Certain things remain constant. Like Karan Johar making romantic flicks based in exotic locations, politicians pulling off whataboutery, the ever-rising prices of fuel, media's coverage of the biggest social issues surrounding the country like a "break-up between Anup Jalota and Jasleen Matharu" in the Bigg Boss house, your crush "crushing" your heart, and of course, Indian cricket team's knack of losing Test series outside Asia.
2018 was meant to be the year when Indian team was apparently supposed to become a world beater in Test cricket by winning outside Asia. But, India got hammered by 1-2 in South Africa and 1-4 in England, which came as no surprise for people following Indian cricket from a long time. But with just one change, the great grand justification of the hammering by Indian head coach, Ravi Shastri.
Apart from gun batsmen, India is also known for being a land of spinners. Perhaps, they have been India's biggest strength in wins at home. But, somehow, ace Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have always failed to live up to the billing in countries like Australia, South Africa, England, and New Zealand.
One can argue that SENA countries are very hard for spinners to replicate home success. But then a certain Yasir Shah comes to mind, who helped Pakistan win Tests in London (Lord's and the Oval) in 2016, on-not-so-helpful tracks.
Ashwin averages 46.02 for his 42 wickets in SENA countries, with a strike-rate of 90.4. On the other hand, Ravindra Jadeja has scalped 25 wickets at an average of 43.56, with a strike-rate of 92.2. They are pretty average, to say the least. By the way, Ashwin and Jadeja average 22.79 and 19.71 at home.
Ashwin's inability to win games even on helpful decks (Centurion and Southampton) for spinners, this year, hurt India badly. Jadeja is a better option than Ashwin outside Asia, albeit as an overall package than just a spin option.
So, what should India do? Quite simply, pick Kuldeep Yadav as team's primary spinner. The 23 years old has distinct advantages over Ashwin and Jadeja. He is a wrist-spinner unlike both the finger spinners. Wrist-spinners are always in play. Even on flat decks of Australia, he can turn out to be India's X-factor.
Another thing with wrist-spinners is that teams like Australia aren't the best when it comes to picking them. And the mystery, which this chinaman spinner brings to the plate will only make him more potent. His googly is not easy to pick and any side takes a good time to adapt against him, which can play in India's favor. In short, Kuldeep has all the ingredients to be a star Test spinner.
Temperament is one of the most critical aspects of any sport. Kuldeep has a very good head on his shoulders. He doesn't get bog down in tense situations, instead, he takes his game to the next level. He is not only strong-headed but also has a big heart as we have seen in limited-overs cricket, where he doesn't mind tossing the ball up and bowling slow even when attacked.
India also struggled greatly in getting the tail out cheaply in England. In this aspect too, Kuldeep is a better option with all his variations and mystery. Moreover, does India have a better choice given the constant failures of Ashwin and Jadeja? Perhaps, not.
But what's the way forward given how well Ashwin and Jadeja perform in India? Not that difficult as well. Selectors need to follow the same route as they took for Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan's performances in Asia are as formidable as anyone. In fact, he had a century in the last Test, he played in India, this year. But still, he was dropped from the Test squad given his poor non-Asia numbers.
If selectors are finding it difficult to drop Ashwin and Jadeja, at least they can make one thing clear that Kuldeep will be India's main spinner with Ashwin and Jadeja as the backup options.
If India are seriously keen to win and not just compete in Australia Tests, they need to start investing in right talents than backing players because of their reputations than performances. Otherwise, India's defeats in non-Asia Tests would remain a constant and keep pinching the cricketers and fans, alike.
A well-known cricketing adage says that spin bowlers like good wine get better with age. Clarrie Grimmett the legendary Australian leg spinner was 44 when he took 44 wickets in the series against South Africa in 1935-36. Nearer our time the great Shane Warne was 36 when he took 40 wickets in the unforgettable contest against England in 2005.
But looking at some of the great fast bowlers the adage could be applied to them too. The West Indian duo of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose remained deadly till the end of their careers. Walsh was 38 when he played his last Test and Ambrose was almost 37 when his career ended. Two of their great predecessors Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan were even older when they played their last Test, Hadlee being 39 and Imran 40.
These thoughts come to mind when seeing James Anderson bowl these days. He is in his 37th year and played his first Test almost 16 years ago. But he remains England’s pace spearhead even with the introduction of several youngsters who have come and gone. To be candid one marvels at the man. He has played 148 Tests much more than any other fast bowler and but for the odd injury or two he has remained remarkably fit. He has sent down over 32,000 deliveries, over 2000 more than Walsh the next on the list. And yet there is no talk of retirement. And why should there be when he continues to be highly successful. Why, only in the just concluded Test series against the West Indies he took ten wickets in the three matches at 24.5 apiece. And the manner in which he demolished the West Indian top order in the second innings of the third Test with a quick three wicket burst showed that there was still a lot of fuel in the tank.
Given his method of bowling which is basically seam and swing it is inevitable that Anderson should have an envious record in England. The cynics uncharitably say that he can take wickets only in England and helpful conditions. That is an unfair criticism and one would think they would have some respect for a bowler who has lasted the course successfully for so long. The fact is that in 65 Tests abroad he has taken 207 wickets at 33 apiece. And while it is true that he has a much better record at home – 368 wickets from 83 Tests at an average of 23.76 – he still has well over three wickets a Test abroad. With 575 wickets Anderson is the most successful fast bowler of all time and the fourth highest wicket taker - a no mean feat by any yardstick.
Son Heung-min has every reason to be constantly smiling, and Tottenham has many reasons to be thankful.
For a footballer so understated, so seemingly undemanding, the forward has become indispensable for Tottenham.
Borussia Dortmund was reminded of that in the Champions League, when Son scored the opener to spark a 3-0 victory in the last-16 first leg. It was Son's ninth goal in 11 games against Dortmund, including his time in Germany playing for Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen.
In his fourth season at Tottenham, the 26-year-old South Korean has emerged as one of English football's most influential players. In the 13 games Son has scored this season, Tottenham has gone on to win.
"Next time when Son scores, I go to the dressing room and shower," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino joked, "and wait for the game to finish."
There was little for Pochettino to laugh about a month ago when top-scorer Harry Kane damaged ligaments in his left ankles. But Son is helping to dispel suggestions Tottenham is overly reliant on Kane, inspiring this commanding lead over Dortmund that was secured by late goals from Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente.
Son's contribution — 11 goals in his last 12 games — is even more remarkable considering he started the season at the Asian Games and took a couple of weeks out in January to go to the Asian Cup with South Korea.
"Son is a player that of course has a lot of quality and is a very talented player," Pochettino said. "But he is always available to learn, improve and listen to what you expect from him. He is capable of adapting the quality in different situations."
He proved that right at the start of the second half after Tottenham had been run ragged in the opening 45 minutes and was on the back foot after an error-strewn performance.
In the dressing room, Pochettino got the video clips out during the break.
"We showed a few actions defensively and positions in the offensive situations," Pochettino said.
A refugee soccer player who was detained in Thailand for three months under threat of extradition to Bahrain shook hands with Australia's prime minister, whom he credits with securing his freedom.
Three days after he was released from a cramped Bangkok cell, Hakeem al-Araibi was welcomed into Prime Minister Scott Morrison's ornate office in Parliament House.
Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne had repeatedly lobbied the Thai and Bahrain governments on al-Araibi's behalf for his return to Australia where he is a permanent resident.
"Thank you very much. I'm so happy to be back in Australia now and I'm grateful to be here to live in this country," the 25-year-old said.
Morrison said he was pleased al-Araibi had come home and looked forward to him soon becoming an Australian citizen.
Al-Araibi had arrived in his home city of Melbourne on a flight from Bangkok where he had been detained since November following an extradition application from his native Bahrain.
He came to Parliament House to watch a soccer match played by lawmakers, supporters and stars of the Australian national women's team wearing the yellow uniform of Amnesty International and the blue of al-Arabi's Melbourne team Pascoe Vale Football Club.
The former Bahrain national team player watched from the sidelines with the foreign minister, explaining that his hamstrings remained too tight after weeks in a crowded cell to play.
The soccer match had been planned as a demonstration of support for al-Araibi when he faced indefinite detention. But instead, it became a celebration of his release.
Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster had been a leader in the campaign for al-Araibi's release and played for Pascoe Vale on Thursday.
"We're all very worried about him," Foster said. "He's obviously riding on incredible adrenalin and elation. "
"I would image ... in the next week or two or three, he's going to need some help. He's been through an incredible ordeal and I think that's exacerbated by the fact that he was a torture survivor previously," Foster added.
Al-Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously. He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.
Bahrain wanted him to serve a 10-year prison sentence in an arson attack that damaged a police station. He has denied those charges and says the case is politically motivated.
Al-Araibi was detained by mistake upon arrival in Bangkok on his honeymoon. Interpol rules do not allow refugees to be deported to the countries from where they fled persecution.
He was released when Thai authorities shared a letter indicating that Bahrain had withdrawn its request for al-Araibi.
Officials in Bahrain said the country "reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against" al-Araibi.
Al-Araibi says he fled Bahrain because of political repression and that he fears torture if he returns.
The International Cricket Council has banned West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel for most of the upcoming one-day international series against England after he was accused of making a homophobic comment.
Gabriel will miss four of the five upcoming ODIs against England.
England captain Joe Root was picked up on a broadcast feed saying to Gabriel: "Don't use it as an insult. There's nothing wrong with being gay."
The preceding comment by Gabriel could not be heard on the clip posted by British broadcaster Sky Sports.
The ICC says Gabriel admitted to "personal abuse of a player" in an incident with Root but there was no reference in the statement to the contents of the slur.
We are in that period of time where everything leads to one and only destination- the World Cup. The 50-overs World Cup has a charm of its own. Every cricketer craves to play the ICC megaevent while countries, for years, prepare themselves to strike gold in the cricketing carnival. It is the most-sought-after cricketing tourney. When the World Cup is around, the excitement and buzz is of different magnitude and euphoria.
The Men in Blue will be one of the red-hot favorites to win the World Cup. And one of their most lethal weapons or I should say, the man who can win matches on his own- Kuldeep Yadav will be in the spotlight throughout.
How good has been Kuldeep Yadav? For that, let's take a look at a table, which will help us asses that.
Leading Wicket-takers in ODI cricket since Kuldeep Yadav's debut:
No one has taken more wickets than Kuldeep Yadav since his ODI debut, which goes on to show good he has been.
Rashid Khan has mind-boggling numbers. But Kuldeep Yadav's wickets have come against far superior teams, which showcases his mettle.
Let's take a look at how Kuldeep Yadav has fared in home and away conditions:
Here as well, Kuldeep Yadav comes out with flying colors. He has shone through in away games more than at home, which is remarkable given how often players find it difficult to adapt to foreign conditions.
In fact, Kuldeep Yadav was one of the major factors behind India's historic bilateral series triumphs in both South Africa and New Zealand. He was exceptional in England as well.
Not only in ODIs, but the Kanpur-born spinner has been excellent in the shortest format as well. The wrist-spinner has scalped 35 wickets in 18 T20Is at an average of 12.97. His economy has been 6.72, which is again great for any bowler. In this format as well, no one has taken more wickets than him since his debut.
But despite being the best in the 50-overs format and T20Is, at least, statistically, the chinaman spinner has been, at times, shown the door, which defies logic and can be dangerous when India play the World Cup in England and Wales, which starts from May 30.
Kuldeep Yadav became the talk of the town in England, right after the first T20I against the hosts, last year. Kuldeep had taken a fifer in the Manchester T20I. But, he went wicketless in the next game and was subsequently dropped for the third T20I, which raised many questions. But, then Kuldeep came up with his best ODI figures in the first 50-overs game against the Poms.
In the home ODI series against Windies in 2018, Kuldeep Yadav was overlooked for the first ODI. Indian bowlers got hammered all around the park. As a result, India were forced to bring back the unorthodox spinner in the team. He picked up three wickets on his comeback and wasn't dropped going forward in the series.
Even in the Australia ODI series, he didn't find a place in the series-decider. Yadav had picked up two wickets in the first ODI but he went wicketless in the next game, and arguably, the best ODI bowler didn't find a place in such a crucial match. Chahal was brilliant in Melbourne game but that in no way, justifies the exclusion of team's biggest match-winner.
Kuldeep, however, returned with four-wicket hauls in consecutive ODIs against New Zealand to prove himself for the nth number of time. Even in the New Zealand T20Is, he wasn't picked until the last T20I. And in the final T20I, he was the best of Indian bowlers.
It clearly shows a lack of belief in Kuldeep Yadav, which is quite staggering given his magnificent displays. In most of these instances, he has been dropped after going wicketless. It is quite difficult to understand why he is dealt with in such a rough manner despite being a consistent performer. He will easily walk into the XI of any team in the world in each and every white-ball game
His importance is much beyond what numbers say. He is someone, who takes crucial wickets in the middle-overs to leave the opposition reeling. In an age, when the bat has overpowered the ball, a player like Kuldeep is of immense value.
He picked up 17 wickets in six games in South Africa, nine wickets in three games against England, eight wickets in four games against Black Caps when it comes to ODIs, which is par excellence. Kuldeep has been the architect of many Indian victories.
But the way Kohli and team management treat him at times, it won't be a surprise if they drop him for the semi-final or the final (in case India makes it) just because of one or two average games.
Kuldeep is going to be critical to India's hopes in the World Cup. If Kohli and team management keep messing up with him, not only it will impact his confidence but also India's chances to get back the World Cup trophy in India.
Team India is back home after a long tour of Australia and New Zealand. The visitors defeated Australia in the Tests and ODIs while drew the T20I series.
Men in blue won the ODI series against New Zealand while they lost the T20 series. Many of the players were spotted at the airport. After bidding good bye to each other, they headed in different directors before they resemble for the limited overs series against Australia.
Kuldeep Yadav shared a picture of himself along with Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishabh Pant and Khaleel Ahmed. “After a long and grueling tour, time to head back home with loads of happy memories to cherish," he wrote.
They were spotted at the airport and even shared an Instagram story with the fans.
Rohit Sharma was seen playing with his daughter Samaira after returning from New Zealand.
He posted a picture of enjoying South Indian food at home. His better half Dipika also shared a pic of Karthik relaxing at home.
He was seen at the airport after returning back from New Zealand. The former skipper won the man of the series award against Australia in ODIs.
Former fielding coach of Mumbai Indians Jonty Rhodes is regarded as the best fielder of all time. In a recent interview with the governing body of international cricket, he revealed the names of top five fielders of all time. He included one player each from Australia, India, England and two from South Africa. He gave fifth spot to former Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, followed by English player Paul Collingwood. The second and third place went to AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs respectively. He kept Suresh Raina at the number one spot.
Talking about Raina, Rhodes said “I’ve been a massive fan of Suresh Raina ever since he started to play. I know what the conditions of the fields are in India, and every time he practices, every time he dives, it’s gonna be so much of heat. He doesn’t even give a second hesitation of should I have dived or shouldn't have dived.
"He goes for the ball which pretty much what my philosophy is, 'if you don't go, you'll never know' and he has done that. He has taken great catches in the slips and in the outfield and in the circle. I have loved watching Suresh Raina. He is my number one fielder."
Rahul Dravid, the former Indian skipper, has played a key role in shaping the careers of Prithvi Shaw, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant and many other. The coach of India A and U-19 team is doing a phenomenal job since agreeing to coach the young guns of India. Team India is beating teams outside its own territory and the credit goes to Rahul Dravid, who has unearthed a lot of match winners in the last few years. Taking a leaf out of India's recent success, Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to appoint former players as coaches to groom young players. They have decided to rope in Younis Khan as the coach and manager of their U-19 side.
“Australia utilized the services of their top players like Rodney Marsh, Allan Border and Ricky Pointing while India has also given Dravid the responsibility of manning their under-19 players and it has produced good results,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani was quoted as saying in a PTI report.
"We also need to have classes for our players as they go on to become ambassadors for the country. They will be given grooming and education at the National Cricket Academy. We should have attached our own coaches with foreign coaches just like India did so that they could have also learnt a lot more", he added.
Apart from Younis, Mohammad Yousuf is in line to become the batting coach at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
Suresh Raina has blasted all those who are spreading fake news of his death, terming the whole thing unfortunate. Several videos and reports have claimed that Indian cricketer died in a road accident.
He took to twitter to update followers about his well-being.
"Past few days there has been fake news of me being hurt in a car accident. The hoax has my family & friends deeply disturbed. Please ignore any such news; with god's grace I'm doing absolutely fine. Those @youtube channels have been reported & hope strict actions will be taken soon," Raina wrote on Twitter.
He played a key role in Chennai Super Kings' title win in the last edition of the Indian Premier League. The left hand batsman amassed 445 runs for yellow brigade in 2018. Suresh Raina is the only player in the history of the league to score 300 plus runs in all 11 editions so far.
A report in Mumbai Mirror suggests that the former Indian skipper is likely to be rested to include Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant in the upcoming T20 series against Australia. MS Dhoni is sure shot of representing India in the World Cup while there is a race between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik to fill the remaining one spot for reserve wicketkeeper.
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal could be rested considering their workload in international arena. Jasprit Bumrah, who was rested from the ODI series against Australia and the entire New Zealand tour, is expected to lead the attack in absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.
Keeping the hectic schedule in mind, the national selectors are expected to rest senior players like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane are likely to be recalled in their absence.
MS Dhoni is one of the most popular figures in the world of cricket. His popularity in the Indian dressing room is akin to a cult figure. And why it wouldn't be like that? He is the only captain in cricket history to lead his country to triumphs in all the ICC events- World Cup, T20 World Cup, Champions Trophy. And not to forget that he has also won IPL and Champions League T20.
Vijay Shankar got a call-up in the Indian team after Hardik Pandya was called back home from India's tour of Australia. Shankar impressed one and all with his batting in ODI and T20I series against New Zealand. And he is the latest addition to MS Dhoni's admiration club.
“I was happy to be around with the seniors. Just watching them prepare for matches and learning. Moreover, I learnt a lot by watching Dhoni during run chases. I learnt a lot about how to pace an innings, especially during chases. I learnt about his mindset,” Shankar told PTI.
“It was a great experience to share the dressing room with names like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma. It is important to watch and learn from the seniors in the team,” Shankar added.
After beating England in the Test series, Jason Holder, the Windies skipper, has stated that his side's main goal is to become the world's number one team. Although, England won the third Test but the home team was a better side throughout the series.
“We have got to keep improving in the three facets of the game and be clinical and lot more consistent,” said Holder.
“Our bowlers have done an outstanding job. It is up to our batsmen to contribute more.
“We need to continue to build and not rest on our laurels. Our number one goal is to be the number one team in the world so there is a lot to improve on.”
Roston Chase was the only player, who batted exceptionally well for West Indies in the last Test matches. He scored an unbeaten 102 in the second innings of the match.
“I had a chat with Roston before his innings,” said Holder.
“He was a little disheartened with his dismissals in this series so it is good to see him knuckle down and get some runs, especially in the context of the day. It would have been easy for us to be rolled over.”
Moin Khan, who was part of the World Cup winning Pakistan team in 1992, has backed the current squad under Sarfraz Ahmed to defeat India for the first time in the World Cup. He stated conditions in England are suitable for Pakistan and they showed that in the Champions Trophy finale where they beat India two years ago. Pakistan have never thumped Men in Blue at a World Cup in their past six meetings.
"This present team is very capable of recording a first win over India in a World Cup because there is talent, there is depth and variety and Sarfraz Ahmed has now gelled the squad well," said Moin, who featured in two India vs Pakistan clashes at World Cup in 1992 and 199, in conversation with GTV News channel on Tuesday night. "I say this because our boys beat them (India) in the Champions Trophy two years back and I just feel that in English conditions in June we have better bowlers."
Despite his prediction, he is backing India and England to do well in the showpiece event.
"This should be a very interesting World Cup and I am backing Pakistan to beat India. Our boys are in good spirits and it is good they will go into the competition after having played ODI matches against South Africa, Australia and England," he said.
As a player, the one thing that matters a great deal to anyone is the faith of your captain. In cricket, the role of captain is more crucial given how much command he exerts over the team. So, if a captain has faith in your abilities you are able to focus on the task in hand than on other things going around.
IPL has played a major role in the growth and development of Jasprit Bumrah. He is one of the shining stars of Mumbai Indians and has done exceptionally well under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma.
Jasprit Bumrah has shed light on Rohit Sharma the captain and revealed his special quality as a leader.
“He's seen me before I was an India player and he's seeing me now. He's seen phases that I've been through. The thing with Rohit is, he's never been different with me. He used to back me with a lot of space then and he does it now. He'll come, ask me what I see or believe in, set the field accordingly and then keeps backing me up all the time. Some days it works, some days it doesn't but it's always so reassuring,” said the 25-year-old.
Tim Paine had asked Rishabh Pant to babysit his kids while he was away with Mrs. Paine. The on-field banter was completed when the Indian wicketkeeper batsman actually got himself clicked with Paine’s kids and wife during Team India’s visit to Australia’s Prime Minister House.
Keeping this hilarious episode alive, Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the upcoming T20 and ODI series between India and Australia, came up with a new advertisement featuring Virender Sehwag. The former Indian opener is seen playing with kids, who have been dressed in the Australian jersey as he says: "Jab hum Australia gaye the, toh unhone poocha tha babysitting karoge? Humne kahaa sabke sab aajaao. Zaroor karenge."
Rishabh Pant gave his reaction on the TV commercial for the upcoming India-Australia limited overs series.
"Viru paaji showing me how to be better at cricket and babysitting — an inspiration always! @StarSportsIndia @virendersehwag,” he wrote.
Earlier, Matthew Hayden had warned the Indians after watching Sehwag's advertisement.
#BeWarned Never take Aussie's for a joke Viru Boy @virendersehwag @StarSportsIndia Just remember who's baby sitting the #WorldCup trophy."
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