Feature Cricket

Interview with owners of Elevar: ‘We want to design the best products for cricketers’

Staff Writer Updated: 5 July, 2019, 12:00 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

India is such a cricket crazy country that every other kid aspires to be a cricketer. But not everyone can be a cricketer. When you leave the dream of becoming Sachin Tendulkar, you try to possibly become the next Harsha Bhogle, but that is even more difficult. And perhaps, realizing that Kunal and Aayush, tried to stay connected with their first love that is cricket albeit in a different manner altogether.

They dived into the deep sea that is bat-making industry but with a new vision and an edge over their peers that science and technology bring to the plate, which Indians are not very fond of, at large, with Elevar.

In a freewheeling chat with Cricket Today, Kunal and Aayush opened up on various aspects of their start-up which is in its baby stage but have its sights set to become one of its kind in bat-making industry.

How your journey to bat making started and when did you first fall in love with the game of cricket?

Kunal: I have been playing Cricket for longer than I can remember. From playing in my apartment with my father as a kid to playing in England for my school team, my love and passion for cricket has always been strong. Aayush has a similar love for Cricket and we became good friends in college. When we came back to India we noticed that bats haven’t changed since we were kids and this really baffled us. We love a bunch of different sports and in all of them, products keep evolving and companies focus on innovation and quality products. This was not true in Cricket and so we decided to change it.

Where did the idea for Elevar come from, and how did you make this idea a reality?

Aayush: As Kunal mentioned, we were surprised that Cricket, that is treated as a religion by a billion Indians and played and watched by so many other nations, has just lacked innovation and a desire to build the highest quality of products. So we decided to start ELEVAR. Elevar means “to elevate” and so the ethos behind Elevar is “to raise your game to the next level”. We want to build the best products to help athletes of all levels improve. We started working on Elevar in May 2017. Our product designer and engineer worked with hundreds of players to understand the ergonomics and bio-mechanics of batting and finally we came upon a unique handle design, grip, and bat making process. So after a complete year of R&D and prototyping our bat design, we launched this bat in May 2018.

Was it hard in the beginning to set up your business and compete with big fishes in the market?

Kunal: Yes it was undoubtedly difficult, and it still is, for a small startup like us. The biggest challenge comes when challenging the status quo. So, we were met with a lot of supply side problems as we tried to execute our different design. Similarly, it’s not so easy to convince customers to try something completely new and unknown. But fortunately, it turned out that there are other cricket crazy people like us who also felt that cricket bats could use a breath of fresh air and they decided to give us a shot. It’s these early adopters who have helped us scale the business because once they liked the product, their word of mouth marketing has convinced many others to try us out.

Tell us about the process from start to finish of crafting a top quality cricket bat?

Aayush: Our process starts at willow selection. Our product designer and quality control team evaluate thousands of clefts to decide which ones will be good enough to make Elevar Bats. Then handles are joined to those clefts and workers use special tools to give the handle our unique and trademark shape. The bat is left for a couple of days to let the joining become stable and strong. Bat finishing is a largely manual process and workers give a slightly different shape profile to each of our bats so that bat balance is optimized. Finally, bees wax is applied to the bat as a finishing touch and then our signature bat grip and stickers are applied. There are quality checks at each step of the process and we end up discarding many bats so that customers only get the best possible batting experience.

How do you continually manage to innovate and improve as a bat maker?

Kunal: By doing one thing – listening to our customers! As Aayush mentioned we spent one whole year in R&D working with players and understanding their needs and wants. Even after our launch, our product has changed drastically, and this is because we keep listening to feedback from customers and make changes. Our products team has a single goal and that is quality and not cost. So, the team keeps working with our manufacturers to ensure bat quality keeps improving. We have designed stringent quality control processes throughout our supply chain to keep checks and balances. And our product designer is always experimenting with new, innovative ideas so that the next iteration of the bat can be even better.

Can you elaborate the technology part of your bat making process?

Aayush: Our uniqueness is in our bat design. We used science and technology to study batting behavior and the range of motion and type of functions a player and his/her bat goes through. Using this we were able to come up with an optimal handle shape and grip materials. Now we use in-house designed manufacturing tools to ensure that our exact bat design is maintained. We also measure various metrics like moisture and weight throughout the manufacturing process to inform us on bat quality.

What separates Elevar from other bat making companies?

Kunal: Our attention to detail and willingness to innovate. Most bat companies have been around for decades but the bat in essence has remained the same. We want to push the bounds of innovation to keep evolving the bat as a product. As you have seen with tennis rackets of golf clubs, these instruments have dramatically changed over the last 50 years and bats should be no different given the resources we have available now. And then we backup this innovation with an attention to detail in getting it executed even though it may be more difficult and costly than the norm.

Where do you see Elevar in next five years?

Aayush: As Kunal mentioned, we want to keep pushing the bounds of innovation. We want to keep designing better products for Cricketers of all types. We aren’t only focused on the pro market of players who buy English willow bats. The casual gully cricketer is equally important to us. And so, we want to design the best quality of products for cricketers across formats and eventually across geographies.

How do you engage the youth with your brand?

Kunal: We’re an online only brand at the moment so we are engaging young hand passionate cricketers on all social platforms. We love hearing from our customers and featuring their stories on our page. And we love pushing content their way and will keep doing so. We also have a very young team – our average age is under 30! And we hope to keep building our team with young and passionate sports people.

What is your prediction for the upcoming World Cup?

Aayush: Heart is always with India and I do think we will make it to the semis but I think England go in as favorites this year!

How has your work influenced your lifestyle?

Kunal: Our biggest passion is our work and that’s the most awesome part for us. We always used to play and watch cricket in our free time and now that counts as work! So its much harder now for our wives to stop us.

Who's your all-time favorite sports person?

Aayush: Virender Sehwag. To me he’s one of the people who defined the age of power hitting that exists in Cricket Today. He was the bridge between old school cricket and modern cricket. The tradionalists used to say that you can’t play test cricket without impeccable technique and yet Viru will go down as one of India’s greatest test cricketers. He famously said, “I don’t believe in technique, I believe in performance” and that’s what modern day cricket is all about – trust your natural game and go out there and perform.

What do you like most about cricket as a sport?

Kunal: It’s hard for me to single out any one thing about a sport I love so much. But if I had to pick out one thing, I would say that I love how cricket is always evolving and that means that cricketers are constantly changing how the game is played. Every new generation grows up playing the game slightly differently from the previous one, and taking the game to a new level. So if you look at games from 25 years ago to now, you feel like you’re almost watching a different sport. This way the excitement never dies, and you never know how the game will evolve 25 years from now.

Do you think India is sports oriented country?

Aayush: Yes, it absolutely is. We said this before, we don’t think that a sportsperson is just defined by going out there and playing in a pro circuit. Look at every street, maidaan, building in India and you’ll see people playing. Of course, the initiatives being taken across India to help pro athletes is amazing and we hope that India can excel on a global standard. But the love and passion for sports is in the streets of India and this is something we celebrate at Elevar.

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News Cricket

It's like telling an individual to climb Everest without an oxygen mask, says Ramiz on Pak chances

AP Updated: 5 July, 2019, 11:11 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former Pakistan test cricketers Ramiz Raja and Shoaib Akhtar were vocal in criticizing their team's performance in the World Cup and held out little hope for Friday's game.

"It's like telling an individual that you have to climb Mount Everest without an oxygen mask. It's that much of a Herculean task," former Pakistan captain and TV commentator Raja said on his YouTube channel, adding "whether they (Pakistan) win or lose it doesn't matter."

He called for changes after the tournament, saying: "We have to find batsmen, we have to find all-rounders. That's the way you can make your future team."

Akhtar was disappointed with the quality of cricket displayed by Pakistan.

"The mess was created by Pakistan themselves," he said, "the way we lost heavily to West Indies in the first match, then rain washed out the game against Sri Lanka which was unfortunate."

News Cricket

Coin flip could end Pakistan chances at Cricket World Cup

AP Updated: 5 July, 2019, 11:08 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

One toss of a coin could deal a fatal blow to Pakistan's erratic Cricket World Cup campaign.

Pakistan goes into its match against Bangladesh at Lord's on Friday knowing already that it is effectively out of contention for a semifinal spot.

New Zealand is fourth with 11 points at the end of its nine group games. Fifth-place Pakistan can draw level with the Black Caps on points if it beats Bangladesh — which can't qualify — but needs to win by 300-plus runs to advance. That's never been achieved before in ODI history.

Pakistan could see even those remote hopes end without a ball being bowled if it loses the toss and Bangladesh chooses to bat, eliminating any chance for Pakistan to radically improve its net run-rate.

This is used after number of wins to decide which team goes through to the last four if they share the same points. If Pakistan wins Friday, it will have five victories, like New Zealand which has a far superior net run-rate.

Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed acknowledges the almost impossible task ahead for his team under the current system.

"It is very difficult (to advance) ... Only if you're batting first, if you score 600 runs or 500 runs," Sarfaraz said Thursday at a pre-match news conference. "So I don't know what the study is behind this, but I can't do anything."

Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes wasn't giving anything away.

"I won't be telling you what we're going to do at the toss or how we approach the game," Rhodes said. "All I will be saying is there's a game to win for Bangladesh, and that's the important thing for us."

News Cricket

Rashid Khan fails to live up to billing at Cricket World Cup

AP Updated: 5 July, 2019, 11:04 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

It just about summed up Rashid Khan's Cricket World Cup.

Standing at midwicket, Afghanistan's star player was in position to gobble up a flicked shot from West Indies batsman Shai Hope — on just 5 at the time — that was well timed but unfortunately hit straight at a fielder.

Rashid put it down, to the amazement of Hope and the Afghanistan fielders.

Hope went on to be West Indies' top scorer with 77 in the group match Afghanistan lost by 23 runs at Headingley on Thursday , piling on the misery for Rashid in a tournament he'll be glad to put behind him.

The 20-year-old Rashid arrived in England as the jewel in the crown of Afghanistan cricket, the country's millionaire player in the Indian Premier League, and the world's top-ranked allrounder in ODIs.

This was a chance for the casual cricket fan to see a star in the making, potentially coming into his own on the global stage.

He leaves with just six wickets at an average of 69 and an economy of 5.79, and just 105 runs in nine innings.

With their best player struggling, the Afghans lost all nine group games.

"With Rashid, everyone just expects things from him, especially how he played the last two or three years," Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib said. "Rashid has a 60% winning percentage in our team and every game he has 50-60% responsibility for the team. I am also expecting a lot from him but this is cricket.

"He gives 100% but it's bad luck; some missed reviews, umpire decisions, catches dropped. If you look at the performances, he did three or four games well but it's not enough here."

Gulbadin said Afghanistan came into the World Cup — for its second appearance in the tournament, after 2015 — looking to win three games but came up against teams who were better prepared and more consistent.

Fitter, too.

"If you look at the team, I'm not happy with the team's performance," he said. "Nobody has (played) 100% for the team or country. It's not professional cricket. Each and every department, you (need to) be fit and 100%. Especially fitness is a problem for our team — if you're not fit, nothing will go well.

"We played very badly here. I'm very upset by our performance. We didn't give 100% for our audience. I say sorry for my fans, my country."

The big positive from the West Indies game was Ikram Ali Khil, whose footwork and speed between the wickets stood out in his 93-ball 86. It was the highest score by an 18-year-old at a World Cup, beating Sachin Tendulkar's knock of 84 in 1992.

His innings came to an end when he was trapped lbw by Chris Gayle, at 39 more than double Ikram's age. That sparked a mid-innings collapse of three wickets in 14 balls that Afghanistan couldn't recover from.

"I am upset he missed a century — scoring a World Cup century is a big moment for anyone," Gulbadin said. "He is a youngster, starting off now. He played a lot of cricket the last two or three years, good cricket in the under-19 World Cup and that is why we gave an opportunity to him. He proved himself here.

"We have more talent in Afghanistan, not only (Ikram). So I hope with this kind of performance like Ikram did, the other guys if they are given a chance will prove themselves."

Ikram will come again.

So will Rashid, despite his forgettable World Cup debut.

News Cricket

Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib comes down hard on his players after nine loses

AP Updated: 5 July, 2019, 10:58 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib has criticized the professionalism and fitness of his team after it ended the Cricket World Cup with nine losses in nine matches.

After finishing the tournament with a 23-run defeat to West Indies, Gulbadin said "nobody has (played) 100% for the team or country. It's not professional cricket ... Fitness is a problem — if not fit, nothing will go well."

Gulbadin said that apart from four or five matches, "Afghanistan played very badly here. I'm very upset by our performance. We didn't give 100% for our audience."

News Cricket

Australia's Marsh breaks arms, Maxwell taken to hospital

AP Updated: 5 July, 2019, 10:51 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Australia batsman Shaun Marsh will miss the rest of the World Cup after his forearm was broken when it was struck in the nets in Manchester.

Marsh was replaced in the 15-man squad by Peter Handscomb, a middle-order batsman who has played 21 one-day internationals since his 2017 debut. He averages 34.88. Handscomb is touring England with Australia A. He scored 57 against Gloucestershire on Sunday.

Defending champion Australia has reached the semifinals. It plays its last group match on Saturday against South Africa at Old Trafford.

The Australians were there practicing when Marsh was hit above the wrist by a lifter from Pat Cummins. This was moments after Glenn Maxwell was struck on the right forearm by a short ball from Mitchell Starc.

Marsh and Maxwell were immediately taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

In the same practice, Steve Smith and Jason Behrendorff received scares when they hurt fingers during fielding practice.

Marsh played only two World Cup matches, scoring a combined 26 runs.

News Cricket

Australia gets Steve Waugh on board for the 2019 Ashes

Harshit Anand Updated: 4 July, 2019, 5:40 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

In what comes as a huge boost for the Australians, World Cup-winning skipper, Steve Waugh will be mentoring the team in 2019 Ashes series which commences from August 1. It will be a six-week tour and five Tests will be played in the UK.

Australia presently have Ricky Ponting in their coaching staff. He is there to assist the team in the World Cup and the team will be helped by Waugh in the Ashes.

"With the Test series we are very fortunate to have Steve Waugh who is, obviously, a legend and is going to be great service for myself as a leader and captain," Paine told Nine News in Bristol, where he is with the Australia A squad.

"I think to have someone like him around during a Test series is going to be great for our whole group. I know I will be trying to bounce off him as much as I can.

"For guys like myself and (Steve) Smith and (David) Warner who are quite experienced, it will be great. It's also going to be great for some of our younger players as well," he added.

News Cricket

Five selectors combined wouldn't have made the runs Rayudu has in his career, says Gautam Gambhir

Harshit Anand Updated: 4 July, 2019, 5:21 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Ambati Rayudu, who is 33 years old, announced his retirement from all forms of cricket yesterday. He will not play in IPL as well. Given, his age, it seems like a premature retirement. It is speculated that Rayudu has been shattered by his non-inclusion in the World Cup.

He didn't make it to the original World Cup squad but was named in stand-by players. However, when Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar got injured, it was Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal, who made the cut to the team ahead of him.

Many former players feel Ambati Rayudu was hard one by the selectors and the team management. Notably, Mayank Agarwal, who was not even in the standby list was picked on the insistence of Indian team management.

Commenting on Rayudu’s decision to quit all forms of cricket during a TV show, Gambhir said, “According to me, the selectors have been a complete disappointment this World Cup. Rayudu’s retirement decision is because of them and their decision-making skills are to be blamed for this.”

“Five selectors combined would not have made the runs Rayudu has in his career. I feel extremely sad about this retirement.”

“Rishabh Pant and Mayank Agarwal got selected amidst the World Cup injuries, and anyone in Rayudu’s place would have felt equally bad. A cricketer like him that has played so well in the IPL and for the nation, scored three 100’s and ten 50’s, and despite that if a player has to retire – it is a sad moment for Indian cricket,” added Gambhir.

News Cricket

We don't have to prove anything, want to enjoy: Eoin Morgan

Harshit Anand Updated: 4 July, 2019, 4:50 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

At a point of time, England's chances of qualifying for the semi-finals had turned into a big challenge. They needed to win two of their last three games against Australia, India and New Zealand to make it to the final four. They lost the game against Australia but went on to win the games against India and New Zealand respectively to make it to the final four with 12 points.

England have proved why they are considered as tournament favorites with their ruthless performances against both India and the Kiwis. Morgan doesn't want to prove anything and want to enjoy the World Cup.

"We have played well, played terribly, then played good again. The group games have been inconsistent but the last two games have been some of our best. I don't think we are trying to prove anybody wrong or prove a point - we're out to enjoy ourselves," Morgan told Test Match Special. "It's a World Cup and we are trying to make the most of it," said Morgan.

He added, "We've gone through the highs and lows of winning and then performing at different stages. We'll have a few days off and everyone will be encouraged to get away from the game."

News Cricket

Virat is dying to make appearance on Chahal TV, says host as skipper makes a special entry

Staff Writer Updated: 4 July, 2019, 4:38 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Yuzvendra Chahal bowled well against Bangladesh in the ongoing World Cup. After India's triumph, he went on to interview KL Rahul for Chahal TV. When the Indian opener was asked about his crucial partnership with Rohit Sharma, he said:

"The wicket was not as good and easy as Rohit Sharma displayed it to be. He is in great form and has scored 400 runs. Somebody like him only could bat on this wicket. So I only had to play second fiddle and I am happy that our partnership crossed the hundred run mark."

During the course of the interview, Virat Kohli made his presence felt. Chahal who was hosting the show seriously turned his attention towards the Indian captain and said, "Puri koshish kar rahe hai Chahal TV me ghusne ki. Mein ne inhe gussa liya fir bhi".

Kohli responded quickly and said, Mujhe aana nahi hai, mujhe isne (Rahul) bulaya tha"

Chahal was once again upto the task and pulled Virat's leg. Ye scheme hai Chahal TV mein aane ki. Kaisi tadap hoti hai logo ko Chahal TV pe anne ki".

News Cricket

Australia defeat hurts me a lot – Imam-ul-Haq

Staff Writer Updated: 4 July, 2019, 4:25 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Pakistan are looking to end their World Cup campaign on a positive note as chances of qualifying for the semi-finals are almost over after England's triumph against New Zealand.

Men in Green will have to defeat Bangladesh by at least 311 runs to have glimmer of hope as far as semis are concerned. If Bangladesh bat first, Pakistan will be knocked out even before the first delivery is bowled.

"We are not thinking on the lines of not reaching semi-finals. Our plan is to play the semi-final with an all-out effort and at the end if that doesn't happen then we have to play positive cricket and end on a high," said opener Imam-ul-Haq.

Imam is most hurt with the loss against Australia as he was batting exceptionally well and his wicket started Pakistan’s downfall.

"I think the Australia defeat hurts me a lot. I was set and playing well. I should have won that match for Pakistan. We lost four quick wickets and I think I should have won that game and we would have beaten a big team in the World Cup."

"I think what expectations I had from myself I could not do like that," said Imam, who has so far scored 205 in seven innings.

"I had starts but couldn't score big. I am very young so I have learned a lot in this World Cup. What mistakes I have committed, I have learned from them and I am sure that will help me," said the 23-year-old Imam.

News Cricket

“We know Dhoni bhai is there. He has the answer to every question'

Harshit Anand Updated: 4 July, 2019, 3:44 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

MS Dhoni's slow batting has got him slammed by a vast section of people. But Indian cricketers are still backing the old warhorse against all the odds. Earlier, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma backed the way Dhoni bats in death overs. Dhoni's problems against spin have aslo been paramount and he has failed to rotate the strike in middle-overs, which dents team India's momentum.

Now, other members of the Indian team have also outlined the importance of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the Indian team, which people on the outside chirping about him don't quite realize.

Speaking to IANS, a member of the Indian squad said, “Let’s be honest. We are not England when it comes to batting. We have a tail and when Mahi bhai walks in, more often than not, he needs to keep that in mind. He doesn’t have the freedom say a Ben Stokes has because England bat till almost number 10, we don’t. We lost two wickets in the final over against Bangladesh the moment he got out.

“As for his experience on the field, he is the man who has the answer to every question we have. If Plan A doesn’t work, he gives you B, C and D. In fact, even during the game against Bangladesh on Tuesday, did you notice him constantly guiding Rishabh Pant and telling him about the areas he should target? You cannot buy that experience in the market,” the player said.

News Cricket

Michael Clarke slams Dhoni haters, says MS is a great, you don't doubt greatness

Harshit Anand Updated: 4 July, 2019, 3:12 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

MS Dhoni has a big fanbase. Not only the general public but even former and present cricketers have utmost love and respect for him. We have seen how present Indian cricketers including Indian captain, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma have supported him in times of intense scrutiny. Now, former Australian captain, Michael Clarke has also thrown his weight behind him.

"People haven't learnt by now to not doubt MS Dhoni. I will say this... over and over and over again. You don't doubt greatness. And MS Dhoni is a great. He is the greatest finisher to ever play to this game," Michael Clarke told India Today.

"Right now, India is doing it without MS Dhoni firing. Don't waste him now. Save him for when India really need him. He might do it in the semi-final, he might do it in the final," Clarke added.

India will now take on Sri Lanka on July 6 at Leeds having already qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup. It is likely that England and India will lock horns at Edgbaston in the semi-finale.

News Cricket

Rohit is from a different planet altogether when he gets going – KL Rahul

Staff Writer Updated: 4 July, 2019, 2:45 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul have formed a solid partnership for Men in Blue in the ongoing World Cup since Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament. Rahul, who has opened the innings in his absence, has played some impressive knocks including the 77 against Bangladesh. However, he has failed to convert starts into big ones and has been overshadowed by Rohit Sharma's brilliance.

With Hitman going great guns in the World Cup, Rahul stated it would be a foolish thing to do if decides to bat like his opening partner. Rahul further added that he has done well in the event so far but isn't fully convinced with his display for India.

"You would be a fool to be tempted to bat like Rohit because he is in a different class, he is from a different planet altogether when he gets going," he said.

"It will be great to score big runs for every batsman when he walks in that's what he wants to do. I've been batting well, in a good headspace. I just want to keep doing the things I've been doing right, try and probably improve each innings and see if I can prolong the right things I've been doing till 60-70. If I can do it for a bit longer, obviously I'll get the big score and it will benefit the team," he added.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli assured Charulata Patel of tickets for India’s remaining matches in the World Cup

Staff Writer Updated: 4 July, 2019, 2:30 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

The World Cup match between India and Bangladesh was attended by one of the special fans of Men in Blue. Charulata Patel, who is 87-year old, was seen cheering for the Indian team.

She became social media's sensation and her images took the internet by storm. Having gained all the limelight, she was also treated well by the Indian players. Virat Kohli, the Indian skipper, and his deputy Rohit Sharma not only met her but also sought her blessings.

Speaking to Times Now, she has revealed that Virat Kohli has promised her of tickets for Men in Blue's remaining matches in the tournament.

“They came to meet me, shook hands, touched my feet. I was on chair, they didn’t let me get up. I gave them my blessings. I hugged and kissed them,” Patel said before adding, “Kohli told me that I will have to come a couple of time more in the tournament. I told him the tickets are not easily available to which he said not to worry and that he will arrange them for me. I had never thought I will get to meet these cricketers today but it was my dream.”