It may seem ironic and at the same time, easy to overlook that India lost the Twenty20 series to New Zealand in light of the fact that the tour down under has been, for the most part, a resounding success.
Indeed India’s tour of Australia was an unprecedented success, particularly in the arena of Test cricket as India vanquished the hosts 2-1 in the four Test series. That India’s overseas Test series win in Australia came after seven decades of touring the Southern Hemisphere nation speaks for itself. It was certainly a sparkling feather in Virat Kohli’s cap and poignant that this win came on the soil where he first took over the captaincy officially from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2014 in the context of Test cricket.
Arriving in New Zealand on the back of the rather rigourous, emotionally high tour of Australia for the limited overs series, even as New Zealand presented themselves as World Cup ready, India proved to be an easier ride for the first half of the tour anyway with regard to the one day internationals. Midway through, however, India appeared to have lost their edge and perhaps their steam without some of their more regular players on show. Although the series was much closer than just by going by the score line, the truth of the matter is that New Zealand were exposed as being not quite ready yet for the robust battles for the World Cup. And given the fact that India boast of Twenty20’s greatest platform of commercial value, the Indian Premier League, on paper anyway, it is a little bit worrisome to think India went off the rails a little bit when they should have hammered in the final nail in the coffin.
It is easy to dismiss the loss in the Twenty20 series as something that came on the back of a huge tour and followed the stupendous Test series win, it speaks to something of being professional as well as being diligent, as well as somewhat perhaps rudderless without their premier batsman and captain, Virat Kohli, who was rested and eventually returned home. Given the amount of Twenty20 that the Indian cricketers play and given the fact that the formats have seen different composition of players, it is hard to attribute the attritional effect of a long, heavily contested tour to relatively fresh faced players for whom this format is presently their bread and butter.
It is, also, easy to shove this loss aside as a one-off and immaterial in the context of the phenomenally heavy Test cricket season that is on its way out and the ICC Cricket World Cup that is increasingly looming large. However, given the amount of time teams get to play these tours and series against varying opponents, and some of these players who do not play all formats are relegated to the IPL in the absence of international commitments, with a packed schedule, the next World Twenty20 is not that far around the corner. Despite the tremendous tour, India must keep their eye on their victories as well as their defeats, even if they appear narrow and/or presently inconsequential.
It is not an uncommon scenario around the world when the tour gets to the end, that teams treat some matches and tourneys almost like dead rubber events. But for teams looking to scale the top and stay there, every match gains significant learning experience if not consistency of wins.
Babar Azam has been compared with Virat Kohli on number of occasions. There is no doubt he is one of the most improved players and is scoring runs across formats but he has a lot to achieve to even come close to Virat.
Babar Azam has turned down all comparisons with the Indian legend. In a session ahead of the Pakistan Super League, he praised the Indian captain for his superlative performance in international cricket.
“Whenever you hear, people compare me with Virat Kohli. I think he is a very big player, I am not even close to him. I have just started while he has achieved a lot. I have to achieve and if I perform like that you can compare but not now,” he said.
Indian middle-order batsman, Dinesh Karthik courted controversy in the T20I series-decider against New Zealand when he denied an easy single to all-rounder, Krunal Pandya on the third ball of the final over of India's chase of 213 runs.
The Men in Blue lost the Hamilton T20I by four runs. New Zealand had scored 212 runs batting first on the back of a blistering fifty by the Kiwi opener, Colin Munro.
Take a look at how Twitter reacted to Dinesh Karthik's bizarre decision:
The Men in Blue were in the chase till the last ball of the game. Vijay Shankar top-scored with 43 runs off 28 balls while the likes of Dinesh Karthik (33 off 16 balls), Rishabh Pant (28 off 12 balls), Krunal Pandya (26 off 13 balls), and Hardik Pandya (21 off 11 balls) played excellent cameos. Rohit Sharma was a big disappointment as he batted sluggishly to score 38 off 32 deliveries.
Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly is not convinced with Ravi Shastri's idea of changing Virat Kohli’s batting order keeping the upcoming World Cup in mind. The Indian head coach, in an interview to Cricbuzz, had stated about the importance and need of bringing Virat Kohli at No. 4 in the showpiece event of the fifty-over game.
"Virat Kohli will be coming back in the series to play at No.3. I was reading in the papers that Ravi [Shastri] wants him to play at No.4 but I don't know who will play at No.3 then. Maybe Ambati Rayudu will play at No.3 with Kohli at No.4 but I don't think that it is the right move because Kohli at No.3 is a huge player and this is India's strength in ODIs -- Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli," Ganguly said in IndiaTV's show Cricket ki Baat on Sunday.
"So, if these are your top four batsmen and then MS Dhoni comes with Kedar Jadhav at No.6 and Hardik Pandya at No.7. Dinesh Karthik will also be there and India should undoubtedly play Rishabh Pant in these five ODIs and play in the top-order and we can see if he is your match-winner at No.6 because Pant as a batsman can win you matches. So, giving him chances will be really important," he added.
Shastri had told Cricbuzz that India can play Kohli at No.4 if the situation demands.
"The good thing about this Indian top-three is we can separate them if conditions and situations demand. Someone like Virat Kohli can go to number four, and we can put a good number three to bring more balance to the batting line-up. That's flexibility for you, and for big tournaments like the World Cup, you have to be flexible to see what's the best balance for the side. So we will decide that (accordingly in England)," Shastri had said.
"Yes, maybe Rayudu, or someone else, could bat at number three, and Kohli comes in at number four. We wouldn't want to disturb the opening combination. Separating the top-three could make the batting stronger.
"But we will assess that on seeing conditions in England. You don't want to be 18-3 or 16-4 in a big tournament. I don't care about bilateral ODIs, but why should I lose my best batsman early in a World Cup match (if the conditions are bowler friendly)?," he had added.
India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad has stated Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Ajinkya Rahane are in contention to be part of World Cup squad. He said barring the one odd position, they have identified the core group and have zeroed on the players who are sure shot to travel to England & Wales.
He labeled Pant as a healthy headache. “Undoubtedly he (Pant) is in contention,” Prasad said in an interview to ESPNCricinfo. “A healthy headache. The progression of Rishabh in the last one year is phenomenal across the formats. What we actually felt is he needs a bit of maturity now, gain more experience. That is reason we have included him in India A series wherever possible.”
He also lauded Rahane for his improved performance in domestic cricket. "In domestic cricket he has been in form," Prasad said. "He is very much in contention for the World Cup."
Prasad is mighty pleased with the way Vijay Shankar has performed in New Zealand.
"In whatever opportunities he has got, Vijay Shankar has shown the skillsets required at this level. We have been grooming him through India A tours in the last two years. But we will have to see where he can fit in the dynamics of this team," Prasad said.
Australia's star fast bowler, Pat Cummins was named the winner of the 2019 Allan Border Medal at the annual Australian Cricket Awards presented in Melbourne. The sensational pacer is now part of an elite club of former Border Medal winners that includes some big names Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, and David Warner.
Off-spinner, Nathan Lyon has been named Australia’s Test Player of the Year. Nathan Lyon (25 votes) defeated Pat Cummins (22 votes), Usman Khawaja (17) and Tim Paine (nine) in the race to be honored with the coveted prize.
During the 10 Tests that spanned the voting period, the veteran Australian spinner scalped 49 wickets at 34.70.
Australian all-rounder, Marcus Stoinis won Men’s ODI title. He is the first seam-bowling all-rounder to win this award since Shane Watson.
Matthew Wade was adjudged the Men's Domestic Player of the Year while explosive batsman, Glenn Maxwell was given Men's T20 Player of the Year award.
Bengal and Indian pacer Ashok Dinda was hit on the forehead while attempting to take a return catch during practice match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The ball was hit hard by Birender Vivek and Dinda decided to go for caught and bowled on his follow through but he couldn’t grabbed the cherry and was hit on the forehead.
He immediately went down on the ground with physios rushing out for assistance.
He got up after few minutes and even completed his over. He, however, left the ground soon after and was taken to Nightingale Hospital where a CT scan was performed to know the exact nature of the injury.
“Dinda looked fine as he completed the over before returning back to the dressing room. As a precautionary measure, he was taken for scans. There is nothing alarming but he has been advised two days of rest,” a Cricket Association of Bengal official told PTI.
Former Indian cricketer and chairman of the DDCA senior selection committee, Amit Bhandari was attacked by a group of men during the trials for the Under-23 team at St Stephen's ground.
He was hit on his head and ear with hockey sticks and roads and was taken to the nearby hospital by his colleague Sukhvinder Singh.
The unidentified men fled the spot after the incident. Rajat Sharma, the president of Delhi & Districts Cricket Association told PTI that miscreants will not be spared.
"We are trying to procure all details of the incident. As far as I have come to know, it is regarding one disgruntled player, who didn't make it to the probables list for the National U-23 tournament.
"The SHO from the local police station has reached the Stephen's ground and I have personally spoken to the Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik. The guilty will not go unpunished. I promise exemplary action against whoever is found involved in this misdeed. We will register an FIR," Sharma said.
Shankar Saini, who is the manager of Delhi's senior and U-23 teams, shed the light on whole incident.
"I was having my meal along with a colleague inside the tent and Bhandari along with other selectors and senior team coach Mithun Manhas was watching the probables play a trial match.
"A couple of men first came and went up to Bhandari. There were heated exchanges between Bhandari and the two men. They left and before we could gather our thoughts, suddenly some 15 men armed with hockey sticks, rods and cycle chains came charging," Saini said.
"When the other boys attending the trials along with us rushed to save Bhandari, they started threatening us and one of them said, "Don't get into this or else we will shoot you."
"They hit Bhandari with hockey sticks and rods and he sustained head injury," the former Delhi seamer added.
The Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, who missed the three-match T20I series against New Zealand has dropped four places and is presently ranked 19th in the latest ICC T20I batting rankings.
India's chinaman spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, who featured only in the last T20I against the Black Caps has moved up to a career-best second position in the latest ICC T20I rankings. Kuldeep Yadav was India's stand-out bowler in the T20I series-decider, which the Men in Blue lost narrowly. The wrist-spinner ended up with figures of 2/26.
Rohit Sharma swapped three places with out-of-favor KL Rahul. Rohit Sharma is now ranked seventh in the batting rankings, which is headed by Pakistani batsman, Babar Azam.
Indian all-rounder Krunal Pandya moved up 39 places to a career-best 58th in the ICC T20I bowling rankings.
The banned duo of David Warner and Steve Smith will be eligible for national team again on March 29. The same day, Australia will take on Pakistan in Dubai in the fourth ODI of a five-match series.
Smith and Warner, who were banned for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, are currently recovering from their respective elbow injuries.
The five match series will be held from March 22-31 and there is a possibility of these two being called up for the last two ODI against the hosts.
Smith's injury was of more serious nature and he is expected to be in elbow brace until the end of February.
Smith's manager, Warren Craig of Turning Point Management, had stated the surgery of the former skipper went well.
"Until the brace comes off we don't know for sure but all current opinion is that he'll then have about three and a half weeks (before being ready to play)," Craig told cricket.com.au in early February.
"The intent is that he will play in the IPL and then the World Cup and then the Ashes."
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 visitors will play 2 T20Is and 5 ODIs against Men in Blue. The last Test series between India and Australia Down Under was a memorable one for Virat Kohli & Co.
They not only defeated Australia in their backyard but also won verbal duals against the home grown stars.
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.
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."
New Zealand defeated India by four runs in T20I series-decider in Hamilton to win the three-match T20I series 2-1. India were given a huge target in the third and final T20I. But the partnership between Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya gave all the Indian fans hope of something special in the final T20I. One of the most controversial moments came in the final over of the game when Dinesh Karthik refused to take an easy single on the third ball of the 20th over.
Speaking to Sports Tak, the Indian off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh said, "This last T20I could have gone either way and any team could have won but a little mistake from Dinesh Karthik that he did not take that single and may be we could have won this game too. Somewhere I felt Krunal Pandya could have tried, he had got 18-19 runs in the previous over from Southee. So if that one mistake would not have been made, may be the result of the match and the series would have been different"
It was quite surprising to see Karthik refusing to take the single especially given the kind of touch Krunal had shown on Sunday. India were given 213 runs to chase after Colin Munro blasted 72 runs off 40 balls for the hosts.
Vijay Shankar top-scored for India with 43 runs off 28 balls while the likes of Dinesh Karthik (33 off 16), Rishabh Pant (28 off 12), Krunal Pandya (26 off 13), and Hardik Pandya (21 off 11) played wonderful cameos. Rohit Sharma was a big disappointment as he batted sluggishly to score 38 off 32 deliveries.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) managing director Wasim Khan feels India will not play Pakistan anytime soon and he wants his national board to create a situation where Men in Blue request them to play bilateral series.
“It’s a massive challenge and I don’t think we’re going to see any solutions anytime soon. I think elections are coming up in India, so nothing is going to happen in the near future. But, we are trying and [PCB chairman] Ehsan Mani is trying hard to get them to the table and get things moving,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Wasim, as saying.
“We keep on asking them to play us but let’s create a situation where they ask us to play. I think we need to do that. It’s sad that we are not playing against them but life continues. We need to move forward and carry on. We can’t wait forever to play India. Our focus is to develop Pakistan cricket and get our team and players a lot of success at the international level,” he added.
He said there is no point in contacting India on the matter till the general elections. Ehsan Mani praised the BCCI and stated that the two member boards have good relations but they won’t be asking BCCI to play cricket.
He added that if Pakistan is able to land itself among the top three teams in the world then India would come of its own to play with them.
“Until it’s not done (elections in India), there is no point in engaging them at this stage because we have to start over with new people in the BCCI. But our relations with the Indian board are very good and we have mutual respect but we won’t be imploring them to play us. If we will take Pakistan cricket to a level where we are among the top three teams in the world, they will come on their own to play with us,” Mani said.
“I get a lot of messages from Indian journalists and public about their wish to play against Pakistan. Unfortunately, politics sneaks in which I don’t believe sports should ever be mixed up with. But it happens in our environment, especially in India it happens a lot. But I understand when they are done with elections their attitude will get right too,” he added.
Former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of the most loved and adored cricketers in the world. And in the T20I series-decider against New Zealand on Sunday, he once again won many a hearts when he prevented the Indian flag from touching the ground.
A fan had invaded the pitch to meet the veteran Indian cricketer during the third and final T20I against New Zealand in Hamilton. The fan ran towards the 37 years old in a bid to touch his feet. But he had Indian flag in his hands. As he bent down to touch his feet, unintentionally, the flag slightly touched the ground. In the blink of an eye, Dhoni took away the tri-color from the invader's hands so that it doesn't remain in contact with the ground.
We have seen how quick Dhoni is behind the stumps. But, in the third T20I, he showcased his love and respect for the national flag by showcasing similar quickness, which was applauded by one and all.
So India could not cap a successful Trans-Tasman trip with victory in the T-20 series in New Zealand. They lost by a narrow 2-1 margin in a contest between two evenly matched sides but there were a few gains. And perhaps the biggest gain was the sudden discovery of a number of utility players so very important in limited overs cricket.
One of the reasons behind India’s unexpected triumph in the 1983 World Cup was that the team had a number of these bits and pieces cricketers – players who could contribute a bit both with bat and ball. Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Madanlal, Mohinder Amarnath and Ravi Shastri constituted a more than useful quintet and even a cursory glance at the scores of that triumphant campaign will illustrate how these players were in the thick of action one way or the other.
Looking at the current T-20 squad one is encouraged by the presence of players like Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar. All of them fit in aptly in the category of utility players. In the batting order they are also floaters in that they can go almost anywhere depending on the situation. And they also chip in more than usefully with the ball either keeping the runs down or picking up the odd wicket. Vijay Shankar for example was promoted to No 3 in Sunday’s game and top scored with 43.
Hardik of course has been around for some time now and has established himself in both the ODI and T-20 squads besides playing eleven Tests with moderate success. Krunal Pandya has played only nine T-20 internationals but has impressed as a highly competitive cricketer. Besides he has an excellent record in the first class game and List A cricket. Kedar Jadhav who turns 34 next month has been in and out of the ODI squad but with a batting average of 43 and a bowling average of 31 from 54 games his credentials cannot be overlooked. Vijay Shankar is the latest entrant having made his T-20 debut last year and his ODI debut only last month but even though he has played only four ODIs and eight T-20s he has already impressed the experts with hit utility skills. The discovery of so many bits and pieces players augurs well for the future for they are essential in the limited overs game.
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