South Africa start as underdogs in the three-match Test series against India commencing on Wednesday but their quartet of fast bowlers will be their one big hope if they want to pull off an upset. This mode of bowling has been South Africa’s traditional strength ever since their return to international cricket in 1991-92. They have produced some of the outstanding fast bowlers in world cricket for the past three decades and the names of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel roll off the tongue easily. The current crop particularly Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi bid fair to carry on the tradition.
Indian pitches have not exactly been a fast bowler’s paradise but then great bowlers take even these adverse conditions in their stride and the South African speed merchants have been no exception. And for all the great deeds performed by their fast bowlers in this country the first memorable performance came from Lance Klusener who with his mix of cut and swing took eight for 64 in the second innings to bowl South Africa to victory at Calcutta in 1996. Incidentally it was Klusener’s Test debut.
Since then fast bowlers have played the leading role in the few Tests that South Africa have won in India. And this time too the team management will be putting their trust in their pace attack which on the face of it is pretty handy. It was a pretty handy attack too four years ago but on that previous trip their wings were clipped by the spin oriented surfaces. It will be interesting to see what kind of wickets are laid out since there is every reason to believe that the Indian pace attack is as good as the South Africans though of course when it comes to spin bowling the Indians with Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav around are far superior.
If however they are presented with wickets even slightly helpful to the pace bowlers Philander, Ngidi, Rabada and Anrich Nortje have between them the class, skill and experience to pose problems even for the strong Indian batting. Given that the Indian batting is stronger than the visitors’ line-up, it is imperative that the fast bowlers must be in the forefront of things if the visitors want to be a match for India in the series.
Gautam Gambhir is a true patriot and has blasted those who have said something wrong about India. His verbal slugfests with former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi are pretty common. The former Indian player has time and again stated that he won’t spare anyone who tried to malign the image of his beloved country.
Imran Khan, the former Pakistan skipper and the current Prime Minister of the country, recently took on India following withdrawal of special status given to Jammu and Kashmir.
He accused Narendra Modi of playing with the sentiments of common masses in J&K. The comments made by Imran Khan has not gone down well with Gautam Gambhir.
The Member of Parliament has blasted Imran for his statement and even called him a role model for terrorists.
"Sportspeople are supposed to be role models. Of good behavior. Of Team spirit. Of ethics. Of strength of character. Recently in the UN, we also saw a former sportsperson speak up. As a role model for terrorists. Imran Khan (official) should be excommunicated from sports community," he said.
After getting dropped from the Test team, KL Rahul had a good outing with the bat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as he made a well-compiled century. Representing Karnataka, the stylish batsman made a match-winning century - a 122-ball 131 - against Kerala at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. His brilliant century helped Karnataka make 294. In response, Kerala got bundled out on 234 runs.
Rahul made an interesting assessment of the conditions in the aftermath of the century. “The pace of the game is a lot slower," he was quoted as saying by Times of India. "In international cricket, the stadiums are full all the time. The wickets I feel are a lot better at the higher level. Here it's a bit more challenging. If we get to bat first, then the first 10-15 overs is a bit of a challenge. It's like playing the first session in a red-ball game. That's also a good challenge for me because I need to work on my game. Obviously, you have to stay a lot more disciplined."
Rahul's knock was not the most fluent one. He made his first fifty off 68 balls before making a move in what turned out to be a wonderfully paced knock.
“Not as free-flowing as I wanted it to be," he admitted. "But this gives you more satisfaction as a player because you know it was not an easy wicket. You had to work hard. I had to play 100-110 balls to get that hundred. This kind of innings gives you more confidence. I want to challenge myself in difficult conditions, work on my technique, see where I'm faltering. So, to come back here and work on it, to get quality opposition and to get runs against them feels very good,” said the 27-year-old about his innings.
After a low string of scores in Test cricket, KL Rahul was finally dropped from the side for the home Test series against South Africa.
India’s challenge in the Test series against South Africa will not necessarily be about the opposition as much as about finding a few valuable pieces to the puzzle. For South Africa, the challenge is multi-fold, after the bitter past experience and the fate of the skipper seemingly hanging in the balance.
For India and Virat Kohli, the Test series against South Africa is a fantastic opportunity to extend the record for successful captains. With Kohli going forward in the neck-to-neck record race with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the series against South Africa at home presents a golden opportunity to extend that lead en route to global dominance.
South Africa are significantly hampered in the absence of their opening mainstay Hashim Amla who announced his retirement after the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England. Although Amla did not strike gold in terms of form then, he has been a prolific run scorer for South Africa to the point of legendary. A vital cog, and former captain, Amla would have been the perfect foil for Faf du Plessis.
Faf du Plessis has not had an easy few months since the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup. With South Africa deciding to go a different route as far as coaching and team management is concerned, the cat would have already been set amongst the pigeons with Quinton de Kock being handed the ropes of the Twenty20 team here in India. That Faf has to now rebuild the Test team with his own stamp to retain his stature will come into the play as the series progresses.
A lot will depend on the likes of Kagiso Rabada coping with the workload, controversially after his IPL stint was criticized by the captain in England, and also, on South Africa’s bevy of greenhorn spinners who have been picked to gain experience as much as yield results.
The last series in India put South Africa to the test. With pitches that were less than ideal, South Africa suffered at the hands of India. While they have not forgotten the pain, there is a great deal of anticipation that this mix of semi-experienced players and some novices, particularly in the spin department, will have learnt some lessons, some with the ‘A’ team experience recently. A lot though will tell on how South Africa mentally tune themselves to the task.
For India, there are a couple of unanswered pieces to the puzzle. The dramatic rise and stumble of Rishabh Pant as the team’s wicket-keeper has hit a break with question marks over whether Kohli would choose to keep Pant in the fray and on a learning curve or choose to go with Wriddhiman Saha who becomes available for the series.
The other major area where all eyes will be peeled would be in the area of the opening slot. With K.L. Rahul have fallen off the radar completely and Rohit Sharma being given yet another chance to resuscitate life into his Test career, this will be the most dramatic and most scrutinized role in the team.
It is monumental pressure on Rohit Sharma and even a solid performance at home is not a guarantee for his beleaguered Test career. With India needing to invest in traditional specialist openers as far as a long term strategy goes, this will be an area of attraction and interest in a series that is not even, at least not on paper.
India's premier fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah will not be taking part in the three-match home Test series against South Africa. He has been ruled out the series owing to a stress fracture. Former Indian cricketer, Ashish Nehra has said that Bumrah's unorthodox action is not the reason behind his stress fracture.
Nehra is of the opinion that Bumrah will be as lethal with the ball in hand as he was before the injury when he returns to the Indian side.
"Stress fracture is unrelated to action and we must get our concepts clear. He doesn't need to change his action and if he tries to do that, it won't be great. Let me assure you when he comes back, he can bowl with same action, intensity and pace," Nehra told PTI during an interaction.
"His action is not that unconventional as it is made out to be. The alignment of his body at the time of delivery is perfect.
"The only aspect that is not copybook is his left hand (works like a pivot), which doesn't go up. Even then, his action is 10 times better than Malinga. Malinga's knees, back leg bends giving a look of a javelin thrower," said Nehra.
Bumrah has taken 62 wickets in 12 Tests, 103 wickets in 58 ODIs and 51 wickets in 42 T20Is. He has emerged as one of the best fast bowlers in the world of cricket. He recently had a great Test series against West Indies, where he scalped twin fifers and a hat-trick.
India opener, Shikhar Dhawan is one of those cricketers, who doesn't hold back when it comes to expressing himself on whatever he feels strongly enough. Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the whole of Pakistan including their cricketers have gone berserk. Every other day, they come out with some statement or the other on the controversial Kashmir issue.
Indian opener, Shikhar Dhawan appeared on India TV's ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ show, where he gave unsolicited advice to the Pakistan cricketers. “If someone says something about our country, of course, we will say stand up. We don’t need outsiders to advice us. First fix your own country and then speak about others. There is a saying ‘Jinke ghar kach ka hoh, woh dusro k ghar pathar nahi phekte [People who have glass houses, don’t throw stones at others]’,” Dhawan said.
This is not the first time when Dhawan has taken potshots at Pakistan cricketers. In 2018, he had lashed out at the former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who wrote on Twitter, “Appalling and worrisome situation ongoing in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. Innocents being shot down by oppressive regime to clamp voice of self determination & independence. Wonder where is the @UN & other int bodies & why aren’t they making efforts to stop this bloodshed?”
Dhawan had blasted Afridi and tweeted, “Pehle khudke desh ki haalat sudharo. Apni soch apne paas rakho. Apne desh ka joh hum kar rahe hai woh acha hi hai aur aage jo karna hai woh humein ache se pata hai. Zyaada dimaag mat lagao @SAfridiOfficial.”
Shikhar Dhawan, the left hand batsman, is currently preparing for the ongoing Vijay Haraze Trophy and will soon join his state team. He was recently seen in Aap ki Adalat, which is hosted by Rajat Sharma. In the show, Dhawan spoke about various topics related to Team India and his life.
The 33-year old had to clarify about one of his photos in which Rishabh Pant was seen sitting on his lap. When he was asked about it, he gave a funny angle to it stating that he is not fond of guys.
“I told him ‘Rishabh, get up, someone will click a photo. I don’t love guys that much that I’ll make them sit on my lap, but he is 21-22 years, and he doesn’t listen. So he sat on my lap and said ‘I will sit here only’. So I said ‘Sit, what can I do,” Shikhar told in Aap Ki Adalat.
He lauded Rishabh Pant who is facing criticism after his mediocre performance for Team India.
“He is completely focused and working very hard. Sometimes there is just a situation where you can’t perform. But he is learning a lot from his journey and I am sure he will learn a lot. A player like him should be backed,” Dhawan added.
S Sreesanth was granted relief after his life ban was overturned by Supreme Court of India. However, he went through a lot in the last few years. He was sent to jail for his involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. In his latest interview to The Indian Express, he opened about his time in Tihar Jail and how he was treated by one of the prisoners.
“There was this guy – murderer, and rapist – who used to abuse me a lot. Every other word was an abuse. I was scared of him. I soon realized I had to do something about it. I started to speak to him and I remember after a few days he said, ‘Tere me to dum nahi, teri to fatt gayi… Saath rehna, tero ko karne ke liye bohot log hai. (You are scared. Stay with me. Lots of people want to target you)’,” he said.
Sreesanth further added there were instances when he couldn't sleep in Tihar Jail.
“I would break down for no reason. I used to get seizures for 6-7 weeks. I couldn’t sleep as in Tihar they had that bulb that they wouldn’t switch off,” he added.
Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi hosted a dinner party for Michael Holding at his home in Karachi. Afridi took to twitter to post photos.
"A real honour to host the legendary Michael Holding for a dinner at home. Thank you, Dr Kashif, for arranging Michael's visit to Karachi. Also thank you to Saeed Anwar for joining us. Great to have some legends visit me," tweeted Afridi.
Holding, who was known for his hostile bowling, advocated the need of hosting more international games in Pakistan.
"If I had any apprehension or fear of security, I wouldn't have come to Pakistan. I have no problem here. It is good and encouraging news that the Sri Lankans are here in Pakistan to play international matches," Holding was quoted as saying by the Dawn.
"It's useful to have security precautions which obviously is every country's priority and Pakistan is not any different, but Pakistan should not be isolated from the game just because of something that happened ten years ago.
"It's great to be back in Pakistan. The food and hospitality have been really good. The weather has improved in the last couple of days here in Karachi and it's been great to catch-up with Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas and other former Pakistan players," he added.
Gautam Gambhir is renowned for his outspoken nature. The former India player has spoken about MS Dhoni’s retirement from international cricket. According to him, Dhoni has all the right to decide about his future while adding that he doesn’t see him playing the next World Cup in 2023.
‘I feel that retirement is a very individual decision. Till the time you want to play you are allowed to play, but you do have to look at the future as well. I do not see Dhoni playing the next World Cup,’ Gambhir told Indian Express.
‘So whoever is the captain (then), Virat or anyone else, should have the courage to say so, that this player is not fitting into the scheme of things. It’s time for some of the youngsters to get groomed in the next four-five years, because ultimately it is not about Dhoni, it is about the country.’
Gambhir feels players like Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant should be given more chances to prove themselves before the next fifty over World Cup in India.
‘It is not about Dhoni staying on for the next cricket World Cup, it is about winning the next cricket World Cup. You might want to give the opportunity to Rishabh Pant or Sanju Samson, any young cricketer… They should get the opportunity… I think personally, if you ask me, I think it’s time for Indian cricket to look beyond Dhoni.’
Shadab Khan was at his witty best when he was asked about his friendship with Pakistani pacer Hassan Ali. Hasan Ali was ruled out of the ongoing ODI series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka with a back spam.
"You have a good friendship with Hassan Ali and this is probably the first time you are playing a series without him. How do you feel without your friend?" a reporter asked Shadab Khan.
He stumped the reporter with his reply. "We are friends, but you are making it sound like we are husband and wife."
"Of course I am missing him. He has been playing for the team for a long time, so not just me, the whole team is missing him," he added.
"He is a cheerful guy and keeps joking around in the dressing room which brings up the team's morale. We are all missing him."
S Sreesanth has made a massive revelation as he disclosed his hatred towards one of the most successful franchises in IPL history, Chennai Super Kings, which is led by none other than MS Dhoni.
Life ban on Sreesanth was recently scrapped by the Supreme Court of India. Sreesanth, who played 27 Tests, 53 ODIs and 10 T20Is for India, opened up on the accusations made by Paddy Upton in his recently published autobiography, where Upton claimed that Sreesanth had abused him.
“Mr Upton, touch your heart and touch your kid’s heads, did I ever abuse you either during India team or in IPL? I want to ask the legend Rahul Dravid, someone whom I respect and love, when did I ever fight with him? When did I abuse with him the way Upton said in his book?” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
“I requested Upton many times to let me play that game — only because of my history with CSK and because I wanted to defeat them. He made it out differently that I wanted to play as if for fixing. Everybody knows how much I hate CSK, I don’t have to say. People might say because of MS Dhoni or N Srinivasan sir or whatever but that’s not the truth; I just hate the yellow colour. I hated Australia for the same reason. Most importantly, I have done extremely well against CSK that’s why I wanted to play,” Sreesanth added.
“That allegation that I abused the two was the most disappointing. That was bigger than torture by police. That thing still hurts. Other players would talk about Upton, “Yeh kaun hai bey, Kirsten sab kuch karte hain (who is this guy, Kirsten does everything).’ Have I ever behaved like that with him? I really hope your book sells more because you seem so desperate,” further added Sreesanth.
After losing the Test series against South Africa by 1-2 last year, India will look to avenge the defeat with a bang when the three-match Test series between both the countries start from October 2 in Visakhapatnam.
Last time, when South Africa toured India, the hosts blew them away with 3-0 win in the four-match Test series. The last two-Test series between India and South Africa has been headlined by pitches that were dished by home countries. In 2015, Nagpur produced a dust-bowl while in 2018, we witnessed a dangerous pitch in Johannesburg, which was followed by a lot of hue and cry afterwards.
It would be interesting to see how this series goes between the two nations. Senior South Africa pacer, Vernon Philander, who scalped 15 wickets in South Africa's 2-1 triumph in 2018, said South Africa are all ready to challenge the no.1 ranked Test side at their backyard.
“It’s a tough start playing India in India but I don’t think the South Africans would have wanted it any other way to take the big dogs in their home ground,” Philander was quoted as saying by the ICC.
“All of us are looking forward to this challenge and there are a lot of player-to-player challenges as well. The spotlight will be on a lot of big players to make a statement. Our job is to come here and give the first punch as India is obviously expected to do well,” said Philander.
Slowly and steadily, West Indies are turning out to be the new Sri Lanka for Indian cricket given how much the Men in Blue are playing the Carribean boys of late. Recently, India went on a full-fledged tour of West Indies, which comprised of three T20Is and ODIs each and also two Tests.
Now, West Indies will be touring India for three T20Is and ODIs each in December. The third and final ODI of the series, which will also be the final game of the limited-overs tour is slated to take place at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on December 22. But given the prevailing situation in Cuttack, there is a high possibility that the match will be shifted to some other venue.
Odisha suffered one of its worst cyclones earlier this year, which has caused immense damage to the Barabati Stadium.
As per a report, Odisha Cricket Association had asked BCCI for five crore rupees to start the repairing work at the ground but the board is not ready to release the money until the culmination of BCCI AGM on October 23. But that will be too late for OCA to make the stadium game ready.
An Odisha Cricket Association functionary was quoted as saying by SportsCafe, “Even if we get the funds in October, it is impossible for us to do the recovery work as only floodlight work would take as much as one month. All eight towers will have to undergo the changes and all the bulbs need to be changed. It would have been alright to replace a few but after Kapil Dev’s company checked the bulbs, they found out that total installation is required in order to make the light properly functional.”
Lewis Hamilton coasted to a comfortable victory and led a Mercedes one-two finish at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday to tighten his grip on a sixth World Championship.
In a calamitous few laps for Ferrari, the Italian team threw away a possible one-two finish of its own after Sebastian Vettel broke down and Charles Leclerc dropped from first to third.
Valtteri Bottas followed team-mate Hamilton home at the Sochi Autodrome as Mercedes secured the full quota of points.
Hamilton now leads Bottas in the championship by 73 points with just 130 remaining. Leclerc is 107 points behind the British driver.
Max Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon, who started last after he crashed out during qualifying.
"What an effort, guys," said a jubilant Hamilton on the radio after the race. "What an incredible job. That is exactly what we needed. We never give up."
Ferrari had already got themselves into a needless mess before Vettel retired with an engine failure on lap 28.
Vettel got the jump on pole-sitter Leclerc on the long drag down to the second corner but a curious pre-race arrangement had Leclerc calling for the roles to be reversed.
It appears that the team had agreed that if Vettel benefited from Leclerc's slipstream and moved ahead of the Frenchman off the start line, he would have to concede the position.
Ferrari were on the radio to tell Vettel to let Leclerc by, but the four-time world champion resisted the order.
Leclerc protested over the radio.
"You put me behind and I respected everything," he said. "We will talk later."
The Ferrari pit wall were on to Vettel again, but again the German refused to let his teammate pass, fearing that he would be exposed to Hamilton in third place if he slowed down.
Leclerc was the first to stop on lap 22, but instead of calling in Vettel the next time around Vettel was left on old tires as his teammate put in several fast laps on his fresh tires.
Four laps after Leclerc pitted, Vettel was eventually called in and by the time he emerged he had fallen behind his teammate and into second place.
Just moments later disaster struck as Vettel broke down with an engine failure.
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