Even as South Africa undertake the important tour of India beginning with a three match Twenty20 internationals, questions remain about the future of the most prominent member of the squad missing from the lineup.
Quinton de Kock might be reasonably excited about the possibility of captaining South Africa in India, albeit for only the Twenty20 internationals part of the tour. Under normal circumstances, it would have been reasonable enough to raise expectations under a new leadership. Yet given the kind of change that Cricket South Africa (CSA) have embarked upon since the debacle that was their campaign in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, there is some skepticism as well as a great deal of uncertainty about how South Africa move forward.
The end of South Africa’s ICC Cricket World Cup did not anticipate the idea of the cricket board doing away with the coaching position and instead bringing on a team manager a la football. Furthermore, while it was expected that questions would be raised about the practicality of continuing the journey with Faf du Plessis at the helm given his age and also, the fact that the next major fifty overs World Cup is four years away, there was little doubt with so many retirements and changes on the anvil, Faf could be the perfect foil as a catalyst to lead a new team and leadership in the transition.
Yet, it would appear South Africa have arrived in India without having taken people into confidence and with another round of shooting-in-the-dark strategies that could make or break them. If that became apparent as Cricket South Africa made the announcements, those doubts would have been exacerbated after the comments that have come forth from the team management after the team landed in India.
CSA acting director of cricket, Corrie van Zyl insisted Faf du Plessis was very much in the mix even as the team for the tour of India was announced with Faf named only as South Africa’s Test captain and not even included in South Africa’s Twenty20 squad. On his part, Faf, who led the latter half of South Africa’s campaign with a century and near century, albeit after the ship had sailed, insisted that he would still be South Africa’s Twenty20 captain for the 2020 ICC World Twenty20 event in Australia next year and that South Africa were merely using the time as opportunity to experiment in order to find a worthy successor.
But while Faf flits from one Twenty20 tournament that got scuttled to another before coming to India to take charge of the Test team, the words of the team management would not have given him any comfort either with regard to his future as South Africa’s limited overs captain or his place purely as a batsman.
Enoch Nkwe, the team director, upon landing in India, almost put the nail in the coffin, particularly as far as Faf’s career as South Africa’s limited overs captaincy is concerned by stating that the team was intent on looking forward while acknowledging his past contributions, the emphasis being on past.
With the likes of AB de Villiers having retired of their own volition, with South Africa losing players to Kolpak deals and the such, can South Africa afford to lose not only an experienced captain but also, a valuable mentor and member of the dressing room this close to another World Cup challenge, albeit in a different format?
While Faf du Plessis may have little choice but to build up a string of performances in the opportunities outside South Africa’s cricket and prepare to take on South Africa’s Test challenge that kicks off their ICC World Test Championship, it will be interesting how this experiment with a new management and a new captaincy trial works out and whether Faf du Plessis then becomes the one holding the key should South Africa’s experiments fail to yield the desired results close to the ICC World Twenty20 2020. Anxious times for Faf du Plessis and South Africa.
Steve Smith is having a record-breaking 2019 Ashes series. Due to his exceptional batting and Australia's excellent bowling, the Kangaroos have already retained the Ashes. If Australia manage to win this Test or draw the game, they will win the Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001.
But Australia got bundled-out on 225 runs after England made 294 runs in the first innings. Barring Smith, who made 80, no other batsman could even touch the fifty-run mark. Smith has a total of 751 runs in the series. Apart from Smith and Labuschagne, who has 339 runs at an average of 56.5, no other Australian batsmen has averaged even 30. On the second day as well, it was only Smith (80) and Labuschagne (48), doing well for the visitors.
Steve Smith, however, has defended his teammates despite their poor show. The former Aussie skipper said, “We haven’t seen any huge totals really throughout the whole series so it’s not been easy. There’s always been something there, I felt. If you bowl in good areas for long enough then I think we’ve seen you’ll get rewards. Playing in England is completely different from playing back home and you’ve got to find ways to play away from home.
“Sometimes you need to change certain little things that can help you play in certain conditions and adapt accordingly but I think it will be a good learning curve for all of our batters,” added Smith.
Steve Smith is batting like a dream for Australia in the ongoing Ashes series. He was out of action for more than a year. But right in the first Test series since his comeback to the format, he snatched back his no.1 position in ICC Test rankings. But his exploits against England knows no bounds. Smith is turning out to be an Ashes god. Don't believe me? Read this stat.
Smith has 1,251 runs in last ten Ashes innings. In last ten innings, his scores read 239, 76, 102*, 83, 144, 142, 92, 211, 82, 80. His lowest score has been 80, which he made in the first innings of the Oval Test. The right-hander has five centuries and fifties each with two double-centuries. Now, he has even bettered Sir Don Bradman's record of most runs in 10 successive Ashes innings.
Between 1937 and 1946, Bradman had made 1,236 runs in ten successive Ashes innings with scores of 212, 169, 51, 144*, 18, 102*, 103, 16, 187, 234.
Smith is batting like a beast in the ongoing Ashes series. He now has 751 runs in the series at an average of 125.17. And this is Smith's comeback to Test cricket after a long lay-off that too in high-pressure situations but he doesn't feel pressure, he is an Ashes god, after all. Smith now has 2,777 runs in Ashes cricket after 47 innings that with 11 centuries.
The South Africans start their short tour of India with the first of three T-20 internationals at Dharamsala on Sunday and this format gives them their best opportunity to win in India. There is very little chance of the visitors winning the three-match Test series that follows going by their past record in this country. In the first place it is the one format in which they are above India in the ICC rankings being third to India’s fourth. Secondly it does appear that they have the team personnel to challenge India.
In skipper Quinton de Kock they have one of the leading players in the world in the shortest formats of the game. He loves to strike the ball hard and high and is equally proficient in ODIs. He has a particularly good record against India and who can forget his three hundreds in successive ODI’s six years ago. He followed this up with two more hundreds in India a couple of years later.
David Miller is another player the Indian bowlers will be wary of. The 30-year -old has class, skill and experience and his career strike rate of 140 in T20 internationals is among the best in the format. Both de Kock and Miller have been regulars in the IPL for years. Miller has been one of the stalwarts for King’s XI Punjab while the skipper has turned out for Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils. Little wonder then there have been reports that other team members have been picking the brains of the duo to find out more about Indian players and conditions.
Pace bowling has a major role to play in T-20 cricket and here the visitors are well served. Kagiso Rabada heads the department and he has the likes of Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorious and Anrich Nortje for company and South Africa will be hoping that the bowling can cover up for any weaknesses in the batting which to be candid lacks depth.
In fact with India either resting their main pace bowlers or not considering them for the shortest format South Africa are better served in the department. In the absence of the regulars it will be up to the likes of Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini and all-rounder Hardik Pandya to come up with something special. Of course India has the better spin attack with Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya so things sort of level out in the bowling department. But where India should have the decisive edge is in the batting. In Virat Kohli they have the best batsman in limited overs cricket and the support cast too is of the top drawer – Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and KL Rahul.
England pacer Jofra Archer took 6-62 as Australia was dismissed for 225 on Day 2 of the fifth Ashes test, with star batter Steve Smith out for 80 in his lowest score of the series.
England had a first-innings lead of 69 — after scoring 294 when it was put into bat in a gamble by Australia captain Tim Paine — and reached stumps Friday on 9-0 in its second innings to lead by 78 runs overall.
Smith was trapped leg before wicket by a straight delivery from Chris Woakes and has now made 751 runs from his six innings this series. Marnus Labuschagne hit 48 before he was out lbw to Archer, who took the first three wickets of the innings. Sam Curran also proved a significant threat with 3-46 in his first appearance of the series.
Smith took his sequence of 50-plus scores against England to 10 in a row, but this time he was unable to fully make up for the mediocrity of his teammates.
Smith was only really troubled when Jonny Bairstow's arrival at the stumps led to him diving awkwardly to beat a throw that was instead collected at the non-striker's end.
Smiles were exchanged with the seemingly mischievous England wicketkeeper, Smith dusted himself down and passed 50 by carving Leach for six.
"He got me there, didn't he? Dirtied my clothes. He didn't say anything, I don't think, but he got me. I didn't know where the ball was. Bloody thing, faked it. He got me. I don't know what else to say," Smith said during the press conference after stumps.
Jofra Archer has been making the right noises that too in his first Test series. The English paceman has taken 22 wickets so far. He scalped a six-fer in the first innings of the ongoing Oval Test as well. But, England's leading pace bowler is finding it extremely difficult to get the world's no.1 Test batsman, Steve Smith out.
Smith continued his insane run of form as he made 80 in Australia's first innings despite suffering from flu. "Steve Smith didn't look himself today, he didn't look as nailed on, he didn't seem the same way,” Archer asserted.
“It’s weird, you know. Every time he bats, I don’t know what it is. He literally cannot get out. If he plays a bad shot, the ball lands in no man’s and. For the whole series. Obviously he’s a good batter, he’s got a good temperament, but I don’t know what it is: the ball never ever goes to hand,” the pacer said.
“We know he’s going to miss one, though, and today just proves it. Funnily enough, the last person he missed one-off was Woakes [at Lord’s],” he added.
Australian opener David Warner had a sensational 2019 IPL followed by an equally good Cricket World Cup campaign. But, he has failed to make a smooth transition to Test cricket and has continued his poor track record on the English soil.
He added an unwanted record to his name during Australia's first innings in the ongoing Oval Test when he got out for 5 runs off 8 balls to become Jofra Archer's first of six scalps on the second day of the final Test.
Notably, this was Warner's eighth single-digit score in the ongoing Ashes series. With this, he has become the first batsman to achieve this unwanted feat (most single-digit-scores) in Ashes cricket.
Warner has scored 84 runs in nine innings at an average of 9.33 and if it was not for 61 in the Headingley Test, his numbers would have been even poorer. Interestingly, Steve Smith has hit more fours (88) than Warner's run-tally in the series.
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is still counting on Sri Lanka turning up for a limited-overs tour this month despite alleged terrorist threats.
Sri Lanka Cricket said it was warned of a possible terrorist threat during the scheduled tour of Pakistan, and sought a reassessment of the security situation before the first of three one-day internationals on Sept. 27 in Karachi. There's also three Twenty20s scheduled in Lahore from Oct. 5-9.
"Inshallah (God willing) they will come, we should hope for the best," Sarfaraz said on Friday in Karachi.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board is trying its best and we should all pray that international cricket should come back to Pakistan."
Sarfaraz added the International Cricket Council and other national boards should come forward and support Pakistan more in its bid to revive international cricket.
"The way PCB has worked over the last 10 years, it's a tremendous effort," he said.
He also noted how quick Pakistan supported Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings there by sending a junior team to tour.
Major teams have avoided Pakistan since the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists in 2009. Over the past three years, Pakistan has successfully hosted Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and a World XI in limited-overs matches amid intense security.
Sarfaraz was confirmed as captain on Friday for both limited-overs series. Babar Azam was named as vice-captain and PCB chairman Ehsan Mani hinted the middle-order batsman could be Pakistan's future captain in the shorter formats.
"This is part of Babar's gradual development as a future captain and in line with our strategy of introducing a succession plan across the board so that there are no gaps," Mani said in a statement.
A stand at Feroz Shah Kotla ground was named after Indian captain Virat Kohli on September 12. The stadium was renamed after former DDCA President, Arun Jaitley. Team India along with the family of Virat Kohli attended the ceremony.
Virat took to social media to thank the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
"Thank you @delhi_cricket and @BCCI for bestowing this honour upon me. The pavilion will remind me of my journey in life and in cricket but most importantly I hope it will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of young cricketers of our nation," Virat wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, Virat Kohli’s teammates were asked questions related to him.
Shikhar Dhawan, the left hand batsman, was asked to reveal the type of songs Kohli likes to listen.
“Before marriage or after marriage?” was Dhawan's response.
He went on to add that Kohli likes to hear Punjabi songs.
Men in Blue were present at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in the national capital to attend an event where a pavilion at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground was named after Virat Kohli.
The Indian skipper was honored by the Delhi and District Cricket Association and the governing body of Indian cricket for his contribution towards cricket in India. Virat's teammates were asked questions related to their skipper.
Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder, who was recently selected for the upcoming T20 series South Africa, was asked about Kohli's superstition. According to him, Virat Kohli is not superstitious.
Hardik was rested from the tour of West Indies considering his workload. He will play a key role in the home season where India have couple of important assignments lined-up.
Shubman Gill was finally selected in Inia's Test team after being overlooked from all formats for the tour of West Indies. He replaced KL Rahul for the three-match Test series against South Africa. He has been selected as a back-up opener with Rohit Sharma likely to open the batting with Mayank Agarwal.
The 20 years old has acknowledged the contribution of Yuvraj Singh in his growth as a cricketer so far and had words of praise for him. "Yuvi paji keeps telling me what needs to be done. A few years back, he told me I shouldn't sign any company, I should just go and play. I didn't sign anyone. He keeps guiding me, keeps tells me what to do what not to do," he said. "There are a lot of people who keep guiding me. In our team (Punjab), we have Yuvraj Singh, Gurkeerat Mann, my father. I'm very close to my father. He keeps telling me, guiding me."
Shubman also told how his father has helped him in his career. He said, "I've learnt (to be patient) from my father - he had the patience and calmness to keep throwing 200-300 balls at the nets when I was a kid. From my early days my mindset was such that if I am set, batting on a hundred, I have to go on to a big one. I should not lose my concentration and should not play any loose shots. This is one habit I have adopted when I was young and it has helped me."
Former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener feels that Rishabh Pant will have to learn from others mistakes in order to become a better player across formats. The left hand batsman has been inconsistent in shorter formats.
"It would hard for me to pinpoint but with a phenomenal talent like that, one always tends to get a bit ahead of himself," Klusener, who is currently in India as the white ball batting coach of the South African team, told PTI during an interaction.
He worked with Pant when he was appointed as Delhi senior team's white ball consultant last year.
"He needs to give himself time to get in and that bit of time will allow him to showcase his talent," he added.
"What gets you ahead in international cricket is learning from others' mistakes rather than making your own mistakes along the way and learning," he said.
"I will tell you why. You can learn from your own mistakes but it will take a lot more time to realize, correct and become a better player using that process. If you look at mistakes others are making, you will learn quickly and thus improve fast," said Klusener.
He further added that Pant can speak to senior pros to solve his problems.
"It's wonderful to have the talent like Rishabh in the twilight years of MS Dhoni's career. From an Indian point of view, maybe they should try and get him to contribute more.
"He has some wonderful coaches and players around him so take their advice but at the same time don't curb your natural talent," advised Klusener.
Former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener, who was recently appointed as the white-ball batting coach of the national team, feels more focus on shorter formats has impacted all-rounders in international cricket.
He, along with Andre Flintoff and Jacques Kallis, were pure all-rounders with Ben Stokes being one among active players.
"We were possibly (that last batch of pure all-rounders)," he agreed.
"I think in the past, when the focus was more on Test cricket, you had to bowl 15-overs-a-day. The more you bowled or longer you batted, you got better at it naturally," he said.
He will go back after the T20 series against India but he is thinking of coming back.
"I haven't yet decided but I would like to comeback. There are a few offers that I am contemplating. One is Bangladesh Premier League the dates of which, I believe, have been deferred and now clashing with Mushtaq Ali," he said.
"I had good communication with DDCA brass and I thoroughly enjoyed my time over here. It was wonderful to work with Mithun Manhas last year, who is a good friend of mine and unfortunately, not there this year," he concluded.
India skipper Virat Kohli has disclosed how late former Finance Minister and DDCA President, Arun Jaitely motivated him after he lost his father due to a cardiac arrest when he was merely 18 years old and just getting into his groove as a cricketer.
On the occasion of renaming Feroz Shah Kotla stadium as Arun Jaitley Stadium and the unveiling of the stand named after him, Kohli remembered how Jaitley came to his home and offered words of encouragement after passing away of his father.
"It is more special. It is happening at the same time as the stadium being named after Arun Jaitley Ji," said Kohli at the event.
"I know Jaitley Ji as a person who came to my house and encouraged me when my father passed away. He also motivated me. So, I had a special connection with him. He was a very good person. So, it is a proud moment that both the things happened at the same time," he said.
A while back, Kohli had opened up on his father's demise. “I was playing a four day game at the time and was supposed to resume batting the next day when this (father passed) happened at 230 odd in the morning. We all woke up but had no idea what to do. I literally saw him breathe his last,” Kohli had told Graham Bensinger in a freewheeling interview.
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