Count on Mohammad Kaif to catch a fast one. Those attempting to pull wool will have to think twice because although some would contend it was a case of sour grapes, the Delhi Capitals assistant coach raises some rather valid, if rather controversial, points.
Kaif insinuated that his team were at the receiving end in this already controversy prone IPL 2019 season of teams trying to substitute weak links on the field. He claims it happened in the Delhi Capitols match against the Kolkata Knight Riders and then again in the match against the Kings XI Punjab. The former international cricketer who represented India and even featured in the famous NatWest Trophy victory in a feisty partnership with Yuvraj Singh went as far as to name names of players who he thought we were being substituted, Piyush Sharma and Sarfaraz Khan.
Kaif claims that the Delhi Capitals have taken the matter up with the match officials and that this is a malice that has been going on where the rules for substitution are being loosely interpreted even when the players do not generally have a genuine injury that calls for them to leave the field. He believes this is being practiced in order to ensure the team’s strongest fielders take the field, while slower cricketers are taken off. In a fast paced game such as the Twenty20 format and in a high pressure, high stakes match like the Indian Premier League (IPL), it is not beyond teams and their ability to connive in order to derive results, although some devious acts are easier to escape the eye than others.
Cricket, in the past, has briefly toyed with the idea of substitutions a la football, but it was an idea that never really caught on. Furthermore, it has not been tried at any level, not even as Twenty20 or in the Indian Premier League in the last decade to suggest legitimizing the substitution will end the exploitation of loopholes in the law. While it has an idea with possibility, it has never been one that has taken on the imagination and in the absence of a field test, it appears that teams could indeed be doing it for some players. In the past, there have been instances where a player too big for his boots could play around the idea of having someone else field for him although it is trickier, but not impossible, task to pull off at the international level.
But that this is something that Kaif, a rather agile fielder in his time, feels he is being blatantly exploited on the field and that furthermore, his team is at the receiving end of it. The change of ownership and team name have done little for the Delhi team thus far and some would go on to accuse Kaif of simply being a sore loser. However, before the accusation is dismissed outright, perhaps it is worth a re-look at how teams are indeed shaping up at the start of the match and then, when they take the field, particularly in critical junctures of the match where every run costs and counts.
Sunrisers Hyderabad's coach, Tom Moody is a happy man at the moment. His team Hyderabad are currently the table toppers in IPL's points table. They are absolutely on fire. At present, IPL is capturing everyone's attention but still, people are eagerly awaiting the inception of the Cricket World Cup that will take place in England and Wales from May 30.
SRH coach Tom Moody named India and England as favorites for the ICC showpiece event. "The standouts are India and England. They are absolute certainties to be in the top four. What is exciting about this World Cup is a number of sides can easily find themselves in third and fourth positions. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and West Indies -- I don’t think people thought of them 12 months ago. Windies are a serious threat, particularly if someone like Sunil Narine comes back into the equation," Tom Moody was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
"The other exciting thing is the interest and intrigue around what Afghanistan are going to do. I don’t care who you are in this tournament, you are going to be on watch when you play Afghanistan," added the 53 years old.
He is not exactly making waves around the ATP circuit. He has not risen sensationally in the rankings and has not notched up a victory over a top ten player. But in his own way Prajnesh Gunneswaran is making a mark and is currently perched on a career best 81 in the rankings. And given the fact that he almost gave up playing the game and was out of the circuit for four years due to knee injuries it has been a gallant effort by the 29-year-old Chennai born left hander to be carrying India’s flag in various tournaments all over the world including Grand Slams and Masters 1000 competitions.
In a way this is due to his balanced temperament. Fully aware of the intense competition Prajnesh gave himself realistic goals – playing a Grand Slam and getting into the top 100 in 2019. Now that he has achieved both – he lost in the first round of the Australian Open in January to 29th ranked Frances Tiafoe of the US – he is slowly climbing the ladder and gives every indication that he can improve his ranking further.
Prajnesh might not have beaten a top ten player but he has not been without significant wins over players ranked above him. At the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells last month he got the better of world No 63 Benoit Paire in the first round and upset world No 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili in the next round before his unexpectedly successful run was halted in the third round by the big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic. As a result he climbed from 97 to 82 in the rankings – not bad for someone ranked 243 at the start of 2018. .
Following this impressive showing Prajnesh made it to the main draw of the Miami Masters but could not replicate his stunning run at Indian Wells bowling out in the first round to world No 61 Juama Munar of Spain. 7-6, 6-4. Playing his second straight Masters 1000 tournament Prajnesh performed creditably before going down to a player ranked more than 20 places above him. This pushed him one more place up in the rankings.
The wins over Paire and Basilashvili were not Prajnesh’s first victories over players ranked far above him. In June last year at Stuttgart he stunned world No 23 Denis Shapovalov of Canada to serve notice of his rising stature. And of late Prajnesh has brought to his game a stronger and more effective backhand and most importantly an increasingly threatening playing style. There is every hope that his best lies ahead.