 because the template is quite similar and in any given situation I back myself to play the game that I know. If a team wants it at any stage, I’m more than happy to do it.”
Virat Kohli has clearly stated that his team will play to win the ODI series against Australia and they will not experiment at the cost of winning the series.
Men in Blue recently lost the T20 series, their first defeat in India after a gap of almost four years.
The hosts went in with new combinations to test the bench strength before finalizing the World Cup squad.
"We are playing to win the series or else I'll leave the ball to hit the stumps," he said.
"As I said earlier, if we want to see how a few guys play in a certain situation, we'll play them again in that situation. It's not like if a guy is not playing in a certain situation, he doesn't have the ability," he added.
He further added that India couldn’t win the T20 series as Australia were a better side.
"We could not win the T20 series because in the first match, we didn't play good cricket and in the second match, Australia played better than us. I think it's important you understand why we lost.
"From outside, it's easy to say, they don't have the heart to play. We always want to win games for India. If we only had to experiment, we would have got out for 50 as everybody would have got out trying to hit sixes.
"If you see it negatively, you'll only be able to extract negative things but if you look at it positively, you'll be able to take positive things, he concluded.
This question has been doing the rounds all over social media for the last six months: Will Dhoni's presence cost India the World Cup?
It keeps popping up every time MS Dhoni fails to make an impact with the bat and especially when his strike-rate is on the lower side. His strike-rate, in fact, has become a matter of national debate. That along with Dhoni’s waning finishing powers has raised doubts about his presence in the current Indian middle-order. While Dhoni has played a few good knocks in the recent past – he was Man of the Series in the ODIs in Australia recently – but he has struggled on more than one occasion to get things going and slowed down the pace of things in the middle.
Indian cricket fans are now genuinely concerned that in a crucial tournament like the World Cup, Dhoni’s ultra-slow approach along with his inability to move things along in the middle overs might cost India dear.
Dhoni’s slow approach might cost India dear
To put things in perspective: since January 2018, Dhoni’s strike-rate is 75.14 and he has only hit 6 sixes and 33 fours in the same period. Over the years it has been evident that the Dhoni of old, where he would bludgeon sixes at will and take any bowler apart, no longer exists. He takes his time to get settled, is a scratchy starter against swing bowlers and spinners and generally consumes a generous number of deliveries before he gets into rhythm. Sometimes he is able to pay off by making it up in the end but there are times when, even while chasing a target, he struggles and that makes things complicated for the team. What is adding to the pressure is the coming of Rishabh Pant – the young wicket-keeper who is a hard-hitting and impactful batsman. He has the potential to be a game-changer and has that X-Factor with him. But as Dhoni has taken up a slot in the middle, Pant is finding it hard to be slotted inside the ODI eleven. Can India afford to ignore a valuable batsman like Pant in such a precious tournament just to play Dhoni instead?
Virat Kohli and the team management have made it clear that they are going to back Dhoni completely and are looking at him to hold the middle order together and guide the team in the middle overs during the World Cup. But the concern still remains – What if Dhoni botches up in some crucial game at the World Cup and costs India a game? Are India willing to take that risk?
The upcoming World Cup will be the last one that MS Dhoni will feature in. It is almost certain that legendary Indian cricketer will bid the game adieu after the tournament. One hopes that he is able to bring out the best in him and go out in style. His legacy deserves that.
Apart from Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller, the rest of the batting line is anybody’s pick. In that light, can South Africa afford to bench Hashim Amla for the one final series before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019?
One would have thought South Africa would tread more cautiously after the stunning Test series loss at home to Sri Lanka. As Sri Lanka walked away with rare, unexpected honours, South Africa were left pondering several questions including the caliber of their unsettled middle order, albeit in Test cricket. But a glance across to their one day squad, and there are not too many comforting answers there either.
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, is outclassed only by Hashim Amla who boasts of a formidable reputation in a team that has increasingly seen the depletion of experience over the years through the retirements of former captain, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, the latter making the surprise announcement in the course of last year’s Indian Premier League. Although the notion has floated that come the hour, South Africa may press upon AB to reconsider his retirement, at the moment, South Africa are in search-and-seek mode.
Apart from the skipper, Quinton de Kock, the wicketkeeper-batsman, who has entrenched himself and David Miller who now finds a more regular place in the vacant gaps left behind, there is little by weight of experience to back up South Africa. While the reputation of the quartet is not in question, the South African batting line looks far less formidable without a more regular, established list of players regularly showing up. That South Africa are still looking to fill the potential gaps this late into the run up to the World Cup is evident in how they have chopped and changed teams between the one day international series against Pakistan and now Sri Lanka.
While the bowling line up is looking promising with the return of Dale Steyn, the old warhorse, and Lungi Ngidi, unless the team is backed up by enough batsmen in form, South Africa’s usual contenders as favourites to the World Cup is looking a little shaky even if the captain and the coach, Ottis Gibson, have gone to great lengths to reassure that it is not the case.
While Cricket South Africa explained that leaving Hashim Amla out was not a case of dropping the player, and that Jean Paul Duminy could come into the mix in the latter half of the series against Sri Lanka, with the rest of the South African batting line up in such flux, one would have thought with this being the last leg of the run up to the prestigious event where South Africa have stumbled from feeling jinxed to being ramrod stiff to their own detriment, they would play a mock up of having a near full strength team and thereby, judge where to plug the leaks to ensure the boat does not sink.
That they are using the gap left by Amla’s brief absence to still find the answers to one of the many questions tells quite the story of where South Africa really stand when it comes to their ambitions of lifting the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy for the first time. The usually consistent, formidable line up and reputation that follow South Africa to the world cups only to beat a humiliating retreat is currently not even in sight.
The trailer is over, now it is time for the main event. However entertaining and closely fought the two T-20 internationals were there is little doubt that the series of five ODIs between India and Australia commencing at Hyderabad on Saturday is much more important. Any contest between these two teams has its share of drama and excitement but what gives this series an added edge is the fact that it is the last major fixture for both teams before the mega event – the World Cup that starts in England on May 30.
Don’t go by the rankings which have India at No 2 and Australia at No 6. This is going to be a keen contest with every game potentially being a last over finish and the series itself could well go down to the wire. Even a cursory glance at the team personnel will unveil that both sides have strokeplaying batsmen and big hitters, able utility men and accurate and incisive bowlers – all ingredients that virtually assure a sparkling contest.
From the Indian viewpoint the series will be doubly important for the fringe players. While the nucleus of the World Cup side is very much in place, there are also a couple of players who might make the cut while a couple of others might just miss out. A good performance during the series could just about see them make the trip to England for the showpiece event.
Ideally the Indian team should consist of seven batsmen (including the wicketkeeper), two utility players, two spinners and four fast bowlers. But if one of the utility players can double up as an additional seam bowler then three fast bowlers should suffice. The seven batsmen should normally be Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant. The fact that Dinesh Karthik is not in the squad to play Australia puts him at a disadvantage and he could only get in now provided Rahul is a failure.
Automatic choice for the two spinners should be Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Hardik Pandya is certain as a utility player and it remains to be seen whether the selectors will want to fit in one or both Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav in this category too. The three fast bowlers surely should be Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The fringe players would appear to be besides Karthik, Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia too have their share of certainties and fringe players and will hope that they have a settled side for the World Cup by the time the series ends. In the meantime however it is time for high voltage action over the next two weeks.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli has stated that performances in the Indian Premier League will have no influence on the selection of Men in Blue's World Cup squad.
With most of the slots already been locked, India will look to fill in the few remaining berths during the five-match ODI series against Australia.
Speaking to media on the eve of first ODI match between India and Australia, Virat ruled out the possibility of IPL impacting World Cup selection process.
“No, I don’t see the IPL having any influence on World Cup selection. I think that will be very, very radical sort of analysis.”
Talks have been going on regarding a possible show down between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik for the second wicket-keeper’s slot, but Kohli insisted one bad IPL will not influence the selection of any World Cup bound player.
“We need to have a solid team. Before we head into the IPL, we need to be absolutely clear of what team we want for the World Cup. I don’t see anything changing on how the IPL goes for any of the players.”
He further added: “If one or two players do not have a good IPL season, it doesn't mean that they are out of the picture for the World Cup. Those things are not going to matter.”
West Indies and England are involved in a five-match ODI series at present. England are leading the series by 2-1 after four ODIs. But Windies have punched above their weight and are competing hard with world's no.1 ranked ICC ODI side. They have given the Poms a run for their money in the ODIs after defeating them in the Test series.
Former England captain, Michael Vaughan feels the no.9 ranked ODI side, West Indies can surprise people with their impactful performance in ICC's showpiece event that begins from May 30 in England and Wales.
“I’ve got a feeling this West Indies side will shock a few people at the World Cup. They’ve got three players to come in: Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Evin Lewis. West Indies are a side who will shock a few people at this World Cup. They’ve got serious power,” Vaughan said on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan show.
‘England have got everything required to win the World Cup except for these moments of madness. The India side around the time they won the 2011 World Cup didn’t have the day England had in Barbados on Friday. The Australia side that won in 2015 lost the odd game but they didn’t have moments like England do on a consistent basis,” Vaughan added.
Virat Kohli has hailed KL Rahul for his performance in the T20 series against Australia. The right hand batsman was in top groove after making a comeback to the Indian side.
Rahul was asked to open in both the innings and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. His fifty plus score in the first game gave Men in Blue an outside chance to win the game while his aggressive knock in the second and final match of the series was laced with breathtaking strokes.
Virat is backing him to be a part of the World Cup squad.
"It augurs really well. KL, when he plays well, is operating at a different level I feel. We have seen him do that in the IPL last year and in patches over the last season we played as a team."
"It's very difficult to find a consistent player, who can play good cricketing shots and still win you games at a strike-rate of over 140 or 150. He has all the shots and has a solid game as well.
"It will be interesting to see what happens in the final World Cup squad. Definitely, he has made a strong case for himself. It's good he's in great nick and hopefully he can carry it forward."
Under fire Navjot Singh Sidhu has once again courted controversy when he hailed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's move to release Indian Air Force Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. His untimely praise did not go down well with the Indian fans, who lambasted him for his remark.
Sidhu took to Twitter and wrote: “@ImranKhanPTI Every noble act makes a way for itself… your goodwill gesture is ‘a cup of joy’ for a billion people, a nation rejoices… I am overjoyed for his parents and loved ones.”
Here’s how he was ridiculed by Indian fans:
Earlier, he had defended Pakistan after Pulwama terror attack. “For a handful of people, can you blame the entire nation and can you blame an individual? It (the attack) is a cowardly act and I condemn it firmly. Violence is always condemnable and those who did it must be punished”.
Virat Kohli was linked up with several beauties before getting hitched to famous Bollywood actress, Anushka Sharma. Actress Tamannaah Bhatia was one of those with whom Virat was linked up. She has finally opened up on her alleged affair with the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli.
Tamannaah Bhatia said, “I think we spoke four words during the ad film, that’s it. After that, I’ve never met or spoken to Virat. But, I must say he was better than most of the actors we work with. And it was quite intimidating.”
Tamannaah and Virat had shot a television commercial back in 2012 and their link-up rumors started doing the rounds from there onwards.
Kohli married Anushka Sharma in last month of 2017. They are often spotted holidaying in exotic locations and keep sharing their lovey-dovey pictures on social media.
Murali Vijay has fallen behind in the pecking order after his ordinary batting performance in Australia. He expressed his satisfaction with the way young Indian openers have performed in his place but he insisted he isn't feeling threatened by them.
He was considered as one of India's best opening batsmen outside the sub-continent but his fortunes took a complete U-turn since India went to South Africa, which was followed by England and Australia.
Vijay was hurt after being axed from the team for the Melbourne Test as he was expecting to be part of that match.
"I expected to play the Test. In fact, I was sure I would play the Test. I had batted well in the second innings of the second Test at Perth. I felt I was only one innings away from form," Vijay told The Hindu.
He added: "I feel hurt that I am not a part a part of the Indian team. I am not disappointed. But really hurt."
"People don't know or understand me. I don't see myself competing or feeling threatened by the newcomers. Two years back, I said Prithvi Shaw would play for the country. I am happy for them.
"I have scored nearly 4000 Test runs for the country, I must be pretty good to have done that. I have made runs in difficult conditions, in England and Australia. And I came through a period when Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were there. I don't feel intimidated by the competition."
Former Indian skipper MS Dhoni sustained an injury on his right forearm while taking throwdowns from support staff member Raghavendra.
He was involved in a long batting season ahead of the first ODI against Australia in Hyderabad and was taking throwdowns after facing bowlers in the nets.
One of the throws from Raghavendra kicked up and hit Dhoni on the right forearm.
Dhoni was in pain and didn’t bat after that in order to give some rest to his injured forearm.
A final call on his participation in the first ODI between India and Australia will be taken by the evening.
If he is ruled out of the first match, Rishabh Pant will don the wicketkeeping gloves.
Mumbai Indians have trolled Rohit Sharma in an epic away. The Mumbai based franchise found someone who bettered Rohit Sharma’s record score of 264 runs in one-day internationals.
Rizvi Springfield's teenager Abhinav Singh recently scored 266 runs during his side's thumping victory on Day 1 of MI Inter-School tournament.
Rohit Sharma's world record total had come against Sri Lanka in 2014. The right hand batsman started off slowly but he turned the tables after setting his eyes in. His knock was laced with 33 fours and 9 sixes and riding on his 264 runs off 173 balls, India won the game by 153 runs.
Rohit played in the first T20 against Australia but was dismissed cheaply. Men in Blue went on to lose that game. He was replaced by Shikhar Dhawan for the second game, which resulted in another defeat for the hosts.
The Indian vice-captain is now all set to take on the Aussies in the five-match ODI series.
Indian Air Force wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman is returning to his country after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan confirmed his release from their custody. He was arrested by the Pakistan Army after his jet was shot down in the neighboring country.
Abhinandan’s release order was welcomed by Indians, who thanked the government of Pakistan for their peace gesture.
Manpreet Singh Gony, who had represented Indian in ODIs, took to Twitter to show his support for the IAF pilot and requested the Pakistan army to return the Indian Air Force wing commander and take away Indian new anchors in a swap deal.
He further wrote that the army in Pakistan is free to do anything with the anchors.
“Dear Pakistani army, return Wing Commander Abhinandan and take our news anchors, pretty much all of them. Do whatever you want to do with them and more importantly never return them to us #JaiHind #AbhinandanVartaman,” Manpreet Singh Gony wrote this on twitter.
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