Feature Cricket

Initiative with England but some pressure too

Partab Ramchand Updated: 4 September, 2019, 11:41 AM IST


Among the many positive aspects of Ben Stokes’ brilliance at Headingley the most positive is the fact that the series is still open thanks mainly to his heroics. If Australia had won the third Test – as it seemed likely till Stokes turned the game upside down with his pyrotechnics – they would have been two up with two to play and being the holders they would have retained the Ashes. Excitement around the high profile series would have dwindled and there would have at best been lukewarm interest in the two remaining matches.

How that one innings has changed Stokes’ life – and the Ashes contest! The series at 1 -1 is very much alive and interest already high has sky rocketed. There has been some high quality cricket seen on both sides epitomized by the deeds of Stokes and Steve Smith and the teams are evenly matched symbolized by the fact that England are No 4 and Australia No 5 in the ICC rankings and there is every reason to believe that this contest could well go down to the wire.

All this does not hide the fact that both teams have problems on the eve of the fourth Test starting at Old Trafford on Wednesday. James Anderson has been ruled out of the series and while it certainly is a setback that England are without their most prolific wicket taker he may not be missed as much because a suitable replacement has been unearthed in Jofra Archer. Besides Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Stokes have all performed admirably and the bowling has not really been England’s problem.

However the batting has been a major worry. There has hardly been a worthwhile contribution from as many as four frontline batsmen in Jason Roy, Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Joe Denly and it is a tribute to the bowling – and Stokes – that England are still very much in the contest. There is talk of the batting order being changed with Denly opening and Roy going down the order. It remains to be seen whether this tweaking will make any alteration in England’s beleaguered batting.

It is much the same scenario as far as Australia are concerned. The bowlers have performed heroically with Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon being outstanding. But on their side too several batsmen have failed all too often among them David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Bancroft and skipper Tim Paine himself. Now that the selectors have axed Khawaja from the line-up for the fourth Test there will be a bit of tweaking as far as the batting order is concerned.

The Aussies however will welcome the return of Smith who had to miss the third Test recovering from the concussion he suffered in the previous game. With 378 runs from three innings including twin hundreds in the first Test Smith has been the outstanding batsman of the series and his value to the side is immeasurable particularly given the several batting failures.

The stage is then set for a pulsating game at Old Trafford. The initiative may be with England after their memorable triumph at Leeds but there is also some pressure on them. If Australia wins the fourth Test they retain the Ashes so it is up to England to keep the interest alive in the series till the final Test at the Oval.

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News Cricket

Sanjay Bangar reveals how he helped Kohli and Rohit become better batsmen

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 4:52 PM IST


Sanjay Bangar‘s five-year stint as batting coach of the Indian cricket team culminated as soon as India's tour of West Indies came to an end. Generally, people in India have their reservations about lesser successful players coaching the heavyweights of the Indian cricket team.

They are of the opinion, let's say, in case of Sanjay Bangar, if he is good enough to coach Indian batsmen like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, why didn't he apply all those principles and methods during his playing days to become a better player himself. The coach's playing credentials often come in the way of judging a coach itself, which is baffling, to say the least.

In an interview with Times of India, Sanjay Bangar opened up on how he helped premier Indian batsmen like Virat Kohli, Rohit, Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujaraa and Shikhar Dhawan. It's in a way a sneek peak to how a lesser successful player helped big names of the Indian cricket team.

“Virat always looks to iron out deficiencies. We worked on his alignments, positioning on the crease, his approach in seaming conditions. With Rohit, we worked on his head position to overcome problems against incoming deliveries from right/left arm angles,” Bangar told TOI.

Bangar, who represented India in 12 Tests and 15 ODIs, also said he helped India's limited-overs format vice-captain, Rohit Sharma improve his "head position" to play "incoming deliveries" from right/left arm angles.

The 46 years old also described what changes he brought to respective games of Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara, which brought them much more success than before.

“Shikhar was initially considered to be an off-side player, he used to stay beside the line of the ball. We worked on how he could get behind the line and open up scoring areas and overcome his dismissals against the short ball. In Pujara’s case, we worked on reducing the width of his stance and being more upright. It is to their credit that they worked to unlearn old methods,” said Bangar.

News Cricket

SL minister rejects Fawad Chaudhry's claims, says India not behind players pulling out of Pak tour

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 4:50 PM IST


Sri Lanka minister Harin Fernando has rejected claims made by Pakistan Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry that India had forced the Lankan players to opt out of the tour of Pakistan.

Fernando, who is Sri Lanka's sports minister, stated that players have opted out of the tour considering what happened in 2009 when Sri Lanka's team bus was attacked by terrorists.

"No truth to reports that India influenced Sri Lankan players not to play in Pakistan. Some decided not to play purely based on 2009 incident. Respecting their decision we picked players who were willing to travel. We have a full strength team & we hope to beat Pakistan in Pakistan," he tweeted on Tuesday night.

Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Suranga Lakmal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Thisara Perera, Akila Dhananjaya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella are not going to Pakistan.

Earlier, Fawad Chaudhry had blamed India stating the players from Sri Lanka were told that there IPL contracts would be terminated if they decide to opt for Pakistan tour.

"Informed sports commentators told me that India threatened SL players that they will be ousted from IPL if they don't refuse Pak visit, this is really cheap tactic, jingoism from sports to space is something we must condemn, really cheap on the part of Indian sports authorities," Chaudhry tweeted on Tuesday.

News Cricket

Pandya vs Pandya in training: Watch which brother wins the battle

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 4:47 PM IST


Hardik and Krunal, the two Pandya brothers, have come a long way in their careers. They both will be donning the Indian jersey in the upcoming T20 series against South Africa. Ahead of the series, Hardik and Krunal went through an intense training session.

In a video posted by Hardik Pandya, he can be seen hitting long sixes off Krunal's bowling.

"Pandya vs Pandya in training. I think I won that round big bro @krunalpandya24. P.S: Sorry for almost knocking your head off," Hardik tweeted.

Krunal Pandya responded back by sharing a video where he can be seen foxing the 25-year old all-rounder.

"Hahaha it's all cool bro but why didn't you upload this video? ?????? @hardikpandya7," the tweet read.

The home series against South Africa will be Hardik's first outing after the World Cup. He was rested from the tour of the West Indies keeping his workload in mind.

India are scheduled to play three T20Is and three Test matches against South Africa at home.

Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill are ready to take over whenever the seniors strike a poor patch, are injured or out of favour.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s beach picture will give you vacation goals

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 4:28 PM IST


Virat Kohli and his better half and Bollywood actor, Anushka Sharma know how to keep their fans happy.

The Indian skipper uploaded a picture in which he can be seen spending quality time with Anushka Sharma at an undisclosed beach destination.

Virat captioned it with a heart emoji indicating how much he loves his wife.

Virat's naughty expression was evenly matched by Anushka’s cute reaction.

After spending quality time with each other, Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma recently landed in Mumbai. They were spotted twinning in blue at the airport.

Meanwhile, Virat Kohli will be leading India in the upcoming T20 series against South Africa. The three-match series is important considering the next T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be played in Australia.

The skipper had a mediocre Test series against the Windies. He was undone by the rival bowlers and went on to lose his top Test ranking to Steve Smith of Australia.

News Cricket

Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera denied NOC for CPL after they boycott Pakistan tour

Harshit Anand Updated: 11 September, 2019, 4:11 PM IST


Niroshan Dickwella and Thisara Perera, who were among ten Sri Lankan players to pull out their names from the tour of Pakistan due to security reasons, have been denied No Objection Certificates (NOC) by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in regards to playing the ongoing Caribbean Premier League.

Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal, and Dimuth Karunaratne are ten players, who opted out of the Pakistan tour, which will comprise of three T20Is and ODIs each.

SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said, “It’s our policy not to give NOCs when there is a national tour, and the players would have known that.”

“So Dickwella has not been granted an NOC and will be expected to train with the national team in the next few weeks. We have also asked Thisara to return to the country on September 15, so he can also join the team in training.”

“We have done a very meticulous security assessment, and the Pakistan board has gone out of their way,” one board official said.

“Other international players have also toured there with the World XI and so on. And Pakistan is also willing to provide the same security they give to heads of state for the players. What more could they want?”

News Cricket

Who is best ODI batsman, Kohli or Rohit? Kagiso Rabada opines

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 3:50 PM IST


There is always a debate going around regarding who is the better batsman and captain between Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli among Indian cricket fans. In the last five years, both the Indian batsmen have been exceptional in the 50-overs format. In the aforementioned period, Kohli has been the leading run-scorer followed by India's vice-captain, Rohit Sharma. The Indian captain has amassed 5,832 runs in 100 ODI innings at an average of 72.90 with 24 centuries and fifties each. On the other hand, Rohit has 5,207 runs in 93 innings at an average of 63.50 with 23 centuries and 19 fifties to his credit.

South African pace spearhead, Kagiso Rabada reckons Virat Kohli is the best ODI batsman in world cricket. “Virat Kohli has proven that he is the best batsman in white-ball format. He is already regarded as a great of the game with some pedigree,” Rabada told PTI. Kohli and Rabada have been involved in some epic face-offs till date in international cricket. A while back, Rabada had called Kohli "immature" and described him as someone who can't take abuse when hit back at.

South Africa are currently on tour of India, where they will be playing three T20Is commencing from September 15, followed by three Tests against world's no.1 ranked India. Last time in 2015, they got whitewashed by India in the Test series while they won the ODI and T20I series respectively.

News Cricket

'English pitches should be more biased': James Anderson

Harshit Anand Updated: 11 September, 2019, 2:45 PM IST


English pacer, James Anderson, who is not part of the ongoing Ashes Test series due to injury, feels that pitches in the series have been more suitable for Australia than the host nation like it was against India, last summer, where England reigned supreme to win the five-match Test series by a margin of 4-1. England are trailing the Ashes series by 1-2 with one Test remaining to be played at the Oval. Australia have already retained the Ashes series.

"I think they've (pitches) probably suited Australia more than us," he said. "I would have liked to have seen a bit more grass but that's the nature of the game here. When you're selling out - like Lancashire selling out five days of Test cricket - it's hard not to produce a flat deck but, you know, that's one of the frustrations from a player's point of view. We go to Australia and get pitches that suit them. They come over here and get pitches that suit them. It doesn't seem quite right.

"I thought they were good pitches here against India [last year]. I thought they weren't green seamers but I thought they suited us more than India. We as a country don't use home advantage enough. When you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team," added James Anderson, who has scalped 575 wickets in 149 Tests.

Opinion Cricket

Should series at home against SA mark the advent of youthful Indian batting?

Partab Ramchand Updated: 11 September, 2019, 2:03 PM IST


One of the reasons why the Indian team is performing admirably in international cricket is because there are any number of talented youngsters around ready to take over whenever the seniors strike a poor patch, are injured or out of favour. Hanuma Vihari is a case in point. Playing six batsmen in the Tests against West Indies would normally have seen the inclusion of Rohit Sharma at No 6. But Hanuma Vihari was given the chance instead and grabbed it with both hands. Suddenly the player on the borderline is now a cert in the middle order.

Against South Africa the middle order wears a settled look with Vihari being preceded by Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. There is a question mark over the opening batting however with neither KL Rahul nor Mayank Agarwal being among the runs in the two Tests against West Indies. To be candid there is little to worry about. Prithvi Shaw should be back ere long and there are two ready young contenders for the opening slot in Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill. The former a 21-year-old left hander has a commendable first class record averaging almost 40 with a highest score of 273 and has been a consistent run getter for India A against both West Indies A and South Africa A. Just last week in the second ODI against South Africa he exhibited his swashbuckling approach in no uncertain terms hammering 55 off just 24 balls with five fours and four sixes to steer his team to a two-wicket victory with an over to spare in a truncated game.

Gill of course has been in the news for some time for all the right reasons. He averages almost 75 in first class cricket with a highest score of 268. The 19-year- old right hander is acknowledged to be one of the finest talents in the country and he too has been in excellent form against West Indies A and South Africa A. His unbeaten 204 in the third `Test’ against West Indies about a month ago was a brilliant knock scripting an amazing recovery – from 50 for four to 365 without further loss sharing a 315 run partnership with his captain Vihari.

Yes, it would appear to be a good idea to draft in a youngster or two at the top of the order in the Tests against South Africa which marks the beginning of the 2019-20 season.

Feature Tennis

Reign of the big three continues – for now

Partab Ramchand Updated: 11 September, 2019, 1:58 PM IST


Even Rafael Nadal is of the view that the reign of the Big Three cannot last much longer. In an interview a few days ago he was quick to point out that ``I am 33, Novak (Djokovic) is 32 and Roger (Federer) is 38. The younger players are bound to take over any time.’’

Well, that may come about in the future, or even in the near future but in the meantime is still the Big Three who are calling the shots. Nadal’s triumph in the US Open was the 12th successive time one of the Big Three was winning a Grand Slam title. The last player outside the trio to triumph in a Grand Slam was when Stan Wawrinka won the US Open title in 2016. Since then Federer has won the Australian Open in 2017 and 2018 and Wimbledon in 2017, Djokovic has won the Australian Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 and the US Open in 2018 and Nadal has the won the US Open in 2017 and 2019 besides emerging triumphant at his favourite French Open in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The challenge from the younger brigade is getting stronger but while players like Daniil Medvedev, Stafanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem are capable of rising up in the rankings, winning ATP Tour tournaments including the Masters 1000 and the year ending ATP Tour finals when it comes to the Grand Slams these are still the monopoly of Messrs Djokovic, Nadal and Federer who continue to occupy the first three positions in the ATP rankings.

At the US Open for a while it appeared that the monopoly could end following the retirement of Djokovic during his fourth round match against Wawrinka due to injury and with Grigor Dimotrov eliminating Federer in the quarterfinal. But Nadal the only remaining survivor of the Big Three did not falter and saw to it that their Grand Slam reign would continue.

Despite their advancing years the feeling is that they will continue to dominate at least in 2020 simply because their nearest young challengers have a rather erratic record in Grand Slams. At the US Open for example Tsitsipas and Thiem exited in the first round while Zverev lost in the fourth round. Fifth ranked Medvedev gave indications of what could come about in the near future by making it to the final and stretching Nadal to five sets before going down. But then he hasn’t made much progress in the other Grand Slams and that goes too for the likes of Tsitsipas and Zverev. Thiem had made it to the French Open final twice losing each time to Nadal but then he is a clay court specialist and is unlikely to make any impact in the other Grand Slams. This year Thiem also lost in the first round at Wimbledon.

News Cricket

Livid Kevin Pietersen terms Jack Leach a "laughing stock", says he is not doing his job

Staff Writer Updated: 11 September, 2019, 1:38 PM IST


Kevin Pietersen is not someone who minces his words. Now, he has gone berserk on England's left-arm spinner, Jack Leach, whose eyeglasses antics have been a major talking point ever since he partnered Ben Stokes in England's historic Headingley Test triumph.

Leach was again on course of helping his side draw a game out of a dire situation at Old Trafford but unfortunately for him and England, he got out on 12 off 51 on the final day of the Test and after that, Australia got rid of well set Craig Overton to win the Test and retain the Ashes.

Former England skipper, Kevin Pietersen, who had troubled relations with his teammates during his playing days, wrote for Betway that, "It's doing my head in that a bloke who's supposed to win games for England is becoming a laughing stock. You've got people in the stands taking the mickey out of him, wearing masks and fake glasses. Commentators are talking about his Specsavers deal.

"England are losing an Ashes series and he's only taken eight wickets at 30 in three Test matches. It doesn't look like he's troubled anyone. It just annoys me. I don't want to see the crowd talking about how funny he is, or how funny that run was, or Specsavers. I want to see him producing on the field and I want to see him winning matches for England with his bowling," he added.

"So what does he want to be remembered as? Does he want to be remembered as this funny guy who can hold a bat, or as a match-winner for England?" the former England skipper asked.

Opinion Cricket

Should Team India open with Rohit Sharma in Tests?

CT Contributor Updated: 11 September, 2019, 12:41 PM IST


It's indeed strange as far Team India is concerned when it allows someone like Rohit Sharma to sit on the bench in Test cricket. A player of Rohit's quality needs to be utilised to the fullest. This is also because at the moment, youngster Prithvi Shaw is out with a doping ban sentence. And KL Rahul faltering since the start of 2018 in a grand manner.

India need someone strong and solid to open the show with Mayank Agarwal. And there's no one better than Rohit who opens for the team in limited-overs cricket. The senior cricketer is also backed by stalwarts like Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag to feature in the team more consistently. So far the Indian team management has abstained from the same. However, with the three-match Test series coming up against South Africa, Team India should change its approach.

India cannot have Rohit Sharma sitting on the bench at Rahul’s expense. Rahul needs to be dropped given his trajectory in the last 15 Tests. That’s a long time to get the act right. Also, too much pressure also falls on India’s middle order. India cannot keep favoring Rahul here and harming the opportunities of others. Someone like Rohit needs to be backed for a few Tests. Rohit has been a pioneer in limited-overs cricket and one should allow him to use that form and confidence into Test cricket.

He did well in Australia earlier this year and what many pundits and fans want to see is Rohit getting that backing in Test cricket. Also since, 2017, Rohit Sharma hasn’t got the opportunities. However, the talismanic batsman has scored 401 runs in six Tests. He averages a healthy 50.12 with a best of 102*. In the two Tests that he played at home, he averages 217.00. His best was of 102* against Sri Lanka.

India should have someone like Rohit with world-class attributes more often in the longest format. With South Africa visiting India next, this is a huge chance to look at Rohit and give him that freedom to excel. This will benefit one and all. With the ICC World Test Championship on, India will hope to derive the maximum in the 2019-21 cycle and boost their chances of winning the trophy,

For that, you need a match-winner like Rohit to come in and settle those nerves. Things should be decided in terms of merit and Rohit offers more substance on the field than Rahul. India cannot afford to be stagnant and use the same resources that have failed.

Opinion Cricket

 Why is the upcoming series against South Africa crucial for Hardik Pandya?

CT Contributor Updated: 11 September, 2019, 12:31 PM IST


The upcoming T20Is and Tests against South Africa for the Indian cricket team is expected to be hard-fought series and there is a lot at stake. In the Tests, it is the ICC World Test Championship in fray. As far the T20Is are concerned, both teams will be wanting to build well for the ICC World T20 in 2020. One expects both sides to give its all and try to stake a claim in the series. Also, the presence of several big names make things more interesting. There will be several players on focus besides certain aspects of team combinations, approach to the game and the mental battles on offer. One such player for whom this series will be utmost crucial is Hardik Pandya. Here we analyse the same.

Pandya was handed a rest from the tour of Caribbean post the ICC World Cup 2019 in England and Wales. The idea was to ease the pressure and have him fresh for the big series against the Proteas. Pandya hasn't had a defining time of late especially with issues on and off the field since September 2018. He had a strong IPL 12 campaign and a decent World Cup show. To be a premier all-rounder, India need to have their main man going on full song and delivering in crunch situations. So far, Pandya is far from being the finished product. Therefore, there is work to do in terms of setting himself and producing consistent displays for the side. Pandya needs to realise his potential and deliver.

In the Test team, Pandya's place isn't guaranteed at the moment. India are likely to opt for two spinners and two pacers to have a crack at South Africa. With Hanuma Vihari taking his chances at number six and the ability he carries to roll down a few overs, also lessens the possibility of Pandya walking into the side. Therefore, when he does get the chance, he needs to take it and show his credentials. Pandya hasn't quite got going in Tests and that's also a worry. In the T20Is, Pandya will fit in despite the team having several other contenders. So producing a strong run of results across the three games will have Pandya in a happier space.

He hasn't played much cricket for Team India in the last one year and therefore a fresh start is required. He needs to be simple in his approach and get the basics right. SA are a top team and you want your best performers to stand up tall and deliver. That's why the series is highly important for someone like a Pandya.

Feature Cricket

Why is Steve Smith ahead of other fab 3 in Test cricket?

CT Contributor Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:40 AM IST


Steve Smith is a genius who has taken control of Test cricket like nobody else. The run-machine has made a solid impact in helping Aussies retain the urn after they won the recently concluded fourth Test match at Old Trafford in Manchester. Smith was defiant and amassed scores of 211 and 82 to be the major difference for the side. After the Test, both captains acknowledged the brilliance of the magician. He is different class and that what hooks one to Test cricket. Smith is ranked the number one batsman in the ICC Test Rankings for Batsmen and he deserves every bit of the recognition.

The impactful Smith was bossing the Test scenario before being handed a 12-month ban for a ball-tampering scandal in March 2018. He rose from the very low in his career and came up all guns blazing in the Ashes 2019 series which was his first since the 12-month ban in Test cricket. The format is something that's tailor made for the right-handed batsman. He can score runs at will and not just that. The ability to convert fifties into hundreds makes him the best in business. When you look at his Ashes 2019 scores, the lowest score by the champion batsman in 82. Besides that he has scores of 144, 142, 92 and 211. He has batted in just five innings after missing Day 5 of the second Test and subsequently the third Test at Headingley due to a concussion.

To be able to make a comeback and then score a double century is something extraordinary. Smith averages more than 65 in Test cricket and that itself is a testament to his greatness. In the ongoing Ashes, he has notched 671 runs already and leads the show by a big margin. His consistency and ability to forge partnerships are strong attributes. These qualities make him above the other three in the Fab 3 group comprising of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.

Also, it's the impact Smith has. In 2017-18 Ashes he top scored for Australia and helped them win 4-0. Now in this series it's his runs that made the difference. So his contributions come to a winning cause for a side that is dependent on him in that middle order. There is a certain sense of responsibility and belongingness in Tests that Smith carries. He is a special talent and we need to celebrate his batsmanship and the aura that comes with it.

News F1

Report: Schumacher treated in secrecy in Paris hospital

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:29 AM IST


Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has been admitted to a Paris hospital to be treated with cutting-edge stem-cell therapy, according to a French newspaper.

The Paris hospitals authority, citing France's strict medical privacy rules, said it could not comment on the report in Le Parisien that Schumacher was admitted under tight guard to the Georges-Pompidou hospital for transfusions of inflammation-reducing stem cells.

The newspaper said the 50-year-old German, who suffered a near-fatal brain injury in a 2013 skiing accident in the French Alps, was expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

His long-time manager, Sabine Kehm, had no comment.

News Tennis

Injured Kevin Anderson to sit out rest of 2019 ATP season

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:22 AM IST


Two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson says he will take the rest of the 2019 season off as he continues to recover from a right knee injury.

The hard-serving South African hasn't played in a tournament since losing in the third round of Wimbledon in July, and pulled out of the U.S. Open because of his knee problems.

He said on Twitter that he will not play again until next year. In a statement, Anderson said: "I have spoken with my team, consulted with doctors, and we have decided that the best course of action is to take the rest of the year off and prepare for 2020. This will give me enough time to undergo more rehab processes and get healthy."

The 33-year-old Anderson was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows in 2017 and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year.