Feature Cricket

Whose England Is It?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 3 April, 2019, 4:55 PM IST


In the relatively quiet of England, the din of the Indian Premier League cannot be heard. But what is being drilled in is the effect before and after Brexit and the idea of England looking once more like a team made from bits and pieces of parts of the world.

Something unhealthy is afoot. And England are mindful of it, so much so that they are willing to poach players in order to restructure their own legacy even as they acknowledge that their team looks more like the inheritance of a colonial past and not truly representative of the concerns with the country . It would explain why while the IPL may have come as a distraction to the rest of the cricket world, England are assembling a unit not like the one they saw in their glory days of the Ashes 2005 when their team looked more international than English.

At the heart of the matter is the subject once more of England’s inability to produce consistently, large number of quality players who can represent the team at the international level. It explains why money has had such a huge say in how the England team and even domestic circuit has shaped up. With the recent poaching of Jofra Archer, a West Indian, and Duanne Olivier, a South African, once again questions are being raised about the merit of cricket at the grassroots in England and how the Brexit may perhaps help nations that cannot prevent England from picking up players they have not bred themselves.

Undoubtedly while teams and nations are looking to the ICC Cricket World Cup, even as players, many of them, have embraced the necessity and excursion of the IPL, there is a burning discussion not only within South Africa but also, across other parts of the world that have been affected by trade rights that have favoured England. Although South Africa have seen a fair amount of exodus through the Kolpak deal that seemed to have robbed them of some fascinating potential talent, that Duanne Olivier looked promising in South Africa’s national colours only to have jumped ship to possibly even represent England one day is not just a worry for South Africa’s cricket loving public but also, England who are now questioning the fabric of their own game.

There was a time when England’s success a decade ago seemed to, also, hold as a corollary the notion that this was derived success from the many foreign flavoured players or players with foreign origins that made up the team. The likes of Kevin Pietersen were more obvious. But there were others in the team, including the likes of Jonathan Trott, who made it impossible to see past the fact that not all of England’s success was home grown.

Ireland have no hopes at the World Cup simply because they will not be there. This, despite the fact that one of their former rank and file, Eoin Morgan, will be leading the English pack, not those in mint green clothes. Jofra Archer looks set to represent England and the day may not be far, given more relaxed rules of representation now, when Olivier may well turn up for England. It is not presently possible but it could be, in three years time.

This is something cricket needs to address although trade laws have been used in the realm of sport to suggest the legitimacy of such a move. But how it impacts the sporting integrity of a nation is something that should be looked at. Not entirely uncommon, but a rather worrying scenario, one that is hitting harder to home for some nations looking to either establish themselves or those that are looking for a resurgence of their own fortunes. With cricket being played competitively at a small majority, whether it can afford this kind of a trend that is more common in European club leagues and not at the national level is something that may need addressing and not just within South Africa as another ICC Cricket World Cup looms.

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News Cricket

Alastair Cook makes a BIG STATEMENT on his Test comeback rumours  

Harshit Anand Updated: 3 April, 2019, 5:03 PM IST


Ever since England's former Test opener, Alastair Cook said “never say never” line regarding his comeback plans to international cricket, there have been talks about the possibility of him making a return for the Poms, especially with English openers struggling big time in Tests. Both Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns have been far from impressive for England in the longer version of the game.

Alastair Cook, however, made it clear that he is not going to return for England. “I’ve played my last game for England. There’s always that one thing if there’s an absolute emergency or something but I’m nowhere near that mindset.

“I’ve had 12 amazing years playing for England. It’s time for the next generation of top-order players to try and make their mark. In terms of pulling on that cap and playing cricket for England, it’s sad it’s never going to happen again but I’ve had my time, said the former English captain.

Notably, Cook is England's highest run-getter in Test cricket. He retired last year against India. The southpaw reflected back on his journey and asserted, “I’ve had an amazing journey, I’ve loved it but towards the end I wasn’t the player I was and things had to move on. It was always going to come up because I’ve never said ‘no’. I was asked one question in a kind of half-jokey manner about it and it’s very hard to say ‘never’ because you just don’t know what the circumstance will be.

“But pretty much you can say ‘no’. It’s so far off my radar. It’s time for other people to go and open the batting for England, said Cook.

Feature Tennis

Roger Federer closing in on Connor’s record

Partab Ramchand Updated: 3 April, 2019, 4:52 PM IST


He won his 100th ATP singles title at the Dubai Open becoming only the second player in the Open era after Jimmy Connors to reach the three figure mark. And after missing out on title No 101 at the Indian Wells Masters when he lost to Dominic Thiem in the title clash Roger Federer reached that figure on Sunday at the Miami Open when he defeated John Isner in the final. He is now only eight short of equaling Connors’ record of 109 titles and for all his brilliance and durability it could well be touch and go whether he will draw level or surpass the great American who reigned supreme in the 70s and 80s.

Yes, Federer is remarkably fit and still winning titles but the fact remains that he will be 38 in August. Knowing Federer he will strain every sinew for he still has the hunger for success. That after so many years he still stands as high as No 4 in the ATP rankings is testimony to this. In the evening of his career it is going to be an exciting race as he aims to equal or better Connors’ record tally of titles.

The competition continues to be tough for besides his longtime rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who occupy the top two positions in the rankings there are a number of younger players trying their best to close the gap between ``The Big Three’’ and themselves and perhaps even take over at the top. At Dubai his opponent in the final was Stefanos Tsitsipas, the prodigiously gifted Greek who defeated Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January. At Indian Wells and at the Miami Open his opponents were Thiem of Austria and Isner of the USA and all these three players are currently in the top ten. Yet another serious challenger is Alexander Zverev of Germany who won the season ending ATP finals last year and is currently ranked No 3.

Right now however the focus is on Federer and his every match and every title he wins will be followed by more than usual interest as he closes in on Connors’ long standing record. The fiercely competitive American was good enough to enter the US Open semifinal in 1991 at the age of 39 before retiring in 1996 at the age of 43. All this will no doubt serve as an inspiration to Federer as the winner of a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles aims for the one record he probably covets most.

News Cricket

Ashish Nehra reveals what RCB MUST do in order to win IPL

Staff Writer Updated: 3 April, 2019, 4:48 PM IST


The Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore have got off to a disastrous start in the 12th edition of the IPL. They have lost their first four games and are looking completely off the mark. Even India's batting maestro, Virat Kohli has failed to make an impression with the bat while South African legend, AB de Villiers has also scored just a fifty thus far in the cash-rich league.

RCB have been poor in bowling and fielding as well. They need a big turnaround. RCB's bowling coach, Ashish Nehra has revealed what is the thing should do in order to win games. “Since the last two game, we have been dropping a lot of catches. In this format, if you drop two, three catches that make a big difference. When the game was close, in Chahal’s bowling we dropped a catch. Virat Kohli dropped a catch and in the end, Moeen Ali also dropped a catch. But still, it became a close game. If you don’t drop the catches, things would have been different.” he said.

“If you keep winning small moments then only you will win matches. The only problem for us is that we are running out of time as there are only 14 games, he added.

Opinion Cricket

How are the contenders shaping up for India's number four in batting?

CT Contributors Updated: 3 April, 2019, 4:42 PM IST


The Indian cricket team would have liked to get the problematic number four in batting sorted much ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019. With less than two months to go for the coveted tournament, Indian selectors know that they have a battle in hand to be spot on regarding the choice. India had finally identified Ambati Rayudu as the one to take charge of the position. He started well, but with time his performances with the bat fell flat.

Most importantly, in the final ODI series before the World Cup against Australia, Rayudu failed in three successive matches. Prior to that, he also endured a difficult campaign in Australia, but made it up with some decency in the next series against the Kiwis. But the consistency factor has not been there. Prior to the series, skipper Virat Kohli had stated that they want to be sure of the 15-member squad to be selected for the World Cup. He had also added that the IPL 2019 season will have no bearing in selection process.

Yet post the series, India were presented with more questions than answers, suddenly, two-three places in the side came forward to be up for grabs. One essential place is that middle order issue. India had tried a host of player in that position since the last few years, but they never managed to crack the code. Now the IPL has become crucial for certain players in contention to grab the opportunities. Here we analyze how things are shaping up.

Ambati Rayudu

The veteran is still very much in the plans, but he needs to work hard. Although the issue for Rayudu is that he hasn't played well so far in the IPL. With time running out, he needs one or two solid innings to remove doubts from the minds of the management. His confidence has taken a hit.

Ajinkya Rahane

The selectors had stated that Ajinkya Rahane is in contention for the World Cup after a solid domestic season. Rahane last played an ODI in early 2018 and since then was left out in the cold. He has made a decent start this season for Rajasthan Royals and needs to continue in the same vein. His versatility and experience can serve India well.

Shreyas Iyer

Delhi Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer is reported to be another player in the mix. He has played a few matches for India in the past. Iyer hasn't yet found the rhythm, but he has got the starts. He needs to be consistent in order to make the cut in the side. Iyer has minimal chances.

Besides these three, what India can actually also do is that they can promote Vijay Shankar to number four. He is being eyed as a back-up all-rounder for Hardik Pandya, but the in-form player is more of a batting all-rounder and has started well for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has shown the credentials, but he needs to be more consistent and mature in handling responsibility in the side.

Lastly, MS Dhoni can be promoted as well which in turn allows someone like a Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant (whoever gets selected) to come in at number five or six. Both players are more of finishers rather than number four.