Feature Cricket

Musical Chairs of Coaching!

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 8 August, 2019, 5:20 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

The conclusion of a tournament of World Cup proportions usually comes with it the hailing of winners as well as the case of rolling heads for teams that fail to go the distance. With many teams now looking for a new face to lead their forthcoming campaigns, it might end up being a case of musical chairs where one fallen coach could end up in another’s backyard.

Ottis Gibson pleaded for the opportunity of more time with the South African team. But it seemed South Africa’s disastrous World Cup had to see changes on a rather prominent level. Gibson, who had been appointed for primarily the goal of helping South Africa lift the World Cup, unfortunately did not measure up when push came to shove. The curtains were certain even as the coach implored for another chance to prove himself and for the team to be exonerated.

Not only has the coach’s place been made vacant as far as South Africa’s cricket is concerned but also, there is now an air of uncertainty about how much leadership Faf du Plessis will wield going forward. Similarly, the tolling of bells can be heard elsewhere.

While the Pakistan coach until the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Mickey Arthur, wanted to continue beyond the World Cup somewhat controversially without the current captain, Sarfaraz Nawaz, Arthur finds himself out of a job. Although not quite as epic as England’s Pietersen-Moore saga of more than a decade ago, it is not on dissimilar lines as the suggestion of removal of one has led to the shooting of the messenger.

India are amongst the rare set of teams that are going through the formality of reappointing the old guard for all practical purposes. It would seem that while the BCCI’s formality of applications has seen a more curious names to say it best, it would appear that despite that fiasco of a semi final against New Zealand, Ravi Shastri may have saved his seat in the dressing room.

The rumour mills though went into overdrive as the captaincy became a subject of discussion, introducing angles of split captaincy and also, of ego busts up in and out of the dressing room between the current Indian captain, Virat Kohli, and the candidate vying for his throat/throne, Rohit Sharma. Was Kohli’s West Indies tour decision a preventive measure?

The cushion of comfort does not extend even at the end of a successful ICC Cricket World Cup campaign for the England coach, Trevor Bayliss, whose contract expires at the end of the Ashes series. Judging by the manner in which the first Test of the Ashes ended in Birmingham, Bayliss could well be packing his bags and Arthur relocating if rumours of the latter being singled out as the next England coach are to be believed. It is still early days yet.

Sri Lanka have suspended their current coach, leaving the door open for sweeping changes. After a turmoil fueled build up to the World Cup that saw some rather ignominious captaincy campaigns, this might only be the first of several changes being mulled by the team from the Emerald Isles.

Sweeping changes though would not be limited to Sri Lanka. Much of cricket’s leadership around the world is going through a shake down. Even as the focus has shifted from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England to the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, the mindset of rebuilding on a four year platform has not changed. It has meant that even as some teams are already in the heat of confronting the new format of a Test championship, they must be prepared to make some changes on the go.

While one would think that those plans would incorporate not just the limited overs World Cup at targets, it would appear that with the ICC Test World Championship still being nascent, teams would draw more conservative, short term Test team goals on a bilateral series basis before tallying up the points in the race for the final two years hence on. The quest for the next coach is more immediate as teams are now revealing.

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News Cricket

Bollywood diva Sonal Chauhan opens up on her relationship rumours with KL Rahul

Staff Writer Updated: 18 September, 2019, 2:19 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

KL Rahul, who was recently axed from the Test team, has been linked up with several Bollywood actresses. However, he has denied all the link-up stories.

There were rumours about the 27-year old dating Sonal Chauhan but she has categorically denied any sort of relationship with him.

“No, not at all. He is a very good cricketer. He is very talented and a nice guy," she said.

He is part of the limited overs squad in the ongoing T20 series against South Africa.

Earlier, chief selector MSK Prasad had said he was worried with KL Rahul's poor form in Test cricket.

"KL (Rahul) is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit tough time in Test cricket. We are definitely concerned about his form. He needs to spend more time on the wicket and regain his touch and form."

Opinion Cricket

Is Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav's T20I journey over?

CT Contributor Updated: 18 September, 2019, 2:09 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Not having Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in a T20I team is pretty strange. The two rose to prominence in the Indian cricket team with some impressive outings in T20Is and ODIs. Although, they are the pillars in ODI cricket, the recent snubs in T20Is has suggested a different view on this matter. India want a different approach and style in their T20Is and the thought process has started with the ICC World T20 in mind.

For now, India want to bat deep and are inclined in having all-rounders to help them. They have two left-arm spin all-rounders in the form of Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. Washington Sundar has been handed chances to show his mettle. He can bat a bit down the order. Youngster Rahul Chahar is in there as well to give the side more shine. One can say, Kuldeep and Chahal's places have been taken by Chahar and Sundar in the recent scheme of things.

Now to present the cases of the two wrist-spinners, Chahal has a realistic chance of forging his way back into the side. He is a quality white-ball bowler and his records in the T20I format speaks for himself. Chahal can always be considered if Chahar and Sundar doesn't impress in the near future. Experience here is also key as well. Kuldeep, on the other hand, has been off color in T20Is.

He had a disastrous IPL 2019 season for KKR and his weaknesses came to the fore. Also, India have two left-arm spin options and that could affect Kuldeep's chances for now. This means he has a small window of opportunity to feature in India's plans leading to the ICC World T20 next year. This also makes sense. Both these bowlers need to go back and gather their thoughts and try doing well in domestic T20 matches to start with. Continuous shows will give them the confidence.

One can say Chahal has the better chance of making a comeback to the side. However, Kuldeep with all his recent struggles, may find it extremely hard to make a return and force his way back.

News Cricket

Jofra Archer is the most talented bowler I have ever seen - Ben Stokes

Staff Writer Updated: 18 September, 2019, 2:04 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Jofra Archer was on song during the World Cup and the recently concluded Ashes.

He picked up 22 wickets against Australia and was even declared the Man of the Match for his superb spell in the last Ashes Test.

Ben Stokes has lauded the performance of Jofra Archer. He feels Jofra is the most talented bowler he has seen.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a more talented bowler in my time. It’s great to have him on your team. No doubt he is the sort of guy who can help get those Ashes back when we go down under (in 2021-22),” Stokes said as quoted by The Guardian.

“It is very rare for a 24-year-old to be able to come in, be exposed to this environment and then step up and improve game by game as quickly as Jof is doing it. There is plenty more to come from him because he is so skilful and picks things up so quickly,” Stokes added.

News Cricket

Steve Smith makes the ugliest hundreds I have ever seen - Jonty Rhodes

Staff Writer Updated: 18 September, 2019, 1:43 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Steve Smith and Virat Kohli are the two leading stars in international cricket. While Virat Kohli continues to lead shorter formats, Steve Smith has moved ahead in Test cricket. Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes has picked Virat Kohli over Steve Smith as the best batsman in world at the moment.

“I enjoy watching Virat Kohli. Steve Smith, with that action and technique, makes the ugliest hundreds I have ever seen but the man just keeps scoring runs. Someone who likes to watch cricket would want to say ‘Wow! What an amazing shot’ as opposed to ‘Oh! How on earth can he hit that?’ So Virat Kohli right now,” Rhodes told New Indian Express in an interview.

"Someone who likes to watch cricket would want to say 'Wow! What an amazing shot' as opposed to 'Oh! How on earth can he hit that?' So Virat Kohli right now," the South Africa legend said.

Steve Smith scored 774 runs in the recently concluded Ashes and is the number one batsman in ICC rankings for batsmen.

Kohli scored two half centuries in India's last Test series win over West Indies.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni can't sacrifice their reputation for match fixing - ACU chief

Staff Writer Updated: 18 September, 2019, 12:12 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Tamil Nadu Premier has been marred with allegations of match fixing and the governing body of Indian cricket is not happy with the way things are being handled in the competition. The chief of the BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) chief Ajit Singh feels small or unknown players are easy to approach.

Speaking to IANS, he said that its impossible to approach top stars like a Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni.

"If you ask me, today in cricket, a star has much more to lose than gain if he gets involved in this. Imagine a Virat Kohli or Dhoni getting into this. Things don't just move by money, it is also the reputation that counts. They can't sacrifice their reputation for such things. They are far bigger than all this.

"Even if you are talking just in financial terms, do you think they will get involved -- both in terms of the endorsement that they get because of their reputation and star power, as also the other benefits that they get.

"Betting wouldn't give them a small percentage of that money," he explained.

"These people (fixers and bookies) are looking at whatever opportunities they can get. If they can't get into any tournament, they start their own leagues. They are now moving to new countries and in the name of promoting the sport, they organize tournaments and get teams. They pretend to be working for the game.

"You can't stop someone from organizing a tournament because this is a free country. But what BCCI can do is say this is not recognized so registered players won't go. Still, some young players fall for this. Sometimes, they also get players from outside to promote the league and make them ambassadors and stuff."

Feature Cricket

Rishabh Pant should be given a lot of leeway

Partab Ramchand Updated: 18 September, 2019, 10:47 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Let’s get one thing straight. Rishabh Pant can be a match winner and on this ground alone should be persevered with. He should be given a lot of leeway and the freedom to play his fearless strokes. If on the way he will have days when he is out to a reckless shot so be it.

Swashbuckling batsmen have always faced the criticism that they have been careless in their approach, that they have not put the team’s interests first. Kris Srikkanth faced this charge in the 80s and some 20 years later Virender Sehwag too frequently came under the scanner. No one can however deny that they were game changers who could put the game beyond the opposition in a matter of minutes.

Much the same can be said of Pant. Sure, in his comparatively short career his choice of shots hasn’t always been wise. He has been accused of playing injudiciously and throwing his wicket away. But he is prodigiously gifted and such cricketers should be encouraged to play their natural, instinctive game.

In this connection the ``rap on the knuckles’’ warning from coach Ravi Shastri is timely. He made it clear that while he had faith in Pant’s talent and destructive ability he was of the view that sometimes his shot selection was unwise and he had let himself and the team down. In particular Shastri touched upon his first ball dismissal in the ODI against West Indies at Port of Spain last month when he came down the track to Fabian Allen only to miscue the lofted shot to mid-off. ``You have a target to chase and the need of the hour is some sensible cricket’’ said Shastri. That innings was Pant’s second first ball duck on the tour of the West Indies. In the first T-20 international he had top edged a slog sweep off Sunil Narine.

Skipper Virat Kohli too joined in the criticism but only suggested that he was not for Pant to change his approach and natural game but only to read the match situations better. Also adopting a conciliatory approach is the new batting coach Vikram Rathour who called for Pant to sort out his game plan without compromising on his explosive and innovative style. This can be achieved with a lot more opportunities and Pant who turns 22 next month has the right temperament to eschew needless risks and still be the kind of match winner he is with his buccaneering approach. There is a fine line between fearless and reckless and Pant has only to keep that in mind.

News Cricket

Dhawan's contribution to the game is as important as that of Rohit and Virat - Harbhajan

Staff Writer Updated: 18 September, 2019, 10:38 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Veteran Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh has praised Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan for their performance as openers of Team India. He further added that Shikhar Dhawan's contribution is as important to the Indian team as that of his fellow opening batsman and Virat Kohli. Dhawan, who had to miss most of the matches in the last edition of the World Cup, made his comeback in the series against West Indies.

He was part of the T20 and ODI sides but his contribution was not upto the mark. However, Bhajji is still backing Dhawan to come good against South Africa.

"Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are some of the finest batsmen that India has seen, and have proven to be one of India's best opening pairs. Shikhar Dhawan's contribution to the game is as important as that of Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli," Harbhajan was quoted as saying by IANS.

"Be it T20 or 50 overs, irrespective of the format, Shikhar is really good. According to me, there is no better opener than Shikhar Dhawan, along with Rohit Sharma, in any format - T20 and 50 overs. If he continues working on his fitness in the coming 2-3 years, I think he will be unstoppable," he added.

News Tennis

Roger Federer to decide soon on Tokyo Olympic plans

AP Updated: 18 September, 2019, 10:35 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Roger Federer plans to decide "in the next month or so" whether he will play at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Federer said his 2020 schedule is set through Wimbledon, which ends July 12. The week-long Olympic tournament starts July 25 and ends a few days before his 39th birthday.

"I guess I'm going to be deciding on the Olympic Games in the next few weeks, hopefully in the next month or so," he said.

Speaking ahead of the Laver Cup team competition he co-owns, Federer said he is "very excited about the prospect" of Tokyo.

"I just have to see how is the family, how is my body doing," Federer said in an interview broadcast by Swiss public television.

Federer is a four-time Olympian. He met his wife at the 2000 Sydney Games and twice carried Switzerland's flag at opening ceremonies.

"It's been such a special event for me," he said.

Federer won doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver in singles at the 2012 London Games, played at Wimbledon. He missed the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of injury.

To play in Tokyo, Federer would likely have to get a wild-card exemption from the International Tennis Federation. He has not played the required amount of Davis Cup games to be eligible by right.

News Football

Ronaldo faces Atlético again; depleted PSG takes on Madrid

AP Updated: 18 September, 2019, 10:33 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Cristiano Ronaldo faces a familiar foe as Juventus opens its Champions League campaign at Atlético Madrid, while his former team Real Madrid visits a Paris Saint-Germain squad that will be without the attacking trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé.

Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the round of 16 last season to help Juventus eliminate Atlético, a team he repeatedly thrived against when playing for its crosstown rival.

Real Madrid caught a break for its opener in Paris as Neymar won't be able to play for PSG because of a suspension and Cavani and Mbappé are injured. Madrid, meanwhile, will be able to count on Eden Hazard, the former Chelsea playmaker who made his competitive debut with the club in a Spanish league game.

"Since I arrived I felt the connection that Real Madrid has with the Champions League," Hazard said. "Being here is a dream for me and I hope to make the most of it."

Manchester City visits Shakhtar Donetsk in its quest to succeed in the European competition under Pep Guardiola, while Tottenham — last season's runner-up — travels to Greece to face Olympiakos.

Five-time European champion Bayern Munich hosts Red Star Belgrade.

News Football

Liverpool, Chelsea lose in Champions League

AP Updated: 18 September, 2019, 10:24 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

On a night when Europe's biggest stars couldn't find a way to score, teenager Erling Braut Haaland made it look easy.

The 19-year-old Norwegian shone on his Champions League debut, scoring a hat trick as Salzburg beat Genk 6-2. Meanwhile, Liverpool, Barcelona and Chelsea all failed to score.

Haaland is emerging as one of European soccer's biggest talents after netting 17 goals in nine games for Salzburg this season.

He scored in the second minute against Genk and twice more before halftime, tormenting the Belgian side on the counterattack and making Salzburg look like anything but a team which last played in the Champions League in 1994.

When Haaland was substituted in the 72nd minute, it was to a standing ovation. At the final whistle, he ran back onto the pitch to more applause and hugs from teammates.

LIVERPOOL AND CHELSEA BEATEN

Last season ended with all-English finals in both of Europe's main club competitions. But the English are off to a poor start this season.

Liverpool's prolific front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane misfired as the European champion's title defense started with a 2-0 loss to Napoli.

Liverpool denied Napoli a place in the Champions League knockout rounds last season and the Italian side got a measure of revenge. Dries Mertens' penalty gave Napoli the lead before Fernando Llorente — who was on the Tottenham team that lost to Liverpool in last season's final — made it 2-0 in stoppage time.

Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by Valencia thanks to a volley from Rodrigo, with Ross Barkley missing a chance to equalize when he fired a penalty onto the crossbar. It was the first European test for the new-look Chelsea team under coach Frank Lampard.

Making things worse for Chelsea, midfielder Mason Mount went off with an ankle injury after a sliding tackle from Valencia's Francis Coquelin.

MESSI RETURNS

Even Lionel Messi couldn't lift Barcelona to a win over Borussia Dortmund.

In his first appearance of the season following a calf injury, Messi came off the bench to replace 16-year-old Ansu Fati but couldn't turn the tide in a 0-0 draw.

Instead, Barcelona's standout player was goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who saved a penalty from Marco Reus and made several other saves to keep the game scoreless. Dortmund also struck the crossbar through substitute Julian Brandt.

Feature Cricket

Rohit Sharma’s last chance at Test cricket permanency?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 17 September, 2019, 4:45 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

As hard as it may be to imagine, these must be exhilarating times for Rohit Sharma who has become the toast of the town to the point of becoming suddenly India’s first choice for the slot of the Test opener for the home series against South Africa. It was not that long ago that Rohit Sharma did not know if he was coming or going as he was left out of the home series against the West Indies and then seemingly randomly picked for the tour of Australia.

K.L. Rahul’s inconsistent performances as a Test opener eventually found its waterloo in the West Indies. With it becoming obvious that Virat Kohli needs a new cricketer in the opener’s slot in order to forge ahead, it seemed that rather than put all one’s eggs in the basket of India’s new wave of cricketers, the idea of having an experienced cricketer in the midst seemed to fortify as an idea.

It remains to be seen whether Rohit Sharma can do consistently for India what Virender Sehwag did in that opener’s role, also, as a swashbuckling batsman. Whether India will give Rohit – the skittish member of the Test cricket lot – leeway a la Virender Sehwag is, also, in question given Sharma’s chequered Test cricket journey.

Ironically it seems that while Rohit Sharma could not find a spot on the Indian team when the West Indies last toured India, he did make the tour of Australia. If there was a sense of faith about Rohit Sharma translating from a prolific limited overs cricketer into a consistent Test cricketer, it has not been particularly forthcoming even in the past year although Rohit Sharma as a viable alternative to Kohli as India’s limited overs captain floated around, particularly as India went down anti-climatically in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-final to New Zealand.

Now it would appear that whatever feuds and rifts were rumoured to be brewing between the captain and Sharma would have to take to dust as India gear up for the first home encounter since the inception of the ICC World Test Championship. Although India began their Test points tally with the series in the Caribbean, this will be their first home encounter which is perhaps why Rohit Sharma has been thrown into the mix given that this is a series against South Africa. The argument though could perhaps be made that there was no better, not to mention, opportunistic, time than now to strike when the iron is hot by blooding a younger cricketer, particularly in home conditions.

That could still happen although it would seem that playing it safe would demand Rohit was tried in the slot. By the same breath, it would then hold that while Rohit Sharma’s talents have never been in doubt, there has always been an asterix to his career as a Test cricketer. Unable to establish himself consistently enough or score prolifically as he has in the shorter formats of the game where he has double centuries to his game, Rohit Sharma has often had to wait upon unlikely opportunities to audition to play for Test cricket. It is what has kept his career hanging and perhaps even cost him the opportunity to really challenge Kohli for the captaincy.

With that being said, with Kohli in resplendent form to not feel threat to his place in the team or his position as the team’s captain any time soon, it has to be said that of the nine lives that Rohit Sharma has had with regard to reviving his Test cricket career, finding himself inducted into the team to fill up the opener’s must be seen as arguably one of the last chances to establish himself in the longest format of the sport. While it would seem that a golden opportunity has landed in his lap yet again, this time it is on Rohit Sharma to grab it and claim it for his own.

News Cricket

I think I owe Nathan Lyon a lot of beers - Jack Leach

Staff Writer Updated: 17 September, 2019, 4:42 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Australia would have won the third Test match of the Ashes had Nathan Lyon not missed an easy chance to run-out Jack Leach.

Ben Stokes shot went straight to the point and his partner Jack Leach was halfway down when the ball was given to Nathan Lyon. However, he fumbled the return throw and the rest is history.

Jack Leach has revealed the conversation he had with the Aussie off-spinner.

"Nathan Lyon came over and said to me 'how many beers do you owe me [for the run out]?' I think I owe him a lot. Sport is fickle and I guess you have to enjoy the good moments and not get too down about the bad moments. I have had some luck as well. Hopefully, you earn that luck through hard work, I will continue working hard.

That was an experience for me, seeing how competitive Ashes cricket is. Nothing crossed a line, and fair play to both teams for playing in a great spirit," he said.

News Cricket

David Warner thanks English fans for boos, barbs and banter

Staff Writer Updated: 17 September, 2019, 4:09 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

David Warner, who failed miserably in the recently concluded Ashes, has thanked his fans for supporting the Australian team. He took to Instagram to post an emotional message after the end of the tour of England.

"Thanks to all of you back home who stayed up late to support us, as well as the many of you who made the trip to back us at the ovals. It means the world to us and we just hope we have given you some enjoyment," he wrote.

He also thanked the English fans for their banter during the series. The rival fans went after Warner and Steve Smith, who were returning to Test cricket after serving a ban of one year for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal.

"Thanks, too, for all the banter from the fans - it was fun. For me personally it was a tough series but my challenge now is to bounce back. I'll be doing everything I can to do just that - but first some family time!" he added.

News Cricket

If Rohit Sharma gets his game plan right, he can be a great asset to Test team - Vikram Rathour

Staff Writer Updated: 17 September, 2019, 3:06 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Rohit Sharma will open for Team India in the upcoming Test series against South Africa. After KL Rahul's axing, Rohit will be given another chance to cement his place in Test squad. Team India's new batting coach Vikram Rathour is backing Rohit to come good as opener in Test cricket.

“I think he is too good a player to not be playing in any team. Everybody in the side echoes this opinion. He is a wonderful opening batsman in the limited-overs format, so there is no reason why he cannot be successful in Test matches. If he gets his game plan right, he can be a great asset to the team,” Rathore told reporters ahead of the second T20I.

He will take some time to get along with the Indian players.

“The interaction with the team has been good. I have been in this profession for a long time, I have interacted with almost all the players. Nothing too tough, it will take me some time to adjust in the setup of team India but I will manage,” he added.

News Cricket

You don’t see many in Indian cricket who can bowl at 150 kmph: Klusener on Navdeep Saini

Staff Writer Updated: 17 September, 2019, 2:59 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener, who is currently working as an assistant batting coach of South Africa, is impressed with progress of Navdeep Saini. Lance Klusener has worked with the Delhi District Cricket Association in the past and is not surprised with the rise of young fast bowler.

“I am so glad to see Navdeep Saini being recognized. You don’t see many in Indian cricket who can bowl at 150 kmph,” Klusener was as quoted by Times of India.

According to him, Navdeep is a great leaner, who is always open to learn more from current and former cricketers.

“I think he has a wonderful action which is very clean and smooth. He is superbly fit as well. But while chatting with him, I realized he is hungry to bowl at 150 clicks and above,” he added.