Feature Cricket

No clear favorites for the IPL

Partab Ramchand Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:45 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have won it three times and Kolkata Knight Riders twice. Going by past record it may seem that these three teams would be the favourites going into the IPL which commences on March 23. The fact of the matter is that there are no favourites when it comes to the IPL. In the first place it is T-20 cricket which is most unpredictable. Moreover the long drawn out format gives every team a chance to come back after an indifferent start or to falter after a getting off to a flying start.

There is also the question of selection for the World Cup. Yes, that is Fifty50 and this is T-20 but there are still a couple of slots that need to be filled. The series against Australia did not exactly solve all the puzzles in the jigsaw that is the Indian World Cup squad and a really fine performance could end up in a surprise choice or two for England. The World Cup squad is to be picked around April 20 so the players have four weeks in which to try and impress the selectors.

While there is speculation about the slots to go to the utility players and how many of them should make the cut there is also considerable discussion around the No 4 slot that certainly remains to be filled for none of the candidates tried out in recent matches have shown the consistency to make the position their own. The experts have all come up with their own choices which include Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Ambati Rayudu and Vijay Shankar while Sourav Ganguly has come up with a surprise option in Cheteshwar Pujara. And while there is a need for someone to play the anchor role in limited overs cricket one doubts whether Pujara is the man. Whatever his impressive showing in Tests, his dismal record in ODIs – 51 runs in five matches at an average of 10.20 and a strike rate of 39 straightaway rules him out, besides the fact that he hasn’t played an ODI for five years.

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News Cricket

Rishabh Pant can lead India to World Cup glory

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 3:00 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting is backing Rishabh Pant to come good in the World Cup. He has described him as one of those players who can help the team in winning the World Cup.

However, Pant recently failed with both the bat and gloves in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia at home.

“The first thing I would do is pick him in that Indian squad for the World Cup, I would play him as a batter, I would play him at number four,” said the former Australian captain.

“He is the sort of guy, with that kind of talent, he can win you a World Cup, he has just got that x-factor.”

Delhi Capitals squad for IPL 2019

Shreyas Iyer, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav, Manjot Kalra, Colin Munro, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Ankush Bains, Nathu Singh, Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Keemo Paul, Jalaj Saxena, Bandaru Ayyappa.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli continues to lead ICC Test Rankings

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:58 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Indian skipper Virat Kohli retained the number one rank in latest ICC Test rankings for batsmen. Kohli has played just one Test innings this year scoring 23 runs against Australia. He has a total of 922 points.

Cheteshwar Pujara has also retained the number three position on the Test batsman rankings. The batsman has 881 points.

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are the two Indian bowlers in the top 10 of ICC Test bowler rankings. Ashwin is in the tenth place while Jadeja holds the sixth position.

Virat Kohli-led team continues to lead the rankings in Test format followed by New Zealand who are at the number two position.

Afghanistan have gained the most in rankings following their maiden Test win over New Zealand. Rahmat Shah, who was adjudged Man of the Match for his impressive performance, has reached the 89th position.

Rashid Khan had a memorable outing against Ireland, picking his first fifer in the purest form of cricket. The leg-spinner is now at the 67th position.

News Cricket

Jasprit Bumrah is an asset to Mumbai Indians

Staff Writer Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:56 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Mumbai Indians' Director of Operations and former player Zaheer is impressed with Jasprit Bumrah. According to him, Bumrah is a world class bowler and an asset to have. He has taken 63 wickets in 61 matches for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

Zaheer said in a tweet which came from the official Twitter handle of Mumbai Indians: "Bumrah is a world-class bowler. He's an asset to have."

Bumrah has been phenomenal since making his international debut in 2016. The pacer has accumulated 49 wickets in 10 Tests, 85 wickets in 49 ODIs and 51 wickets and 42 T20 internationals.

He has impressed everyone with his pace and accuracy and this led to his success in South Africa, England and Australia.

Bumrah is the number one ranked ODI bowler in ICC rankings and is expected to perform well for Men in Blue in the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli eyeing two records in IPL opener against Chennai Super Kings

Staff Writer Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:54 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Virat Kohli has been one of the best batsmen in the history of Indian Premier League. The skipper of Royal Challengers Bangalore has led from the front, scoring more than 4900 runs in the cash rich league.

He will look to achieve two personal milestones in the IPL opener against Chennai Super Kings. Apart from defeating their arch rivals, Virat will be hoping to come good with his willow.

Virat needs just 37 runs to topple Suresh Raina from the spot of highest run-getter in the tournament. The left hand batsman has 4985 runs to his name.

Raina will also be present in the playing XI of CSK, meaning intense competition between the two.

Kohli is also on the verge of equaling David Warner's record of most 50+ scores in the IPL.

Former skipper of Sunrisers Hyderabad has touched the mark 39 times while Kohli is at the second spot with 38 such scores.

News Cricket

Hardik's priority is cricket and he is in right frame of mind - Zaheer Khan

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:52 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Zaheer Khan, who is associated with Mumbai Indians, has stated Hardik Pandya is on the right track to make his comeback in Mumbai's colors after being sidelined for Australia limited-overs series following an unfortunate back injury.

Khan, who has been one of the most successful Indian bowlers, said: "Sometimes the distraction actually helps you get back on track. So, Hardik is pretty much on track. For any cricketer, the best way to go about his business is by going out there on that field and let his numbers talk. Hardik is in that frame of mind. He wants opportunities, he wants to go out there, express himself and let everyone know that his priority is cricket," he said.

"He is very serious and passionate about the game. In terms of monitoring his workload, he has been very good with that. For a fast bowler, for the kind of injury he had in Asia Cup, it is not easy. He has to be monitored. There is no doubt about it. He is in consultation with the team of support staff that he has been working with. So, everything is under control so far. He has done a couple of bowling sessions. And he has got to progress in that fashion."

News Cricket

Sunil Narine begins IPL preparation with ‘mystery ball’ warning for other franchises

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:51 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Sunil Narine is Kolkata Knight Riders’ best bet in the Indian Premier League. Despite remodeled bowling action, he has taken a lot of wickets for his IPL franchise.

They will be banking on their star spinner to get them wickets in the upcoming season of the cash rich league. According to KKR bowling coach Carl Crowe, Narine is working on hiding the ball from batsmen to keep the mystery intact.

“With so much analysis, we are aware of that (the mystery being solved). His action changed slightly since last year in terms of hiding the ball,” Crowe said ahead of the team’s practice session at the Eden Gardens.

“We are working on him in terms of staying ahead of batsmen. After IPL, we have plans for next year with mystery ball, hiding the ball. We are one step ahead of them and are looking at new ways to hide (the ball) and make sure batsmen don’t pick up,” he added.

Narine will play in the IPL after recovering from a finger injury that made him miss the Pakistan Super League.

“He is in good shape. He didn’t play the PSL due to a finger injury. His performance has always been of high quality. His batting is now part of his game as well. But when you modify your action and be able to maintain the standard, which he has done, credit should go to him,” Crowe added.

News Cricket

Should Ishant be selected for the World Cup? Here’s what Ponting and Dada said

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:49 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Ishant Sharma has led the Indian pace attack pretty well in Test cricket in the last few years. However, he continues to be out of the limited-overs squad but the lanky fast bowler has not given up yet and is looking to show his talent through the upcoming edition of the IPL.

Delhi Capitals advisor Sourav Ganguly and mentor Ricky Ponting are backing him to seal number World Cup spot.

“I think he’s bowling at his best at the moment,” Ganguly said while speaking about Ishant's case on Tuesday. “I think he has matured with so much of experience under his belt and I think he’s really working hard in the nets and I know he’ll do well.”

“I don’t believe someone is a T20 bowler or a 50-over bowler or Test bowler. Test bowler is the highest level of bowling that you can achieve. You got to be at a really good level at that and I’m not saying that you don’t have to be good in the limited-overs but Ishant has it in him the ability to adjust and reshape his bowling in this format. You can see it in him that he’s keen to turn it around and you always go for players like that,” he added.

Ponting also lauded the Indian speedster. “He’s reshaping his bowling. We have watched him closely in the practice game we played a couple of nights ago. He bowled well in the game, stayed on after it. His ability to hit Yorkers is probably better than ever before. The other thing he brings with himself is the experience to our line-up. It’s invaluable in the T20 format,” said the former Australian captain.

He further asserted: “It’s been talked about a long time that T20 cricket is a young man’s game but it’s not that. It’s probably an older person’s game and experienced players game that can think their ways through tough situations in the game. We have a lot of you bowlers in our squad and he can be a mentor to them.”

News Cricket

KL Rahul reveals What Virat Kohli said to him when he joined RCB

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:47 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

KL Rahul was Kings XI Punjab's best player in the last edition of the Indian Premier League. He scored over 600 runs after he was bought for a mammoth Rs 11 crore.

Earlier he was part of Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore. He joined the Bangalore based franchise in 2016 and scored 397 runs at an average of 44.1 and a strike rate of 146.49.

The right hand batsman has revealed how he was treated when he went to sign the papers.

"The day when I went to sign my RCB contract papers is my next great memory. I thought it would just me signing the papers with some manager," Rahul told Redbull.

"But I remember I walked into the room and there was a full team meeting with the directors; Virat Kohli was also sitting there. I walked into the room like I was the coolest person there but suddenly I saw everyone and thought, "What have I walked into?" The contract is about 20-30 pages so it took me a while to go through it.

"After that Virat came to me, put an arm around my shoulder and said, 'Welcome to the team. We are going to have a blast.' That was a big moment for me and also the start of my first IPL season so I think of all the cricketers I played with then; Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Zaheer Khan, and everyone else. Just getting to hang out with all of them is what I remember fondly."

Feature Cricket

Standardizing the Ball or the Game?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 20 March, 2019, 2:43 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), widely considered the custodian of the laws of the game, put forth a recommendation that seems more like a googly.

Amongst several suggestions being made to improve the game and the viewership, the world cricket committee of the MCC suggested standardizing the ball used around the world in the course of Test cricket. Currently there are three different balls in use: Duke, Kookaburra and the SG which is used in India. If the ICC adopts the MCC proposal, the red ball will become the first thing to become the uniform code after the universal white flannels.

While the idea being standardizing the ball may be to minimize discrepancies across the playing field as it were, the concept behind using different red balls is to better utilize the varying conditions found in different parts of the world. Therefore, whether a particular seam and stitch may be more conductive to a pitch in one part of the world, it is not necessarily the case in another part of the world.

Every once in a while, the quality of a particular pitch comes into question given how the pitch behaves and the match evolves. There is now the danger that standardizing the use of the ball will be the first of several such moves towards making the game more uniform and therefore, lacking in character. Apart from the fact that whether such a move is even feasible, what it essentially does is take away the character of Test cricket and the home and away concept where playing in home conditions carries its own advantage as does the challenge of playing away from home. Fast, bouncy, seaming pitches in one part of the world and dustbowls in the other that favour reverse swing and leg spin, these are the factors that decide which ball is favoured in which part of the world. It is highly unlikely that a single ball will be able to cater to the unique qualities of the game across the regions where Test cricket is played.

Whether the use of a single ball will be able to extract maximum advantage across the playing field of the Test playing countries where there are so many variables in the game including the weather, the pitch conditions and the size of the outfield makes this recommendation somewhat untenable, leave aside the fact that Test cricket will be in danger of becoming one dimensional, stereotypical and totally lacking in colour or essence.

Whether making the playing conditions more level for all teams across all places means standardizing the ball across the matches is the only right, best option is something that must be considered and weighed before the recommendation can even be tabled before the International Cricket Council for adoption is imperative. At the moment, the idea of a single red ball in use is essentially an utopian idea that does not have its base in practicality.

News Cricket

Pakistan are favorites to win the World Cup - Kuldeep Yadav

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 12:16 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Kuldeep Yadav, the Indian spinner, has picked Pakistan and England as the other two teams to watch out for in the World Cup in England.

Apart from Men in Blue, former cricketers have labelled England as the favorites for the coveted title but Kuldeep thinks Pakistan have the chance to go all the way.

"We definitely have the chance to bring the World Cup home. Apart from us I think all the other teams are really strong. But I feel England has a strong batting lineup as compared to the other teams. They will be playing in home conditions.

"I think Pakistan will also perform well in the World Cup looking at the way they have been performing. So I think England and Pakistan will be the ones to watch out for," Kuldeep Yadav told Sports Tak.

According to him, Indian bowlers have performed well in overseas conditions because of improved fitness levels.

"We have good fast bowlers in our team who did very well in Australia and before that in England as well. We have a very good combination of bowlers in the side now. We train together and back each other which is the biggest plus point," said Kuldeep Yadav.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli deserves to lead RCB despite trophy-less CV - Sourav Ganguly

CT Contributors Updated: 20 March, 2019, 10:16 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly has stated that Virat Kohli deserves to lead Royal Challengers Bangalore despite not winning the IPL once. He praised captain Kohli, stating he will turn it around for his franchise. Having started leading the side in 2013, Virat has failed to lead the troops to glory.

"If you talk about Virat Kohli and keeping him as a captain, just look at what he has done. What he has done with the bat in every format of the game. Absolute champion. And he deserves to be captain of RCB for whatever period of time. I am sure he will turn it around," Ganguly opined.

Earlier, Gautam Gambhir had stated that Virat Kohli should consider himself lucking having led RCB for so long despite not winning the Indian Premier League.

Gambhir further added that Virat shouldn't be compared to Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni, who have won the league title thrice as skippers of their respective franchises.

"There are people who have won the trophy three times. MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. So I think he has a long way to go. You cannot compare him to someone like Rohit or Dhoni at this stage," Gambhir said. "He has been a part of RCB, and captaining RCB for the last seven to eight years, and he has been very lucky and should be thanking the franchise that they stuck with him. Because not many captains have got such a long rope where they haven't won a tournament," said Gambhir.

News Cricket

No team in the world can match the quality of Team India's top three - Ganguly

CT Contributors Updated: 19 March, 2019, 5:43 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Team India's middle order concern is still unresolved and it was widely exposed in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia.

Men in Blue lost 2-3 to their Aussie counterparts. Despite trying a lot of players, India are still looking for answers.

Former cricketers have also warned the sub-continent team of below par performance if they don't sort out their middle order mess ahead of the World Cup in England.

The only positive that came out of the last ODI series was Rohit and Dhawan's performance, who showed some kind of form in the fourth match in Mohali.

Speaking about the talent that the top three posses, Sourav Ganguly said that there is no other team in the world which has players like Rohit, Shikhar and Virat at top of the order.

“Team India ke top 3 jo hai, kisi aur ke paas itni quality nahi hai (No team in the world can match the quality of Team India's top three).”

Feature Cricket

 A Forgotten Match

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 19 March, 2019, 5:19 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

In the midst of the IPL hype and in the aftermath of the terror that saw Bangladesh leave New Zealand, a solitary battle was being waged between two unlikely teams. Test cricket was still on fading light even as the spotlight was engaged on the IPL glitz. However, what lies on the horizon for these two teams is anyone’s guess.

Afghanistan scored their first Test win, over Ireland. The question is: how many even knew that the two latest entrants to Test cricket were engaged in a contest, absorbing by their standards, and that it was happening right here in India, the land in which cricket is already now overshadowed by the commencement of the relentless tourney that is the Twenty20 tournament.

Both teams had previously played just the one Test, Afghanistan against India that ended in two days and Ireland against Pakistan. Therefore, in only their second Test, it was a momentous occasion for both teams, even if it was not enticing enough to catch the news headlines instantly. However, to Afghanistan’s credit, they have kept their promise to keep striving for cricket recognition, now forging forward with their first Test win, albeit against another newcomer. In some ways, Ireland have been late to get the invitation although they have been an enterprising qualification at limited overs World Cups in past editions.

While both camps will have be celebrating another international opportunity in the longest, most pristine format of the sport, questions will be asked if enough has been done or is being done to not just send out the invitations to join the club but also, to adequately prepare themselves for this level. With the World Test championships around the corner, while the top tier teams will be engaged in this unique, one of a kind battle, there is likely to be a greater visibility of the disparity between the competitive levels of teams and in that light, it is rather paltry that the calendars of Ireland and Afghanistan look rather bleak.

After all apart from their inaugural euphoria, there was also the descending fear that they would be subjected to the oblivion and expected to perform at the drop of a hat without having enough systems in place to ensure their ascent to more competitive level could be fast-tracked by greater participation with the ‘A’ teams of the top teams, if not the top teams themselves. While there have been some big brother approaches in that Afghanistan have been allowed to use India as home to train and play, it is far from enough if Afghanistan are to quickly climb the rungs to ensure they and teams such as Ireland are not simply making up the numbers for numbers sake alone particularly in the longest format of the game that is seeking for safety in numbers as well as integrity in the quality of the sport being played in the backdrop of the glut of Twenty20.

While it is a great advocate to showcase the latest entrants to the Test match making a honest game out of the opportunity, unless there is more done in terms of exposure that attracts people to the match and also, to ensure that they can stay competitive when their international cricket appeals bleak, the message to the other associate teams might be that they must earn their ticket and also, find a way to make the top league, without virtually no help at all.

Feature Cricket

Players must be smart about managing workloads during IPL

Partab Ramchand Updated: 19 March, 2019, 5:16 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

It’s THAT time again - when the cricketing world’s sights are on India – and in particular the IPL. The competition now in its 12th year has seen the good, the bad and ugly. There have been thrills and excitement galore and the presence of film stars being owners of some of the franchises have given it more than a touch of glamour. It has also been marred by controversies and scandals but has emerged as the Teflon event. Its popularity has remained undiminished. One simple fact will underscore this.

Over 12,000 spectators turned up at the MAC stadium in Chennai to watch the Chennai Super Kings play a practice match. Yes, a practice game between its own players. Perhaps it was because of the fact that CSK are playing in their home town after three years (they were banned for two years and played only one game last year before the matches were shifted out of Chennai because of the Cauvery waters issue). But one can somehow sense the same kind of excitement around other franchisees going by what has one seen over the years.

Starting March 23 with the opener between CSK and Royal Challengers, Bangalore at the MAC stadium the IPL will be the centre of attraction. Discussion in homes and bars, at work places and on the road will be only about various aspects of the IPL. One would like to think that even talk about the general elections will take second place.

This time however there is one important point to be considered and this is the fact that the IPL is being conducted just before the World Cup. In both 2011 and 2015 the event was conducted after the World Cup. So it will be a bit tricky for the players to manage the injury and fatigue equations. Certainly the World Cup is the more important event and the players would want to be available for it and give off their best on the biggest stage of all. At the same time they would not want to be seen as compromising on their playing standards for their franchises.

It is this problem that Virat Kohli tackled head on at the press conference the other day. Asked whether the IPL franchises have been asked to ``manage’’ the workloads of the India players who are likely to be part of the World Cup squad the Indian skipper said no such instructions had been issued to cap the number of games a player would take part in. As he rightly said each player’s body is different and the workload they can handle varies from cricketer to cricketer.

``If I am able to play 12 or 15 games it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other guy can only play that many. My body might demand I play a certain number of of games and I need to be smart about this. Someone else might be more capable so it is an individual thing. But everyone wants to play the World Cup so they will be smart about it because you don’t want to miss out on such a big event,’’ emphasizing that the responsibility for managing workloads and fitness levels lay with the players themselves.

It will be interesting to see how the players manage this during the IPL.