News Cricket

Harsha Bhogle compares R Ashwin to MS Dhoni

Staff Writer Updated: 19 April, 2019, 12:01 PM IST


R Ashwin has been a standout leader for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. He has inspired his troops and they are now at the fourth spot in the IPL 2019 with 5 wins from 9 matches and 10 points.

He played a crucial role with the bat and ball against Rajasthan Royals and was adjudged Man of the Match for his all-round performance. Ashwin first scored an unbeaten 17 runs in 4 balls with 2 sixes and then picked two important wickets of Sanju Samson and Rahul Tripathi to lead Kings to another emphatic win this season.

His performance got praise from Harsha Bhogle, who called him an exceptional leader.

“So why are they doing well? The key has been the captain. It is fashionable to look for weaknesses in R Ashwin but with Dhoni, he has been the standout leader of this IPL. You look at that team and you know straight away who the leader is. He hasn’t shied away from taking decisions, has been vocal and been happy to be in the eye of the storm himself. And, yes, he has bowled magnificently. If the Kings make the playoffs, with the resources they have, it will be a huge triumph for Ashwin,” Bhogle wrote in his column in Times of India.

He applauded Ashwin for using players wisely. “Mohd Shami, having an excellent tournament but possessed of an otherwise ordinary T20 record, R Ashwin who isn’t considered for white ball cricket, Murugan Ashwin, one of many leg spinners, Arshdeep Singh, hardly heard of and Mujeeb, the highly rated young Afghani who is having an average tournament. There was no sixth option to speak of. And yet, except for a few overs, they didn’t let the Royals into the game,” he wrote.

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News Cricket

Former Indian cricketer smells something fishy in Rayudu's exclusion from World Cup squad

Staff Writer Updated: 19 April, 2019, 2:21 PM IST


Former Indian spinner Pragyan Ojha is not convinced that Ambati Rayudu was excluded from the World Cup squad purely on the basis of performance. He posted a cryptic tweet adding more fuel to the ongoing controversy.

Earlier, Rayudu had posted a tweet himself after being left out of the 15-member squad which was a direct dig at chief selector MSK Prasad’s comment that Shankar was preferred over Rayudu because he was a three dimensional player.

Ojha has now responded to that tweet by writing, “Curious case of some Hyderabadi cricketers... been in a similar situation... understand the wink.”

Ojha is among those players who were undone by selectors despite performing well for India. The former spinner was man of the match in Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test match but was left out of the team after that game. He picked up 113 wickets in 24 Tests.

News Cricket

Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul to miss World Cup?

Harshit Anand Updated: 19 April, 2019, 11:52 AM IST


Both Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul are putting up a strong show for their respective franchises in the 12th edition of IPL. But they could well miss the World Cup as their fate still "hangs in balance" according to one of the members of CoA. The BCCI ombudsman hasn't handed over the report of the inquiry and the matter concerning the Koffee with Karan controversy is still pending in the court. Both the cricketers have already appeared before the BCCI ombudsman.

Speaking to IANS, one of the three members of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) said, “We were hoping to get a report from the ombudsman, but haven’t received anything as yet. The team for the World Cup has been picked and the fate of the players still hangs in balance.

“Yes, they have served a temporary suspension and were called back from Australia, but you cannot decide on behalf of the ombudsman. If the ombudsman feels that they have paid for their act, then also a clean chit does have to officially come from him,” the member added.

Another BCCI functionary said that there might be a case where Rahul and Pandya need to be replaced with the stand-by players.

“Well, the Indian board does have the provision to make changes to the squad till May 23 without needing the approval of the ICC’s Event Technical Committee. If a scenario does arise wherein these players are ruled out, then the selectors will pick from the stand-by players. Hopefully such a situation won’t come,” the functionary told IANS.

News Cricket

Irfan Pathan wanted Sunrisers Hyderabad to sign Hardik Pandya but VVS Laxman messed it up

Staff Writer Updated: 19 April, 2019, 11:43 AM IST


Hardik Pandya is winning matches for Mumbai Indians in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League. He once again led Mumbai Indians to win in last night game against Delhi Capitals. Since joining Mumbai Indians, his only IPL franchise, the right hand batsman has not looked back.

He could have been a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad had VVS Laxman paid heed to Irfan Pathan's suggestion. During the post-match talk show after the game between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians, Irfan Pathan revealed that he suggested VVS Laxman to pick Hardik in the auction in 2013.

Talking about Irfan's revelation, Laxman confirmed that Pathan had called him up to inform about Hardik Pandya. He further added that he and the management refused to go after Hardik because they felt he was not scoring enough runs or taking wickets to merit a chance in their side.

When the host Jatin Sapru asked why he didn’t listen to Pathan's advice, Laxman refused to reveal the reason.

Opinion Cricket

Could this be England’s World Cup?

Partab Ramchand Updated: 19 April, 2019, 11:24 AM IST


Could this finally be England’s year? Their overall record in the World Cup is well below par despite being the only team to make at least the semifinals in five successive competitions. This run extended from 1975 to 1992 and included three runner-up spots. Since then they have failed to make the semifinals even once. Despite having many fine players - including some all-time greats - in their ranks England’s inability to win the World Cup has had the experts scratching their heads in frustration but could this be the time when they pull it off?

Plainly put they will not get a better chance. A look at the squad and it is clear they have the personnel to deliver. Indeed the line-up is quite formidable. Let’s start with Jos Butler and Johnny Bairstow and continue with skipper Eoin Morgan, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Abdul Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Joe Root, David Willey, Mark Wood, Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Tom Curran and one can see that almost of them are ODI specialists. Secondly they are the No 1 side in the ICC rankings. And third they enjoy home advantage. It is true that the final point has not always worked in their favour. Playing at home they were finalists in 1979 and semifinalists in 1975 and 1983 but their campaign in 1999 ground to a halt at the league stage itself. Completely against expectations they did not even make the Super Six let along progressing further.

But these days it appears that England can do no wrong. Over the last two years they have enjoyed a run of unprecedented success winning at home and away and defeating strong teams like South Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies, in some cases more than once. The apotheosis would of course be the 5-0 rout of Australia at home but defeating New Zealand and Sri Lanka away have also been notable achievements. Their run ended with an inspired West Indies holding them 2-2 in a recent contest in the Caribbean but their unbeaten streak continues going into the World Cup.

Even in a rather open field with a number of leading contenders among the participating teams England stands out. They have all bases covered in that they have everything that a top class ODI side needs - stroke playing batsmen, explosive hitters, genuine all-rounders and bits and pieces players, accurate fast bowlers and capable spinners with almost all of them being excellent fieldsmen. The side is particularly rich on experience with players of proven skill. To be candid if they miss this big chance England may not get another opportunity in the near future.

News Cricket

MS Dhoni’s backing played crucial role in my success – Virat Kohli

Staff Writer Updated: 19 April, 2019, 11:22 AM IST


The Indian skipper Virat Kohli is a big time admirer of former captain MS Dhoni. He has backed Dhoni during difficult times and feels lucky to have him by his side. Heaping praise on MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli told a new channel: "He is one person, who literally knows the game inside out. I won't say it's a luxury to have him but I am fortunate to have a mind like that from behind the stumps."

He still remembers the kind of support Dhoni offered him when he was a new born baby as far as his international career is concerned. "When I walked into the team he had the option of trying someone else after few games, although I grabbed my chances but for me to get that kind of backing, it was very crucial for me."

The Indian captain gave credit to Dhoni for allowing him to play at No. 3. . "Also, he gave me an opportunity to bat at No 3 because not many youngsters get to play at No 3,” he added.

He came down hard on Dhoni's bashers. "It's unfortunate to see so many people going after him." Shedding light on their relationship, he said: "It's just about the field placements and bowling changes and we say you know the angles, you know the pace of the pitch and that's why there is so much of trust and respect between the two of us."

Opinion Cricket

Did Rayudu deserve to be dropped from India's World Cup squad?

CT Contributors Updated: 19 April, 2019, 11:04 AM IST


Ambati Rayudu's dream of representing India in the ICC World Cup 2019 was quashed after the BCCI announced the 15-member squad on Monday. Rayudu was a big omission from the team and there has been a lot of debate surrounding his exclusion. The veteran right-handed batsman will feel hard done by the selectors months after skipper Virat Kohli had stated that Rayudu is their main number four in batting.

Rayudu alongside Navdeep Saini and Rishabh Pant have been named as standbys for the World Cup.

It all changed in a matter of one series for Rayudu. Up till the ODIs against New Zealand earlier this year, Rayudu looked a certain deal. He was the leading candidate to represent the team and bat at number four. But a failure in three successive ODIs against Australia last month changed the notion of the selectors, who omitted him from the squad. The debate on Rayudu lingered on and there were mixed views on his presence in the team.

Rayudu's form deserted him at the wrong time. One solid innings against Australia at home could have saved him, but that wasn't the case. Also, India's 2-3 loss in the series played in the selectors' mind. Rayudu played himself in and missed the trick. He looked tired and there was no sense of application. India tried out at least 10 players for the number four in batting in the last few years. Rayudu's name cropped up after the failures of his predecessors.

Since September 2018, the player became a prominent figure in the Indian side. He batted well in the Asia Cup 2018 in Dubai. That was followed with a strong show against West Indies at home. He even hit a century. He suffered in the tour of Australia with scores of 0 and 24. The series against New Zealand was key and Rayudu had a decent outcome with scores of 13, 47, 40*, 0 and 90. One felt India can count upon the experienced star. But then it all changed.

He got scores of 13, 18 and 2 against the Aussies and was dropped for the final two games. A poor IPL 2019 campaign also harmed his reputation. His poor form in this juncture made the selectors think otherwise. When MSK Prasad announced the team, he said Vijay Shankar is being seen as the new number four because he brings three dimensions. So perhaps, the selectors also doubted Rayudu's fielding abilities and athleticism. Shankar isn't experienced and is not even a proper all-rounder. He has the promise, but being handed a call for the World Cup seemed a big deal.

It's a risky decision this. In every other department India went for experience and perhaps looking at the number four we felt Rayudu deserved a shout. One poor series cannot take away the work done previously. He will feel hard done and so will the fans. We feel the decision to drop Rayudu was a harsh one and it shouldn't have been the case. He deserved a shout and India needed to back him for the event. At 33, it was his last chance of featuring in a World Cup. That's been taken away.

News Cricket

Andre Russell to miss IPL match against Royal Challengers Bangalore?

CT Contributors Updated: 19 April, 2019, 9:59 AM IST


Andre Russell has been the best performer for Kolkata Knight Riders in the ongoing season of the Indian Premier League. He has single-handedly won three games for his side but the big West Indies all-rounder is doubtful for today's IPL clash with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Russell, KKR's top scorer this season, had to sit out of the practice session on Thursday after he hurt his shoulder during the net session on Wednesday. If he fails to recover on time, Carlos Brathwaite might replace him.

“He’s got a preliminary X ray yesterday and it's not even been 24 hours. By tomorrow, we will a get much better idea as to how he feels,” Karthik said of Russell injury.

Russell was hit by a rising delivery from net bowler Minad Manjrekar. It is the same shoulder where Harshal Patel had hit Russell during the match against Delhi Capitals at Feroz Shah Kotla.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli is delighted to have this player in World Cup squad

Staff Writer Updated: 18 April, 2019, 10:00 PM IST


The national selectors recently announced India's 15-member World Cup squad and leaving two surprises, the squad met everyone's expectations. Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar were preferred over Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu. The Indian skipper Virat Kohli is confident of Vijay's success in the mega event and is happy to have him in the team.

The MSK Prasad-led selection committee opted to go with a well settled squad. Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Vijay Shankar are the three all-rounders in the team and chief selector stated that Shankar was drafted in the side because he is a three-dimensional player, who can bat, bowl and field well.

"Vijay Shankar brings in a lot to the team and hence, I am delighted to have him," Kohli was quoted as saying by India Today.

News Cricket

Mohammad Amir dropped from Pakistan's World Cup squad

AP Updated: 18 April, 2019, 9:37 PM IST


Pakistan dropped out-of-form fast bowler Mohammad Amir and included 18-year-old paceman Mohammad Hasnain in its 15-member World Cup squad on Thursday.

Amir's exclusion came after the left-armer took only five wickets in 14 ODIs since Pakistan won the Champions Trophy in 2017.

"Amir is the most experienced bowler but his performance was not good enough since the Champions Trophy," chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said. "Hasnain will be a surprise package as he bowls at a speed of 150 (kph) and could win a match for Pakistan on his own. With such an express pace he could put a dent on any team."

Hasnain made his ODI debut against Australia in the United Arab Emirates last month, and took two wickets in three matches.

Opening batsman Abid Ali, who scored a century in his ODI debut against Australia, was also selected, along with the regular opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq.

Inzamam said Amir and hard-hitting batsman Mohammad Asif will travel with the squad next week to England, where Pakistan will play a Twenty20 international and a five-match ODI series ahead of the World Cup.

"These two (Amir and Asif) will provide cover to the World Cup squad and can be drafted into the side by May 23, if required," Inzamam said.

The squad included 11 players who won the Champions Trophy in England by defeating India in the final.

Inzamam conceded that the selectors have compromised on fitness of some of the players like Imad and Hafeez, but since these players were part of the team over the last two years, both were picked.

Hafeez had been recovering from the hand injury he sustained during the Pakistan Super League match in the United Arab Emirates while Imad has a troublesome knee.

"I acknowledge we gave favor to Imad despite the fact that he couldn't get the required points in the fitness test," Inzamam said. "Hafeez will go through the fitness test once he recovers from the hand injury, but overall I think fitness of our players have improved a lot."

Surprisingly, selectors have ignored Mohammad Rizwan after the wicketkeeper-batsman scored two centuries against Australia in the UAE.

Pakistan's middle order batting will revolve around Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shaib Malik, Hafeez and captain Safaraz Ahmed, with the likes of all-rounders Wasim and Faheem Ashraf batting lower down the order.

Shadab Khan is the sole leg-spinner in the side with Wasim bowling left-arm spin and Malik could be utilized as an off spinner, too.

Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan and Hasnain are the four specialist fast bowlers.

"We've tried to cover all the bases by assessing our strengths as well as analyzing each opponent, the match venues and the event format," said Inzamam.

Pakistan will open its World Cup campaign against the West Indies at Trent Bridge on May 31.

Squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain.

News Cricket

Amla and Markram in South Africa's World Cup squad

AP Updated: 18 April, 2019, 9:33 PM IST


South Africa kept faith in Hashim Amla and gambled on Aiden Markram as both made the Cricket World Cup squad on Thursday.

There were doubts over the inclusion of 36-year-old Amla after a dip in form and his absence for recent games because his father was ill. Fellow batsman Markram was seemingly out of the reckoning for the one-day team until a run of outstanding domestic form led to a public clamor to include the 24-year-old opener.

This year will likely be the last chance for veterans Amla, Faf du Plessis, who captains the team, and Dale Steyn to win the World Cup. JP Duminy and Imran Tahir have already said they will retire from ODIs after the tournament. Those five will be playing at their third World Cup.

The most noticeable absentees are batsman Reeza Hendricks and allrounder Chris Morris.

Instead of the young Hendricks, a regular this past season, South Africa stuck with Amla, who last played an ODI in late January. He still averages nearly 50 in one-dayers.

Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius were given the allrounder slots ahead of Morris.

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje made the cut with just four ODIs of experience and after making his debut last month.

Nortje's chance came after Duanne Olivier made the surprise decision to give up international cricket with South Africa in favor of a contract in English county cricket.

Nortje will be part of a strong pace attack that also includes Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

Quinton de Kock is the only specialist wicketkeeper and the team will rely on David Miller to step in behind the stumps if de Kock misses any game time.

South Africa has won its last five ODI series but has a history of near-misses at the World Cup dating back to its debut in 1992. The Proteas have made the semifinals four times in seven tournaments.

South Africa plays host and top-ranked ODI team England in the World Cup's opening game on May 30.

Squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Rassie van der Dussen.

News Cricket

Seen some great No. 4 batsman in Indian team, Shankar far from them: Kevin Pietersen

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 April, 2019, 5:34 PM IST


Breaking into the Indian team as a batsman is never a cakewalk. Especially, when it comes no.4 position, great players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh have batted for the country at the position.

When India's World Cup squad was announced, the chief selector, MSK Prasad said that Vijay Shankar will be an option for the no.4 spot. But former England cricketer, Kevin Pietersen doesn't agree with India's selector.

“I haven’t seen enough of Vijay Shankar to warrant a No. 4 slot for India in the World Cup. I have seen some great players bat at No. 4 for India and sadly, Shankar seems far away from it. Batting at No. 4 is difficult and even more so in English conditions. It is almost like Shankar and Jadhav have made it to the India squad because they can bowl,” Pietersen said on Star Sports during his role as an analyst at the post-match analysis show of the match between Hyderabad and Chennai, which Hyderabad won in the absence of MS Dhoni.

Vijay Shankar had piped Ambati Rayudu for the no.4 slot due to his three-dimensional skills as mentioned by MSK Prasad.

News Cricket

Akram blasts PCB, says all teams preparing for World Cup and board is busy in other arguments

Staff Writer Updated: 18 April, 2019, 5:03 PM IST


A meeting of the Pakistan Cricket Board ended abruptly Wednesday when five of its seven members walked out after their ideas to restructure the domestic game were dismissed.

The five members presented a signed resolution which said departments and regions in the country should remain part of the domestic cricket setup. They also wanted the appointment of Wasim Khan as PCB managing director to be declared "null and void."

Wasim Akram, the former skipper, is disappointed with what is happening in PCB. He is concerned as it might impact Pakistan's preparation for the World Cup.

“Disappointed over what happened in PCB BoG meeting. All teams are preparing for Cricket World Cup 2019 and we’re busy in other arguments. Let’s see what reaction Prime Minister Imran Khan gives”.

Last month, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan — a former playing great who is also the patron of the national governing body — had directed PCB chairman Ehsan Mani to strip departments of their playing rights. He said the PCB should have only six teams competing in top level domestic cricket.

Muhammad Numan Butt, one of the five members who walked out, said there was no provision of appointing a managing director in the PCB's constitution and Mani didn't seek the approval of the board.

News Cricket

Ravi Shastri opens up on the no.4 slot debate  

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 April, 2019, 5:00 PM IST


Since 2017 Champions Trophy, India have tried as many as 11 batsmen at the no.4 position. India's selectors and team management have left no stone unturned to play musical chairs with such a critical position. And now going into the World Cup, India doesn't have a definite no.4 batsman, which can be unsettling for even as good a side as the Virat Kohli-led Men in Blue.

Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri has opened up on the no.4 debate and given his view on the same. "Total flexibility (on No. 4 position) depending on conditions, opposition. I would say the top three are fixed but after that, you can be very flexible," Shastri said at an event in Dubai.

During India's WC squad announcement, MSK Prasad had indicated to Vijay Shankar batting at the no.4 position. He had said, "After the Champions Trophy, we have tried quite a few middle-order batsmen, which also included Karthik, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey. We did give a few more chances to Rayudu but Vijay Shankar gives three dimensions. He can bat, if the conditions are overcast he can bowl, plus he is a fielder. We are looking at Vijay Shankar as a No. 4. Now we have plenty of options for that slot.

"The point that was discussed is that Vijay Shankar will bat at no.4 like Kedar Jadhav and we also have a role for KL somewhere at the top of the order. It all depends on the team management."

Feature Cricket

When Commentators Become Puppets

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 18 April, 2019, 4:50 PM IST


The incident involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni asking cheekily of Murali Karthik whether he wanted to talk about the incident when the former stormed the field at the umpire in the match against the Rajasthan Royals was not the only time when the commentators have dithered to talk about controversial subjects that affect the game, particularly in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Murali Karthik, an outspoken person, was unusually subdued at the post-match press conference when interviewing the Chennai Super Kings captain as if in deference to him. Even when Dhoni himself raised the issue with a huge smile across his face about the fact that he had come onto the field on the fourth ball of the last over when the umpires overturned a no ball decision, Karthik was surprisingly quiet and quickly refused to be drawn into the subject.

That the entire presentation, highly anticipated given the fiasco that almost overshadowed the match that was to be Dhoni’s 100 win as the captain of the team, was remarkably without luster or interest, a fact not lost on anyone. That said this is not the first time commentators, particularly in the IPL, have skirted around issues that have directly or indirectly affected the game. Even at the peak of the IPL spot fixing and betting scandal, the commentators acted as if there was nothing going on in the game, and that the show was going on as usual.

For some time now, whether it is the IPL or the international matches, commentators who are praised for their objective, clear perspective on the game have appeared demure, and surprisingly quiet on subjects on which the audience expect them to have an opinion. Furthermore, in a more dangerous trend, it appears there are some opinion makers on the game who are under the influence of the respective cricket boards and organizers and thereby, speaking on the agenda that is not their own.

The days when commentators were revered for their take on the game, for their knowledge as well as their ability to entertain as well as enlighten seem like days of the past. It is rather sad to see commentators when they make loud statements touting the cheerleaders of the sponsors making a commotion and engaging the crowds when the only movement is of the sponsor-engaged people in brand T-shirts moving on expected lines while the spectators around them appear almost unaware of their presence even. It is the kind of commentary that has done the whole occupation a disservice and made them virtually redundant when fans now openly state that they usually watch matches by turning down the volume. It is shortchanging an experience that is not only sad but also, rather reflective of current, vested interests.

So, while the social media may have lit up about the silence of Karthik on Dhoni’s rather unusual crossing of the line, it is not the first and expectedly it is not the last time that commentators will show a side not seen before, which is a rather grim reflection of not necessarily the game itself but rather the way it is run.