Feature Cricket

The Dangers of a Steady Indian Coach 

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 14 August, 2019, 12:07 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

Even as teams around the world are undergoing sea changes in terms of their coaches and possibly their captains, one team in particularly does not seem overtly perturbed. This, despite some controversy over the fact that the captain became a no-brainer decision that the selectors did not even bother to waste time over. But is the sameness good for the team in the long run?

On the one hand, the idea of an unchanged captain and coach at the end of a major tournament such as the ICC Cricket World Cup bodes well for the team. It suggests that the team has been on target, is on a consistent, cohesive path to achieving goals and that the personnel are being rewarded by reposing faith in them. While some teams are in downright turmoil, others in the process of finding new solutions and fresh faces to inject fresh life into their campaigns going forward, in that regard, the Indian cricket team should consider itself privileged that despite that disastrous beginning to the semi-final that put paid to their dreams of being a triple World Cup winner, the captain and the coach are fairly assured of their places going forward.

Though there was some discussion and debate over the possibility of a split captaincy and of the selectors not having convened a meeting to re-select the captain, Virat Kohli has managed to retain his place and even emphasize why he deserves to continue, albeit in the ongoing series against the lower ranked West Indies.

On the other hand though, there is always the danger when an important event such as the World Cup is sidestepped without as much as a review, even one of formality. When a team gets to the semi-final and is one step away from the final as the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 revealed and when some crucial decisions and session were considered controversial that potentially cost India the chance at the World Cup title, it begs the question if a review is in order not just of a player or two but also, the think tank.

To that end, the idea that the coach has been virtually assured of his place alongside the captain often means two things: that the captain wields enough authority to refuse to work with another coach other than the coach of his choice or that the think tank has proved to be the best available duo to get the job done across formats and tournament. The former has happened in the case of Kohli and his obvious preference for Shastri over Anil Kumble.

Furthermore, while the reappointment might appear to be validation for the job well done and the progression of plans across the board, the comfortable relationship between the coach and captaincy can and often does lead to a redundancy of idea, stagnancy of strategy and team plans and a sense of favouritism when one is given more power than the other in the working relationship while the other willingly or unwilling takes a back seat in the interests of maintaining the status quo for the duration of the tenure.

The tenure of Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli as the premier think tank has not been without controversy. The elevation/demotion of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the batting order in the all important semi-final was only one of the latest gaffes. There has been a learning curve. But whether every astonishing decision such as the decision at the Lord’s Test begs the question whether there has to be some accountability in place for who makes the crucial decisions, what the input is collectively and individually and also, who essentially is choosing the team when the selectors have fallen flat on their faces trying to explain some of the more bizarre selection decisions.

In that light, the idea of you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours takes on a whole new meaning. When a team is looking to raise its level of performance and maintain a high standard, constant innovation is a must as is scouting for talent and grooming the talent without bias and preference. Some of the decisions regarding players who have been picked by selectors but not picked by the team management on tour have raised questions about the coordination between the two and also, of the merit by which some talented players have been picked but sidelined and some greenhorns have been thrust into the limelight without the necessary green light in terms of enough performance or experience under their belt.

As team India heads into the important ICC World Test championship hosting South Africa at home as the first big series, these questions must be adequately answered and reasonably resolved so that the team does move forward, albeit with the same faces at the helm, to ensure evolution, not self-preservation for self-preservation’s sake.

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Feature Cricket

Why is Steve Smith ahead of other fab 3 in Test cricket?

CT Contributor Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:40 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Steve Smith is a genius who has taken control of Test cricket like nobody else. The run-machine has made a solid impact in helping Aussies retain the urn after they won the recently concluded fourth Test match at Old Trafford in Manchester. Smith was defiant and amassed scores of 211 and 82 to be the major difference for the side. After the Test, both captains acknowledged the brilliance of the magician. He is different class and that what hooks one to Test cricket. Smith is ranked the number one batsman in the ICC Test Rankings for Batsmen and he deserves every bit of the recognition.

The impactful Smith was bossing the Test scenario before being handed a 12-month ban for a ball-tampering scandal in March 2018. He rose from the very low in his career and came up all guns blazing in the Ashes 2019 series which was his first since the 12-month ban in Test cricket. The format is something that's tailor made for the right-handed batsman. He can score runs at will and not just that. The ability to convert fifties into hundreds makes him the best in business. When you look at his Ashes 2019 scores, the lowest score by the champion batsman in 82. Besides that he has scores of 144, 142, 92 and 211. He has batted in just five innings after missing Day 5 of the second Test and subsequently the third Test at Headingley due to a concussion.

To be able to make a comeback and then score a double century is something extraordinary. Smith averages more than 65 in Test cricket and that itself is a testament to his greatness. In the ongoing Ashes, he has notched 671 runs already and leads the show by a big margin. His consistency and ability to forge partnerships are strong attributes. These qualities make him above the other three in the Fab 3 group comprising of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.

Also, it's the impact Smith has. In 2017-18 Ashes he top scored for Australia and helped them win 4-0. Now in this series it's his runs that made the difference. So his contributions come to a winning cause for a side that is dependent on him in that middle order. There is a certain sense of responsibility and belongingness in Tests that Smith carries. He is a special talent and we need to celebrate his batsmanship and the aura that comes with it.

News F1

Report: Schumacher treated in secrecy in Paris hospital

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:29 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has been admitted to a Paris hospital to be treated with cutting-edge stem-cell therapy, according to a French newspaper.

The Paris hospitals authority, citing France's strict medical privacy rules, said it could not comment on the report in Le Parisien that Schumacher was admitted under tight guard to the Georges-Pompidou hospital for transfusions of inflammation-reducing stem cells.

The newspaper said the 50-year-old German, who suffered a near-fatal brain injury in a 2013 skiing accident in the French Alps, was expected to be discharged on Wednesday.

His long-time manager, Sabine Kehm, had no comment.

News Tennis

Injured Kevin Anderson to sit out rest of 2019 ATP season

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:22 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson says he will take the rest of the 2019 season off as he continues to recover from a right knee injury.

The hard-serving South African hasn't played in a tournament since losing in the third round of Wimbledon in July, and pulled out of the U.S. Open because of his knee problems.

He said on Twitter that he will not play again until next year. In a statement, Anderson said: "I have spoken with my team, consulted with doctors, and we have decided that the best course of action is to take the rest of the year off and prepare for 2020. This will give me enough time to undergo more rehab processes and get healthy."

The 33-year-old Anderson was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows in 2017 and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year.

News Football

Iranian female soccer fan dies after setting herself on fire

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:19 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

An Iranian woman detained for dressing as a man to sneak into a soccer stadium to watch a match has died after setting herself on fire upon learning she could spend six months in prison, semi-official news outlets reported Tuesday.

The self-immolation death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari has shocked Iranian officials and the public, becoming an immediate hashtag trend across social media in the Islamic Republic.

It also comes as FIFA is working with Iranian authorities to overcome a ban on women entering stadiums for men's games, a ban in place since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution. FIFA wants the issue resolved before Oct. 10 when Iran — the top-ranked team in Asia — hosts its first home World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

FIFA said Tuesday it was "aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it."

"FIFA convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran," FIFA said in a statement.

Khodayari died on Monday at a Tehran hospital after suffering burns across 90% of her body. She had been on a respirator since dousing herself with gasoline in front of Tehran's Ershad Courthouse on Sept. 2, according to the Iranian news website Rokna, which publishes in Iran with government permission.

She had just learned she could be tried by a Revolutionary Court in Iran and be put in prison for six months, her father told the website.

News Football

Brazil indicts model over rape allegation against Neymar

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:15 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Sao Paulo police say they are indicting Brazilian model Najila Trindade and her former partner over her rape allegation against soccer star Neymar.

Police said they indicted the model for procedural fraud, slanderous denunciation and extortion.

Her former partner Estivens Alves is accused of disclosing erotic content, which was then published online.

Trindade went to Sao Paulo police to accuse Neymar of raping her at a Paris hotel in May. Neymar denied the accusation and said their relations were consensual.

Prosecutors officially closed the investigation against Neymar earlier this month, citing a lack of evidence against him.

The Associated Press doesn't name alleged sexual assault victims unless they make their identities public, which Trindade did in several interviews.

News Football

Inter chairman Zhang defends fans amid racism debate

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:13 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Inter Milan chairman Steven Zhang says the principle of non-discrimination is "embedded in the DNA" of the club, after a widely criticized response from ultras fans to striker Romelu Lukaku being racially abused at a game.

Lukaku, who is black, was targeted with monkey chants by Cagliari fans this month after the Belgium forward scored a penalty kick.

A group of Inter fans later suggested such apparent abuse is not racist in Italy, and was a tactic they also used to unsettle opposing players.

Inter's Chinese chairman says the club's inclusive history makes him believe that "a lot of fans, when they did it, the intention was not bad."

Zhang says soccer is "not for violence, it's not for racism" and can be a force to educate people around the world.

The 28-year-old official spoke with reporters at a European Club Association meeting after he was elected to the 246-member group's executive board.

News Football

England, Ronaldo keep up scoring form in Euro qualifying

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 11:10 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

England's scoring form was on display again in European Championships qualifying. So was Cristiano Ronaldo's.

England made it four wins out of four in Group A with a 5-3 win over Kosovo and Ronaldo netted four goals in European champion Portugal's 5-1 away win at Lithuania.

On a night of heavy scoring, it took the five-time Golden Ball winner's international tally to a whopping 93. Ronaldo might well hit the century mark before next year's tournament, considering Portugal still faces Lithuania at home and twice plays lowly Luxembourg.

"I'm going through a good phase, but the team has been playing well too," Ronaldo said. "I'm enjoying this moment not only because of my goals, but also because of the team's performances in recent years. I just have to keep helping the team."

Striker Harry Kane moved onto a more modest 26 for England, whose fans got a jolt when midfielder Valon Berisha put the visiting side ahead after just 35 seconds.

They were soon reassured by Raheem Sterling's equalizer and Kane's latest goal for England, both inside the opening 20 minutes at St. Mary's Stadium in Southampton on a rare occasion England wasn't playing at Wembley Stadium.

By halftime fans had been treated to five home goals, including 19-year-old winger Jadon Sancho scoring his first two for England.

But the second half proved more inspiring for Kosovo's fans as they witnessed a mini-comeback, with Berisha enjoying a memorable night with a fine second goal curled into the top corner. Kane could have netted a brace, too, but saw his penalty saved by Arijanet Muric.

World Cup winner France labored at times against a well-organized Andorra side in a 3-0 home win, with Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann missing a penalty for the second straight qualifier.

After Kingsley Coman found a way through in the first half, center half Clément Lenglet and substitute Wissam Ben Yedder added goals after the break.

Feature Cricket

India vs. South Africa: SWOT Analysis of Team South Africa

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 11 September, 2019, 10:44 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

South Africa will enter this particular series against India as the clear under dogs not only because India have the upper hand in home conditions but also, because South Africa have been undermined by their own performances in the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will have dented them and spurred them on in equal measure.

Strengths

The only consistent factor about South Africa seems to be in the fact that Faf du Plessis continues to captain the Test team. As virtually the only member of the team who has a seasoned number of years under his belt, he is the best man to lead the team from the doldrums of the World Cup into a stiff contest in the hot bed of cricket. Additionally although short on collective team experience, Faf has a few usual suspects in his line up in the form of speedster Kagiso Rabada who claims to have learnt from the debacle of the 2015 tour and is raring to go.

Weaknesses

The biggest drawback for South Africa will hurt in the fact that Faf du Plessis could use the vital experience of the prolific Hashim Amla. The opener who scored nearly 10000 runs in Test cricket from 124 Tests and scored twenty-eight Test centuries, announced his retirement from international cricket after the World Cup. In doing so, he has left a huge void at the top of the order which South Africa will find hard to fill. Amla’s temperament, versatility and ability to score runs will be sorely missed.

Opportunities

As far looking at the cup half full is concerned, the tour of India is more of an orientation rather than a litmus test. South Africa will enter the contest with their expectations measured given that they have revised their structure of hierarchy in the think tank.

South Africa could spring a surprise in the fact that there could be some pressure alleviated as a result of this change at the top of the think tank in the team director, Enoch Nkwe. It will be interesting how South Africa approach this tour with a different mind of having a team director for a coach at the top of the hierarchy.

South Africa have bolstered their team with spinners. Keshav Maharaj is expected to be supported by Dane Piedt as well as a newcomer in Senuran Muthusamy. Although the trio will have their work cut out for them against the Indians batting on homegrown pitches, a lot will rest on their ability to read, revise and improvise quickly, particularly with not a lot of experience in the batting line up.

Threats

South Africa is in danger of allowing their problems from the ICC Cricket World Cup to precipitate into the Test series. There has already been enough controversy as their experienced spearhead, Dale Steyn, who, after missing the world cup through, claimed to be fit for the tour of India while Cricket South Africa have alleged that the aging fast bowler has not quite recovered yet from the injuries. Faf had raised concerns about the workload of Rabada and a lot will rest on the youngster’s ability to sustain pressure on the unyielding sessions of what is expected to be a gritty test in favour of India’s batsmen playing on home turf.

South Africa have a few young faces, including at least a couple of players set to make their debut. Expectations will be muted given that this will be a different outfit from the one that toured and lost their last series in India. With Quinton de Kock and Faf now taking on the fair show of responsibility in the absence of the likes of Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, it will be interesting to see how South Africa’s batting withstands the pressure of India’s spin attack as well as an in-form Jasprit Bumrah.

Feature Cricket

India vs. South Africa: SWOT Analysis of Team India

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 11 September, 2019, 10:36 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

India are undoubtedly in a dominant position going into the South Africa’s tour of India. With South Africa probing to find new ground to sink their feet into after their diabolical World Cup appearance, it will be up to India to press home the advantage.

Strengths

Not only are India playing to home advantage but also, they have sufficiently warmed themselves with the two Test series in the Caribbean. Although the quality of the opposition may have a few holes punched in them, there is little doubt that the exercise after the Indian Premier League and the ICC Cricket World Cup would have been just the appetizer to whet Virat Kohli and his men for the Test cricket season ahead. It should stand India in good stead.

Although eyebrows were raised when India picked Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin as the team’s lead spinner in the first Test, Jadeja backed it up with results that would suggest that India are looking to hammer home the advantage of employing spin against South Africa’s relative inexperienced batting line up.

With Jasprit Bumrah bringing home the firepower with pace, India have the requisite firepower in their armoury in their lineup. With Kohli himself eager to score some heavy runs to kick off this season and eager to upstage Steve Smith at the top, it could become a battle of the minds. Not an uncommon situation for the prolific batsman.

Weaknesses

Although it would appear, on paper, that India could have an easier time against South Africa, the chinks in India’s armoury lie at the very top of the order. With KL Rahul struggling once more on the tour of the Caribbean, India’s opener’s slot could become a musical chair situation once more. Although India operated a haphazard strategy when playing Rohit Sharma home and away on Test tours, one wonders whether Rohit has inspired enough to make a contention in the Test team by making a case for the opener’s slot. Either way, the opener’s role would be a gambling slot.

Opportunities

The tour of the Caribbean emphasized once more of having a valuable, patient, dogged middle order to pull India out of perilous situations into one of power. With Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari showing appetite to keep India’s backbone steady, backing both, the temperament and their ability to score valuable runs, India are well complementing Kohli’s tenacity and belligerence with defiance down the middle.

Threats

Although India have generally played to home advantage situations, they have shown susceptibility to be thrown off their game by the opposition’s own ability to exploit the conditions. With India having an open slot as far as the opener’s slot is concerned, India are going to have to be strategic about how they go about picking their top order because they do not want to open the gate at the top of the field and allow the opposition to make inroads.

Although Rishabh Pant has shown an eager willingness to learn on the job, on a wobbly wicket, with constant comparisons drawn to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Pant could be put under pressure if the game changes in favour of the visiting team. Marshalling the young troops will be Kohli’s challenge while ramming home the advantage.

News Football

Hong Kong soccer fans loudly boo Chinese national anthem

AP Updated: 11 September, 2019, 10:32 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Thousands of Hong Kong soccer fans booed loudly and turned their backs when the Chinese national anthem was played before a World Cup qualifier match against Iran, taking the city's months of protests into the sports realm.

The crowd broke out into "Glory to Hong Kong," a song reflecting their campaign for more democratic freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

After the match started, fans chanted "Fight for freedom" and "Revolution of our Times." One person carried a blue poster that read, "Hong Kong is not China."

Hong Kong has been roiled by protests since June over an extradition bill that would have sent some residents to mainland China for trial. The government promised last week to withdraw the bill but that failed to placate the protesters, whose demands now include democratic reforms and police accountability.

Security at the Hong Kong Stadium was tight, with fans frisked to ensure they did not bring in political materials and other prohibited items. Iran, Asia's top team, had sought to move the match, citing safety concerns over the unrest, but the request was rejected by FIFA, soccer's governing body.

Stadium announcers said 14,000 spectators attended the game.

Iran beat Hong Kong 2-0.

News Cricket

Drunk David Warner admitted to ball tampering during a first class match - Alastair Cook

Staff Writer Updated: 10 September, 2019, 10:44 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former England opener Alastair Cook has disclosed that David Warner told him he once "used substances attached to the strapping on his hand to accelerate the deterioration of the ball during a first-class match". Cook has mentioned about this incident in his new book "The Autobiography”.

"David Warner, a couple of beers into his celebration, mentioned that he used substances attached to the strapping on his hand to accelerate the deterioration of the ball during a first-class match. I looked at Steve Smith who shot a glance that said: 'Ooh, you shouldn't have said that," Cook wrote in his new autobiography.

Ever since his return to international cricket, David Warner is facing flak at the hands of fans. He, however, scored 647 runs in the World Cup. The left hand batsman finished as second highest run scorer in the tournament, only one run behind Rohit Sharma.

News Cricket

I don't like to judge myself – Ravi Shastri

Staff Writer Updated: 10 September, 2019, 10:42 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Team India head coach Ravi Shastri is satisfied after reappointment of Bharat Arun and R Sridhar. He share good rapport with these two and feels that having them will help him to continuity towards achieving goals. He also said that he has gained a lot of experience over the years.

“I don’t like to be judging myself, but the fact is that I have been around for that long. I have been in the game four decades now. I was 17 when I played for Mumbai and played for India when I was 18 and I have not missed a single season either as a player because after that I became a broadcaster, then a coach and director of the team,” Shastri told Gulf News.

“So obviously having travelled and watched the game closely and having the exposure it does help. When you have that kind of experience it does help when it comes to man-management and communication skills. Experience is not bought or sold in the market. You got to put in the yards to go the distance,” he further added.

News Cricket

Steve Smith was not mocking Jack Leach during victory celebration – Justin Langer

Staff Writer Updated: 10 September, 2019, 10:39 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Australian head coach Justin Langer has defended Steve Smith stating that he was not mocking English player Jack Leach after victory in the fourth Ashes Test.

Following Australia's win, Smith was seen wiping a pair of glasses before showing stance of left-hand batsman just as the English spinner does.

"Experience tells me that when you're doing well, people will try and pick holes in you," Langer said. "I know the truth, Chris Rogers is a great mate of the squad, that's all it's about.

"People can make up what they like about it, but that's the truth. Everyone around the world has seen the great spirit the World Cup and this series has been played in."

He further added the celebrations by Aussie players at Old Trafford were in control keeping in mind the fifth Ashes Test at the oval.

"That celebration was two out of 10 to some of the ones I have seen because we knew we had to play three days later," he added.

"When you have a good day you have to celebrate it as long as you move on and get ready for the next one. We've said the whole time, I've said it since day one, we're here to win the Ashes, so whilst the other day was a great experience, we have still go some business to do.

"There is a good feeling in the group, they know there is still unfinished business and we are looking forward to this last Test match."

News Cricket

‘You should start belly Dance program to lure international cricketers’: Fans troll Fawad Chaudhry

Staff Writer Updated: 10 September, 2019, 6:03 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Ten top Sri Lanka cricketers opted out of a tour to Pakistan this month citing security concerns.

Roshan Gunathilaka, the Sri Lanka Cricket security adviser and former air force chief, briefed the players on the security situation in Pakistan, and the security arrangements made by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

The players who opted out were one-day international captain Dimuth Karunaratne, Twenty20 captain Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Akila Dananjaya, and Thisara Perera.

Kusal Mendis was not considered for selection after he was injured in a collision with teammate Shehan Jayasuriya during a recent T20 match against New Zealand.

New ODI and T20 squads were selected, and were pending approval from the sports minister, SLC said on Monday.

The limited-overs tour begins on Sept. 27.

Over the past three years, Pakistan has successfully hosted Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and a World XI for limited-overs matches amid intense security.

Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry has stated that India has forced the Sri Lanka players to pull out of the Pakistan tour.

“Informed sports commentators told me that India threatened SL players that they'll be ousted from IPL if they don’t refuse Pak visit, this is really cheap tactic, jingoism from sports to space is something we must condemn, really cheap on the part of Indian sports authorities,” Hussain tweeted.

He was brutally trolled by cricket fanatics.

News Cricket

Good news for Rohit Sharma as selectors are considering him for opening role in Tests

Staff Writer Updated: 10 September, 2019, 4:57 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Rohit Sharma was kept out of playing XI during the Test series against West Indies. Hanuma Vihari was preferred over him and this didn't go down well with former cricketers. However, with KL Rahul's failure in the last two matches, selectors are thinking of opening with Rohit Sharma against South Africa.

In an interview with India Today, chief selector MSK Prasad spoke about Rohit Sharma's chances in Whites.

"As selection committee, we haven't met after the conclusion of the West Indies tour. We will definitely take this (Rohit as opener) point into consideration when we all meet and discuss about it," he said.

He expressed concern over 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," he added.