Feature Cricket

Perera’s heroics will lift Lankan morale

Partab Ramchand Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:34 PM IST


These are great times for Test cricket - and for the underdogs. We have just had West Indies getting the better of England in the three match series and now even more sensationally we have had Sri Lanka defeating South Africa in the first Test at Durban.

West Indies beating England was certainly a surprise but Sri Lanka shocking South Africa is clearly a much bigger upset. For one thing South Africa are ranked No 2 and Sri Lanka No 6. Secondly Sri Lanka are going through pretty lean times the ultimate humiliation being losing all three Tests to England at home where they traditionally have been formidable. Third the match was played in South Africa.

Most significantly it was the manner in which Sri Lanka pulled off one of the truly great victories in Test cricket. Right through the four days South Africa were always ahead and Sri Lanka had to get the highest total in a match of moderate scores to win it. That they did so was remarkable enough but the fact that it took an unbroken last wicket partnership of 78 runs to steer them to victory constituted a storybook finish. This was the highest last wicket stand in the fourth innings to win a Test bringing to an unbelievable denouement a match that enhanced the image of Test cricket. More games like this and we will not have the ICC chairman moaning about how Test cricket is dying.

No praise can be too high for Kusal Perera. The 28-year-old left-hander was up against arguably the best pace attack in the world even in the absence of Vernon Philander. But he not only took blows on his body and helmet he counter attacked in thrilling fashion hitting Dale Steyn and company for sixes in a tense situation. Even as last man Vishwa Fernando proved equal to the task Perera blazed forth with a series of breathtaking shots, all the time farming his strike expertly.

A stunning victory like this will do Sri Lankan cricket a world of good and they certainly could do with a morale booster. They came to South Africa after being pummelled in Australia. The captain Dinesh Chandimal was sacked. The Sri Lankan players were hardly known around the cricketing world and the team had rookies galore. Perera himself had suffered a mild concussion in Canberra just a couple of weeks ago after being struck on the head by a ball from Jhye Richardson. But after what happened in Durban things could very well change for the better. Kusal Perera has assured that.

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Opinion Cricket

Five Experiments that India should try in Australia series

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 February, 2019, 5:04 PM IST


India will take on Australia in two-match T20I series, which will commence from February 24. It will be followed by five-match ODI series. It is going to be the last series for the Men in Blue before the 2019 Cricket World Cup that will start from May 30 in England and Wales. 

Australia are reigning World-Cup champions. They aren't the same force they once were, but still, you can never count them out. Even in ODI series that India won in Australia, the games were quite close. It will be last chance for India to get its combination and balance right.

Here are Five Experiments that India should try in Australia series:

Playing Virat Kohli at no.4 

There has been a lot of talks in regards to Virat Kohli's batting position in the last few days. Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri was of the view that the Indian skipper should bat at the no.4 position if the situation demands. Even India's chief selector, MSK Prasad backed Shastri's views. The logic behind sending Virat at 4 is that India's batting firepowers heavily depend on the top three- Rohit, Dhawan, and Kohli. So, in testing conditions, let's say on a seaming track, the Indian batting might get exposed in case the top three departs early. Sending Kohli at 4 would strengthen the middle-order. But who should bat at no.3 if Kohli bats at 4? India can experiment in this series. It can be a disaster if India tinker with their best batsman in the World Cup directly. 

Giving proper run to Rishabh Pant as a finisher 

Rishabh Pant's power-hitting can help India finish off the innings with a flourish. Ever since the decline in MS Dhoni's hitting abilities, the Men in Blue have struggled to maximize run-making in the last 10 overs. If someone from the top three is there till the end, India accelerates through the fag-end. But if there are two new batsmen at the crease, the run-rate takes a hit. But, someone like Pant can smash the ball right from the word go and can play those important cameos at the end, which often turn out to be the difference between the two sides. Pant did show us the teaser in New Zealand T20Is, and he can exhibit the whole movie if given proper chances. 

Giving KL Rahul the chance to open in ODIs

India went ahead with Shubman Gill as reserve-opener in New Zealand. Though they played him in the middle-order. But, now he has been overlooked from the ODI and T20I squad against Australia, with KL Rahul returning back to the team. India would need to give chances to KL Rahul, and fix up the slot of reserve opener going into the World Cup. Rahul has largely underperformed in the recent past and is also coming out of a controversy, so India need to ensure whether he is good enough or not for the ICC megaevent, which would require all the players to be in good form. 

Playing Mayank Markande in T20Is

Punjab wrist-spinner, Mayank Markande got his maiden call-up in the Indian squad for Australia. India have rested Kuldeep Yadav from the T20Is. And they must play Mayank Markande in the series against Australia so that India have a back-up spinner ready in case of injury to either Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal. Mayank is also a wrist-spinner so he can be a like for like replacement to them. He is an attacking option and can do well for India if his IPL and domestic performance is anything to go by.  

Game time to Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul

Umesh Yadav has been included only in the T20I team while Siddarth Kaul will be part of the T20I series as well as first two ODIs against Australia. India have already locked three seamers for the World Cup in form of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. But the Kohli-led side are still auditioning for the spot of the fourth seamer. Both Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul are in the mix. But, they need to be given game time as so that the 2011 World-Cup champions can lock the fourth seamer for the ICC megaevent. 

News Cricket

Mohammed Shami donates Rs 5 lakh to families of CRPF Martyrs

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 4:48 PM IST


Mohammed Shami has come forward to help the familes of CRPF martyrs, who lost their lives in a dastardly attack carried out by terrorists in Pulwama. 42 CRPF soldiers were killed in the attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed and the leading personalities of India are helping grieving families after the loss.

Mohammed Shami donated Rs 5 lakh to help the wives of the martyred security personnel. He also assured them that entire country will always be there to help them. “When we play for our country they stand at the borders protecting it. We stand with the families of our jawans, we will always be there for them,” he said.

Shikhar Dhawan has also pledged to donate money to the families. He took to Facebook and posted an emotional video requesting all Indians to support the families in this difficult time.

Earlier, Virender Sehwag offered to take care of educational expenses of the children of all CRPF personnel killed in Pulwama.

News Cricket

Watch: Yuvraj Singh’s switch-hit six is enough to excite Mumbai Indians fans for IPL 2019

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 4:43 PM IST


Yuvraj Singh is out of Team India and future looks bleak for him as far as international cricket is concerned.

Despite his exile, he continues to be a part of domestic tournaments. He recently played for Air Indian against the Maldives Cricket team and hit a brilliant switch hit six.

He picked the length of the ball early and whacked it for a huge six. However, he didn't last long and was dismissed for 17 runs off six deliveries.

He last played for India in 2017 and was released by Kings XI Punjab before IPL auction. The left hand batsman went unsold in the first of auction round but was bought by Mumbai Indians in the closing stages of the proceedings.

Yuvraj Singh was elated after getting another chance to showcase his abilities in the slam bang league of T20 cricket.

News Cricket

MS Dhoni sports a new hairstyle ahead of T20 series against Australia  

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:50 PM IST


MS Dhoni will be sporting a new look in the upcoming T20 series against Australia. Ahead of the series against visiting team, he paid a visit to his hairstylist Sapna Moti Bhavnani. She gave him a clean cut with short sides.

He was last seen in the T20 series against New Zealand which India lost 1-2. Dhoni was in fabulous touch in Australia. The right hand batsman was declared Man of the Series after scoring three consecutive fifties against Australia in the ODI matches.

Dhoni is expected to play a big role in the World Cup. Apart from his batting, he is known for his guidance from behind the stumps.

News Cricket

India are the best side in ODIs in their own conditions, says Aaron Finch

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:48 PM IST


Aaron Finch has praised Virat Kohli-led Men in Blue for their display in limited overs cricket. Calling them as the best white-ball side in their own backyard, Finch stated that Aussies can't afford to relax a bit in the upcoming matches.

"I don't think you need anything to put a pep in your step when you're going on an Aussie tour, particularly to India," Finch said.

"If you're slightly off the mark you're going to get hurt. They're the best side in one-day cricket in their own conditions, I think. So you've got to go there full of confidence and have a real clear game plan."

Australia T20I squad for India tour: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, D Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Peter Handscomb, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa

Australia ODI Squad: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, D Arcy Short, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa


News Cricket

Watch: Virat Kohli-AB De Villiers poster showered with milk by RCB fans

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:45 PM IST


On the occasion of AB de Villiers birthday, his fans in Bengaluru poured milk on a poster of De Villiers and Virat Kohli. They both have been magnificent for Royal Challengers Bangalore and have won several matches for them. They duo have been playing together for their IPL franchise since 2011 and are followed by millions. Despite their exceptional performances over the years, their franchise have never won the IPL title despite making it to the finale on three occasions.

Former South Africa skipper AB de Villiers has retired from international cricket while Virat Kohli continues to break records on day to day basis. The Indian captain is the best batsman in world cricket and is amassing runs across formats. Virat Kohli's RCB finished sixth in last season of the league with just six wins under their belt. They will be looking to end their title drought in the upcoming edition of the league.

Feature Cricket

Test Cricket’s Shock Season Continues

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:43 PM IST


It could well be argued that South Africa took their eyes off the ball even as the South African captain has described Kusal Perera’s efforts to win Sri Lanka the Kingsmead Test as a ‘superman’ effort. Once again Test cricket has continued to both intrigue and enthrall cricket fans this season, not really letting the ICC Cricket World Cup steal the limelight yet.

Although the fortunes of the first Test between the visitors Sri Lanka and hosts South Africa continued to oscillate through the days of the Durban Test, none could have quite imagined the scenario that gave Sri Lanka an unprecedented lead in an away series, particularly after their shambolic season that even included allowing England the jubilation of a 3-0 series whitewash in the Emerald Isles.

Consumed by scandals about corruption, salacious mudslinging over captaincy that has been a case of musical chairs, and their cricket board in mayhem with the ICC giving them a fifteen day amnesty, Sri Lanka’s cricket could not have sunk lower in recent months. Their on-field performances or rather lack of it and their off-field scandals kept Sri Lanka in the doldrums. Given such a somber situation where Sri Lanka are virtually scraping the bottom of the top league players, it would not have been beyond South Africa to think they could let up just a little bit.

For Sri Lanka to pull off a fourth innings run chase of over 300 runs and to do it needing seventy-eight runs having lost nine of their wickets would have taken a miracle and in the end, it did because despite South Africa having lost Vernon Philander to injury, they still had a fearsome attack in Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier and Keshav Maharaj who rushed through the Sri Lankan line up, a situation that set up expectations of an early result on the fourth day in South Africa’s favour.

Kusal Perera had already shown a semblance of what he was capable of as his half century in the first innings stood out against a Sri Lankan scorecard that looked bleak compared to the fact that South Africa were riding the coat tails of the skipper, Faf du Plessis, and Quinton de Kock to try and push the bar that much farther. On another day, it could well have been South Africa’s given how Sri Lanka have rarely inspired hope in recent times. That Perera even scored sixty-seven of the seventy-eight runs needed when the ninth wicket fell tells of a rather heroic tale of a man who wanted to win and another who was willing to support him in the most unexpected and unusual of settings.

However, an unlikely partnership forged itself with Perera still shy of a century and Vishwa Fernando walking in at the crease, with next to no expectations of him. But on the day, even an unbeaten innings of six runs would be celebrated although he would not know it yet. Perera dominated the strike as well as the South African bowlers, taking calculated chances to clear the boundary ropes as Sri Lanka continued to tease. Perhaps it was only when Sri Lanka needed twenty runs or thereabouts that the reality of Sri Lanka being able to pull off this precarious act with a batting partner who was being shielded for the most part began to really take hold.

Still with just one wicket in hand, Sri Lanka were walking a tightrope and they did so successfully until the very end when Sri Lanka emerged the deserving winners, largely because of Perera who refused to give in, changing tactics and Fernando who decided to stand his ground against all odds. The rare feat has not only kept Sri Lanka standing, an unlikely situation where South Africa must now win in Port Elizabeth to square the series and deny the visitors a rare overseas series win – unimaginable even on Sri Lanka’s previous assignment, but also, has once again kept Test cricket ravenous, hungry and in the headlines, just like it did last week when West Indies pulled off the unthinkable against England.

Opinion Cricket

Why India and Pakistan should face each other in the Cricket World Cup 2019

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:36 PM IST


India and Pakistan should play in the Cricket World Cup. There is no two ways to think about this. It's bizarre that Cricket Club of India (CCI) has even pushed for a move saying that the two sides should not face each other in the prestigious event in England and Wales. Now getting to the heart of the matter, the calls for boycotting the match doesn't make sense. Questions come to the fore, why should cricket or any other sport come in between politics and terrorism. By hosting a World Cup match between the two sides, one isn't demeaning the attack made on the Indian army in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.

In order to protest against the dastardly terror attack on CRPF convoy in Kashmir's Pulwama, the call for India and Pakistan's match being cancelled by certain sections is not the right way in moving forward. Sitting in drawing rooms in front of television sets and saying this and that should be done is an act of cowardice. So is beating up innocent Kashmiris across various cities in name of Pulwama attack. And it doesn't end just here. Even Muslims across places are being targeted since the attack happened on last Thursday, where at least 40 CRPF paramilitary troopers were killed in a terror attack while several others are battling for their lives. The incident is being termed as the deadliest terrorist strike in three decades in Jammu and Kashmir.

It's a time when we as the people of India should unite and come together. It isn't a time where we spread communal hatred, target minorities and lash out at everything. Calling for attacking Pakistan is clueless. The Indian army should get their full freedom to decide how to go about things. We do not want another Afghanistan or Iraq in the making. We do not want innocents to suffer. We also want our innocent Kashmiri brothers and sisters to be able to live peacefully. In the end, we should also bat for India and Pakistan to play cricket in the World Cup.

Mixing sports to the attack of Pulwama doesn't serve justice. Indo-Pak cricket is a way where people from all across the globe enjoy the action and come together in supporting the rivalry. It's the World Cup for Christ's sake. An Indo-Pak match is something we all should look forward too. The cricketers aren't at fault of what's happened. So are the millions of fans. So why should everyone suffer? India and Pakistan do not play bilateral series any more. Perhaps they will never in the future. But in world events as such, the freedom should exist.

What should be the focus rather is to target terrorist organizations like Jaish-e-Mohammad, who was responsible for the ghastly deeds. The army will take revenge and there will be a way to respond to all this. Let mourn our soldiers' death. Let's channel the hurt and anger towards something positive. We should not go and call for a cricket match to be cancelled. We do not agree with CCI president and feel his call for the same is immature.

The game is scheduled to take place on Sunday, June 16 at the Old Trafford in Manchester.

News Cricket

Rahul Dravid never shows off, is always available for help: Shubman Gill

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 February, 2019, 3:32 PM IST


Shubman Gill is one of the most talented upcoming players. He stamped his authority in 2018 Under-19 World Cup and then went on to impress in his debut IPL season as well. After that, he continued his good run of form in Ranji trophy and List A cricket and that propelled his selection in the Indian senior team as well. 

The Indian youngster opened up on how Rahul Dravid has immensely helped him and how good Dravid is as a guide or coach. 

Shubman Gill was qouted as saying by The Indian Express “My association with Rahul Dravid began more than two years ago. As a youngster, I would always watch his batting on television and discuss the same with my father too. As a coach, he understands my game well. The good thing is, if you want to discuss something with him, he is always available.”

He continued, “Since my childhood days, I have practiced aerial shots and I like playing those. In 2017, when we were playing ODIs against England Under-18 in Mumbai, I got out cheaply in the first two matches after playing aerial shots. I made 35 and 37. Rahul sir told me to use the aerial shots judiciously and to hit them only once I am well set. I followed his advice and made 138 and 160 in the next two matches.”

“What I have learnt from him is how to be patient and calm. At times he gives inputs with regards to batting if he sees something. But at the same time, during tours I constantly talk to him. He never speaks about his knocks or his feats,” he said.

News Cricket

Kuldeep Yadav discloses how Shane Warne helped him on Australia tour  

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 February, 2019, 2:47 PM IST


Kuldeep Yadav is one of the best spinners in the world when it comes to white-ball cricket. No one has taken more ODI and T20I wickets than him since his debut. He even took a fifer in his Test debut in Australia in Sydney.  

Now, the Indian chinaman spinner has revealed how much Shane Warne helped him during the tour Down Under. It was Ravi Shastri, who introduced Kuldeep to Warne and from there onwards, Warne helped him immensely. 

"From the moment I landed in Australia, Shane Warne was there close to the team. Every morning before any match I chatted with Warne and talked about my bowling. He kept motivating me. Coach Ravi Shastri introduced me to Warne on the first day of the tour. He talked to me about the conditions in Australia and how to bowl here. There is bounce here as well," Kuldeep told Cricketnext.

"World Cup is too far away for now. I keep speaking to Warne on phone and WhatsApp. He’ll be here for IPL as well so I look forward to talking to him once again. We have a great understanding and it feels great that a legend that you have idolized since childhood is willing to help you out so much — tell you what’s right and wrong. That makes me feel really positive," he said.

News Cricket

Vijay Shankar makes a powerful statement regarding his competition with Hardik Pandya

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 1:51 PM IST


Vijay Shankar has become a genuine contender for a spot in the World Cup squad after his impressive display in New Zealand. He is competing with Hardik Pandya to grab the number one all-rounders tag. Despite their competition, he has developed a good rapport with Hardik.

While Hardik is considered to be more lethal in the limited-overs cricket, Vijay Shankar has given a good headache to team management with some impressive performances in the recently concluded T20 series in New Zealand.

"When we were playing together in New Zealand, we had a lot of discussion. We were even sharing ideas on the field as to how to bowl during different situations. We often talk about the lines and lengths that can be effective to different batsmen," Shankar told indiatoday.in in an exclusive chat.

"I think from the outside, we're being looked at as competitors, but from the team's point of view, we share a very good rapport."

According to him, he is not thinking about the World Cup spot yet and his whole focus is on the upcoming limited-overs series against Australia.

"Personally, I have not given any thought about the World Cup. There's still a long way to go for it. I have a lot of other matches to play. I think it's very important to remain focused on what I have to do rather than thinking about the World Cup team and all that. Generally, I don't think much about selection. I keep myself focused on doing my own work, giving 100 per cent in whatever I do," Shankar said.

He added: "My motivation is to learn something from every practice session and get better with every passing day."

News Cricket

Watch: Shikhar Dhawan pledges to donate for families of Pulwama terror attack martyrs

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 12:42 PM IST


Shikhar Dhawan has come forward to help the families of the CRPF martyrs. He posted a video on his Facebook account announcing that he will be making donation for the families of the security personnel, who lost their lives in the dastardly attack carried out by terrorists. 42 Indian brave hearts were martyred with several others battling for their lives after a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into one of the buses carrying the soldiers.

The left hand batsman has been named in the T20 and ODI squads for the limited-overs series against Australia. He was in good touch in Australia and New Zealand and is expected to carry his form into the upcoming matches.

He along with Rohit Sharma has scored runs across the globe and if these two get going against the visitors, Men in Blue will have a chance of winning the matches comprehensively.

News Cricket

BCCI should contribute Rs 5 crore to families of the martyred soldiers: CK Khanna

Harshit Anand Updated: 18 February, 2019, 11:56 AM IST


The BCCI acting president, CK Khanna has requested the CoA chief, Vinod Rai to sanction at least Rs 5 crore to the families of the Indian soldiers, who were martyred in the Pulwama terror attack, which took away lives of at least 42 CRPF jawans.

“We are saddened and join our fellow Indian citizens in condemning the dastardly Pulwama Terror attack. Our heartfelt condolences to the families of the martyred soldiers,” Khanna wrote in the letter to COA, office bearers and state units. “I request the Committee of Administrators that BCCI should contribute at least Rs 5 crore through the appropriate government agencies to the families of the martyred soldiers.”

“I am also going to request the state associations and the respective Indian Premier League franchise owners to consider making contributions,” he added.

He also said, “As a mark of respect to the Central Reserve Force personnel martyred in the terror attack, we should observe a two-minute silence during the first match of the India vs Australia series starting February 24, and during the opening ceremony/inaugural match of the Indian Premier League starting March 23.”

News Cricket

Virat Kohli will definitely bat at 4 if it's needed: MSK Prasad

Staff Writer Updated: 18 February, 2019, 10:41 AM IST


Ravi Shastri's idea of playing Virat Kohli at no.4 has found an avid supporter in India's chief selector, MSK Prasad. Shastri had earlier opined that if the situation demands the Indian skipper can bat at no.4. The idea has been quashed by most of the cricket pundits since Virat has been exceptional at no.3 and you don't want to disturb the position of someone as important as Kohli in the team.

But the idea has been supported by few people as well and MSK Prasad is one of those men, whose opinion matters a lot since he is one of the major stakeholders in Indian cricket at present juncture of time. 

"I think it is a wonderful thought that Virat Kohli can bat at No.4 and that is what Ravi Shastri has expressed. This has been happening for quite some time, but we will have to see. Because Virat has done extremely well at No.3. He is the No.1 batsman in the world. But if it is for the requirement of the team and Virat has to come at No.4 he will definitely do it. But again, we will have to see what the team requires and what the dynamics of the team is. That will decide his batting position," said in a recent interview on Hotstar. 

It is Shastri, whose words sparked a debate about Kohli's batting position. Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri had said that flexibility is paramount is big ICC megaevents and separating the top three might well make India's batting stronger.

"The good thing about this Indian top-three is we can separate them, if conditions and situations demand. Someone like Virat Kohli can go to number four, and we can put a good number three to bring more balance to the batting line-up. That's flexibility for you, and for big tournaments like the World Cup, you have to be flexible to see what's the best balance for the side. So we will decide that (accordingly in England).

"Maybe Rayudu, or someone else, could bat at number three, and Kohli comes in at number four. We wouldn't want to disturb the opening combination. Separating the top-three could make the batting stronger," Shastri had told Cricbuzz.