Harbhajan Singh, the veteran Indian cricketer, has picked India as favorites for the ODI series against Australia. According to him, if Men in Blue play even at 60 percent of their potential, they can wrap up the series 4-1. He further added that it is difficult to beat India anywhere in the world let alone in their backyard.
India had defeated Australia in Australia to win the maiden ODI series. Virat Kohli-led team won the three-match series by a margin of 2-1.
“India are the big favourites for this series, there is no doubt about that because it is extremely tough to beat this Indian side anywhere in the world let alone in India. And the team which India have selected is almost the side which will go to the World Cup,” Harbhajan told Sports Tak.
“India have the entire squad, there are no new players, and to defeat this team is really tough. Even if India play at their 60 per cent then also they will beat Australia 4-1 in the ODI series,” the off-spinner added.
He praised Jasprit Bumrah for the way he has bowled in the death overs.
“Jasprit Bumrah is also making his comeback and it would be a very big plus for Team India to have him as it is very tough to face his reverse swing when the ball gets old. It is a massive sign for India to have the full strength side. I believe the series will end 4-1 in favour of India,” Harbhajan said.
Virat Kohli feels it would have been “more logical” if Indian team was given a couple of more ODIs than two T20 Internationals in lead up to the ICC Cricket World Cup, which commences from May 30 in England and Wales. India will be playing two T20Is and five ODIs against Australia. It is going to be final international series for the Men in Blue ahead of the ICC megaevent.
On the eve of the opening T20I against the Kangaroos, Kohli said, “Probably, a couple of more ODIs would have been more beneficial for both the teams not just us. It would have been more ideal and logical.”
“But look we have to utilize what’s in front of us as best as possible. And as I said we’re going to look to get into the right kind of frame of mind as a team,” the 30 years old added.
India have more or less a settled team but given the enormity of a World Cup, Kohli didn't rule out playing a stand-out performer.
“We’re more or less sorted. But through the course of the series, you might see something which might surprise you as a team and which you might want to change immediately. But those are things that are upon how circumstances come in front of you,” he said.
Cricketers come in different sizes, shapes and shades. They are the over rated and the under rated, those who have a lot of hype built around them and those who are undemonstratively effective. Quinton de Kock is among those cricketers who are under rated and quietly explosive. He does not have a larger than life image, does not figure prominently in discussions, his game is not analyzed as much as some of the others who dominate the cricketing world. But in his own undemonstrative manner he has done more than his bit to see that South Africa stay at second spot just behind India in the Test rankings and among the top four in ODIs.
In the last few years even as the chief attention has been on Hashim Amla’s charming strokeplay, AB de Villiers' pyrotechnics, and the emergence of a new crop of world class fast bowlers de Kock in his own way has frequently had the focus diverted to him. Indeed in the half a dozen years since he has been around the international circuit it has been difficult to keep him out of the headlines because of his work behind the stumps and in front of them and whether it is Tests or the shorter formats of the game. It is not every cricketer who is highly successful in all formats but de Kock is one of a handful.
But whenever his name crops up it is batting approach that is the subject of discussion for de Kock bats the same breezy manner in every format of the game and whatever the situation. This is a very rare quality but the number of times he has come to South Africa’s rescue is legion. The latest example is the ongoing Test against Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth. He came in at 73 for four on a lively surface and just sailed into the bowling. He does not defuse a crisis with back to the wall defensive batting but by thrilling counter attacks and by the time he was eighth out at 216 he had hit 86 off 87 balls much of it with just the tail for company. But then this is not an isolated case; he has done it time and again.
A strike rate of 73 in Tests allied to a strike rate of almost 95 in ODIs sums up de Kock’s approach. Consistency is not a quality associated with this kind of swashbuckling batting but de Kock has got 13 hundreds in 101 innings in ODIs and an average of 44 makes him an unusually reliable opening batsman. And an average of 40 in 40 Tests to go along with this with four hundreds – almost every time in a crisis – makes de Kock one of South Africa’s most valuable players. Perhaps it is time for him to be the subject of some deserving hype.
In what has been a great season for Test cricket, fortunes for most teams swung one way and then the other. Even top ranked teams were not spared the ignominy of having to eat humble pie on the rollercoaster ride. With the status of Test cricket playing nations in such flux, there is one consensus: the level of domestic cricket must be strengthened worldwide.
It seems like the wrong thing to say on the back of a season of busy, eye catching Test cricket that has seen so much drama and high action. While it is true that Test cricket has perhaps had one of its best seasons since the advent of Twenty20 a decade ago, the truth of the matter is that one of the reasons that has made Test cricket interesting was partly because while some of the lower ranked teams fancied their chances, the top ranked teams were far from consistent, stumbling and occasionally making for huge rung losses across the ICC’s Test cricket rankings.
With the ICC World Test championship on the horizon, slated to begin at the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, one would think that fluidity across the ranks would only make the championship more open ended, but when it comes to the quality of the contest, even the teams at the top would contend that they would like to face a full strength, in form team rather than settle for a compromised, second string opposition.
To that end, it makes sense that while the anticipation for the world championship contests grows, cricket boards individually and collectively must take the responsibility to review and restructure the state of their domestic cricket. At the present time, most players that make the international cut rarely find themselves in domestic cricket to uplift the game and as in recent controversial moments, forced other players who have toiled consistently through the domestic cricket circuit for a privileged spot only at the business end of a tournament.
At the moment, even teams like India would like to believe that they have a plethora of resources and replacement players. But the truth of the matter is most teams have played musical chairs with some pivotal positions such as that of the openers as well as the important no.3. Rather than it be a competition for places given the quality of cricket, team decisions often boiled down to which player failed less and ironically at a time when no player, particularly in the top three, was a surefire when the next match began. It is something that has ailed India as well as England and Australia.
Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, went as far as to suggest that England’s shock series surrender to the West Indies was a case of batsmen playing too many loose shots, a telling sign from their inability to shift from the shorter formats. While not all England cricketers have agreed with the coach’s contention, the fact remains that players these days not only play far less domestic cricket but also, find that their cricket boards and themselves included are not interested in having even one tour match ahead of a crucial Test series which does not leave time for acclimatization or for the team’s think tank to have an ace or two up their sleeve in terms of decision making.
A close content is always a welcome sign. However, when the quality of the game being played is being steadily diminished, not only is the underdog being denied the opportunity to raise the bar but also, the complacency that sets in in for the top teams could then spell trouble for the sport as a whole when redundancy sets in.
Wicket-keeper batsman, Ishan Kishan hammered a 55-ball century against Jammu and Kashmir in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament against J&K. Batting first, Jammu and Kashmir put up a total of 168 runs, but Kishan's century helped them successfully chase down the total and win the match without breaking a sweat.
Interestingly, he also became the first wicket-keeper captain from India to score a T20 century. None of the Indian wicket-keeping-captains had ever scored a century in any of the T20 games before that. High-quality players like Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni could also never score a T20 century as wicket-keeper captain.
During his explosive innings, Kishan hit eight boundaries and seven sixes.
Virat Kohli thinks Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis has in him to trouble Men in Blue in the upcoming T20 series. He was on fire in the recently concluded Big Bash League season for his franchise Melbourne Stars. He scored 533 runs at 53.30 with a strike rate of 130.63. Stoinis will represent Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
“If I had to single out one player that can make more impact, that would be Stoinis. He has come around really well during the BBL and he’s making stand out performances. You can see he’s grown in confidence and he’s definitely going to be a very important player for them. A few of the guys have done really well in the BBL. But from the last time that we played, the games were close contests, both of them. One was washed out, but the other two were really exciting games. We obviously expect a stiff competition overall from the Australian team,” said Kohli.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli wants his World Cup bound teammates to keep their composure intact during the Indian Premier League. He is worried that by playing in the cash rich league, players could pick up bad habits.
He doesn’t want players to drift away from their ODI game while playing for their respective franchises.
"They have to make sure that their games don't go (drift) too much away from the one-day mold of things. That means we will have to be very wary of the bad habits that might creep in during the IPL," Kohli told reporters ahead of their first T20I against Australia.
World Cup is the most important tournament for Virat Kohli and he is expecting his teammates to treat the upcoming event in the same way.
"That (not picking up bad habit) will take a consistent effort from all the players during the IPL to keep a check on that. The moment you enter the nets and create bad habits, you lose the momentum and you lose batting form. It is very difficult to get it back in a tournament like the World Cup," Kohli warned his teammates.
He also spoke about managing workload during the IPL.
"If your team is in a great position during the tournament, you don't mind taking 2-3 games off also. It all depends on how you feel physically but everyone has to be really honest about it to themselves and accordingly see how they feel and not push themselves to the limit that might hamper the Indian team later on," he added.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani has expressed his disappointment that politics and cricket are being mixed at the moment. He was referring to BCCI's decision to write a letter to the ICC in which they have asked the cricket boards to serve ties with countries supporting terrorism.
“It is unfortunate that politics and cricket are mixing. It is never good for any sport,” Mani told Sportstar.
He also quoted South African Nobel peace prize winner Nelson Mandela to describe India’s call to serve sporting ties with Pakistan.
”Let’s paraphrase what Mr Nelson Mandela had once said, ‘the voice [of sports] is far reaching than any politician’. Sports has its own role to play. Politics has its own issues. The two should not mix,” Mani said.
He refused to comment on the statement of COA chief Vinod Rai.
“I will not comment anything on that. Let the BCCI or the ICC decide anything, then only we can discuss about our plan of action.
“You have to talk to the ICC about that. I won’t comment on what Mr Rai has said. We will discuss our plan of action if we hear anything from the ICC. As of now, there has been no communication.” the PCB chief added.
Sri Lanka defeated South Africa by eight wickets in the second Test at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth. They become the first Asian team to win a Test series in South Africa. It is a feat which even heavyweight Asian teams like India and Pakistan couldn't achieve.
In the first Test in Durban, they won a thriller by one wicket on back of Kusal Perera's brilliant century. This Test series win is being considered as one of the biggest achievements of Sri Lankan cricket. Notably, no.1 ranked Test side, India failed to win Test series in South Africa, last year while South Africa defeated Pakistan in Tests, a while back.
It is one of the greatest upsets in Test cricket history. And the social media, especially, Twitter has gone berserk after their amazing Test series triumph:
Indian Test wicket-keeper batsman, Rishabh Pant is one of the finest talents in Indian cricket. He has been quite consistent in his short Test career so far. The Indian southpaw had a breakthrough IPL season, last year.
Representing the Delhi franchise, Pant scored 684 runs in 14 games at an average of 52.61 with a strike-rate of 173.60. The youngster scored a century and five fifties to stamp his authority.
2019 IPL will commence from March 23. Rishabh Pant has thrown a challenge to MS Dhoni in the latest promotional video for IPL. Take a look at the video:
MS Dhoni is one of Pant's idols and he looks up to him immensely. Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri had also revealed how much Dhoni helped Pant on Australia tour, where the youngster ended up as the second highest run-scorer in India's bilateral Test series triumph.
Shastri had said, “His [Pant] hero is MS. Every day he is on the phone to MS. I think during the Test series, he must have spoken more to MS than anyone else. It is great when you have that mutual respect. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, the respect they have for each other is unbelievable, so it makes my job in the dressing room so much easier.”
World Cup winning skipper Kapil Dev has stated that it would be best to leave the issue of playing against Pakistan to the Indian Government.
“To play or not to play is something which does not have to be decided by people like us. It has to be decided by the government. It’s better if we don’t give an opinion and leave it to the government and concerned people. Whatever they decide will be in the interest of the nation. We’ll do what they want,” he said at an event in Pune on Friday.
His remarks have come at a time when demands to sever cricketing ties with Pakistan are growing following terror attack on CRPF security personnel which resulted in death of 42 soldiers. The BCCI had requested international cricketing community to boycott nations supporting terror activities.
They even wrote a letter to ICC briefing them about the loss of lives in Pulwama and even urged them to provide full proof security to Indian players and staff during the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales.
Former Indian speedster Zaheer Khan has stated the Indian team is ready for the showpiece event due to be played in England and Wales. Men in Blue have been performing exceptionally well in the ODI format. After defeating Australia in their backyard, team led by Virat Kohli thumped New Zealand. Prior to these two series, India had defeated South Africa but lost to England in the close fought contest. Zaheer also praised India's pace battery that has done well in the recent times.
“Playing conditions are something that comes into place when you visit the country for the first time. This lot of players we are talking about has played enough cricket to not be bothered by it. The bowlers have been familiar with different conditions and they have produced good performances too,” Zaheer was quoted as saying by Mail Today.
“Overall, I think we are ready,” the 40-year-old added.
India are currently ranked second in the ICC ODI rankings and along with England, they are being labeled as hot favorites for the World Cup title.
Robin Uthappa has recovered completely from his ankle surgery and is back in action. The right hand batsman who plays for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, has stated that he is in a good place at the moment.
Representing Saurashtra in domestic cricket, he scored a well compiled 46 against Railways on his return to cricket in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament.
He had to go under the knife to fix his ankle injury that kept him out of action for four months.
Uthappa had to go through tough rehabilitation routine at the KKR cricket academy to get back into the action.
“I am in a good place right now. Well honestly, it has been a learning curve for me – going through the injury, and then, the surgery,” Uthappa was quoted as saying by the KKR website.
“It was impeding the flexibility and movement around my ankle, and I have had it for the last three or four years.
“Immediately after the surgery, the range of movements around my ankle was almost twice as much as (it was) before the surgery even happened. So I am really happy to get it out of the way. I am happy to be back to playing cricket,” he added.
The entire nation is still grieving over the loss of lives of our brave hearts in the Pulwama terror attack, in which at least 40 CPRF Jawans were martyred. The wicked attack took place on February 14 when terrorists targeted a convoy with a car bomb at Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district. They were carrying more than 350 kg of explosives.
After this terrible incident, there have been calls for boycotting Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup that commences on May 30 in England and Wales. The Men in Blue are slated to play Pakistan on June 16 in Manchester.
Indian skipper, Virat Kohli ahead of the first T20I against Australia opened up on whether India should play Pakistan in the World Cup or not. "Our sincere condolences to the families of CRPF soldiers who lost their lives in Pulwama Attack. We stand by what the nation wants to do and what the BCCI decides to do. We will go by what the govt & the Board decides, we will respect that," he said during the media conference on Saturday.
Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has denied making any statement on India-Pakistan World Cup clash. According to a News Channel, he had stated that India have the right to pull out of the World Cup tie following Pulwama attack. He took to twitter to clear his stance.
"I completely deny the false news by Indian media about my statement on Indian cricket team / World Cup 2019. I did not make any statement at all and Indian media is making it up. I condemn the loss of lives. Both countries should come to the table to resolve the issues," he tweeted.
While former cricketers such as Harbhajan Singh, Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly want India to boycott the World Cup clash against Pakistan, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar stated that India should face Pakistan and defeat them to earn two vital points.
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