Feature Cricket

World Cup: 60-day countdown begins

Partab Ramchand Updated: 2 April, 2019, 11:37 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

So the 60-day countdown to the World Cup has started. The ICC showpiece event commences on May 30 and there are virtually no ODIs in which the ten participating teams will be involved in from now on. And while these are early days since the squads have yet to be announced a clear picture has emerged on who the favourites are based on past record and present form, the two criteria on which predictions are generally made.

There are of course the ICC rankings which are based on comparatively recent results. This has England, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia occupying the first five places and taking everything into consideration the four semifinalists should come from these five with West Indies, ranked as low as ninth being the dark horses based both on recent results and their capability to pull off the unexpected.

As defending champions and five-time winners Australia will always be among the World Cup favourite every time and they have done their reputation no harm going by recent results. Reversing a 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 victory in India and then following it up with a 5-0 whitewash over Pakistan in the UAE shows that they are peaking at the right time and they will be an even stronger team once Steve Smith and David Warner are back in the ranks.

No 1 ranked England are a handy side though based on past record one would not put them as one of the favourites. They made five straight semifinals (including twice finalists) in the first five World Cup competitions but since then their record has been disappointing. The chances of two- time champion India can never be shrugged off even if their recent form is decidedly mixed. New Zealand is a balanced outfit, strong in batting and bowling and have a rather impressive World Cup record – six time semifinalists and runners-up in 2015. Can they go all the way this time? South Africa who have found it hard to get the ``chokers’’ tag off their back – they have been semifinalists four times – will be looking forward to set that record straight and their recent 5-0 whitewash augurs well for them.

The dark horse as I said could well be the West Indies. They recently drew 2-2 with England and if Chris Gayle decides to make his international farewell a memorable one there is hardly anyone who can stop him. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can be ruled out of contention even for a semifinal berth. The first two teams have the past record to back them up but their present form rules them out from being serious challengers.

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Opinion Cricket

Is Virat Kohli the main issue for RCB's problems?

CT Contributors Updated: 2 April, 2019, 11:14 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Royal Challengers Bangalore were expected to do some big things in the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League after adding some key names and bolstering the squad. The middle order crisis that has plagued RCB over the years, was a position they wanted to identify this time. But three matches gone for the side, Virat Kohli's men find themselves languishing at the bottom of the table.

Is there any way out? There are still 11 matches to be played and RCB need a change of fortunes to strike the right chords. Going by what we have seen, Kohli & CO. could find it difficult to make progression. Having said that, there is no connectivity in the RCB ranks and there seems a lot of disjointed elements on offer. So where it has gone wrong?

Virat Kohli as a skipper hasn't led RCB to the heights he would have expected to. His only bright moment came in 2016, where he led the side to the finale. Since then, RCB's struggles have been far too many. From not being able to identify match-winners in auctions, to go for plenty of foreign recruits, being bullish about the playing XI and lack of depth in the ranks have halted RCB's charge. This season is no different.

A skipper plays an important role in what kind of players he would like in the squad and RCB have lacked that fizz. In comparison to the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, Kohli's unit lack the composure that is vividly present in these sides. Also the 30-year-old has the knack of chopping and changing too often. His opening combinations vary all the time. The changes in the side too are pretty often.

When you look at the three games in IPL 2019, RCB were bullish to not try out the experience of Tim Southee at the death. Kohli himself hasn't yet fired and there is too much pressure on someone like an AB de Villiers. In a high-pressure match against SRH, the decision to go with 16-year-old Prayas Ray Barman backfired. RCB find themselves unsettled in batting and they far often fell prey to collapses.

They have collapsed twice in three matches and the middle order also failed against Mumbai. It was a match they should have won. To be honest, Kohli's leadership attributes need to questioned here in terms of the mobility of RCB. They fail to similar issues every season under Kohli and how can there be no addressing the loopholes? On one hand we have MS Dhoni knowing what he wants and he stays true to the needs. On the other hand, we have Kohli, who hasn't yet cracked the code.

RCB will need to act tough and perhaps strip Kohli of the captaincy. They need fresh ideas and a leader, who chips in with some pivotal changes in the outlook. When it comes to international limited-overs matches, Kohli has Dhoni to guide him through. Perhaps that has played a part in his success. In the IPL he has lacked the voice from behind the stumps and someone who could help him out. RCB is likely to fail yet again this season and its a sad sight for the fans yet again.

News Cricket

"I am speechless," says Shreyas Iyer after Delhi lose their last seven wickets for 8 runs

Harshit Anand Updated: 2 April, 2019, 10:28 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Delhi captain, Shreyas Iyer was left speechless after his side suffered one of the worst collapses in the history of the cash-rich IPL. Delhi Capitals, who were cruising at 144/3 in the 17th over couldn't hunt down 167 runs and lost the game by 14 runs. Sam Curran claimed a hat-trick, which went a long way in Punjab's victory.

“I am really speechless. It is a crucial match and losing such matches is not going to benefit us,” Iyer said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

“Really disappointing. With the way we were going, we came to run-a-ball and to lose from there, really disappointing. We didn’t play smart cricket and Punjab outplayed us in all the departments. They were really cool and calm in that situation. Our batsmen did not taking initiative to win the game,” he added.

Even against Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi couldn't quite finish off the game despite being in a good position and as a result, the match ended in a tie. If it was not for Kagiso Rabada's super over exploits, Delhi might well have lost that game as well.

Videos Cricket

Watch: Sam Curran's bhangra with Preity Zinta is breaking the Internet

Harshit Anand Updated: 2 April, 2019, 10:20 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Sam Curran, who made a name for himself against India in the five-match Test series last year at home, dazzled for Kings XI Punjab in yesterday's encounter against Delhi Capitals, which the hosts won by 14 runs. Sam Curran became the first Englishman to claim a hat-trick in the IPL and also it was the first instance when a player, who opened in the IPL went on to bag hat-trick in the same game.

After winning the match, he started doing bhangra with team's owner and Bollywood actress Preity Zinta, which caught everyone's attention.

Here is the video of their dance:

Chasing 167 for victory, the Delhi Capitals looked to be cruising at 144/3 in the 17th over but then came a collapse, which resulted in home team's victory.

News Cricket

Rahul isn't too bothered about his spot in the World Cup

Harshit Anand Updated: 1 April, 2019, 5:28 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Punjab's opener, KL Rahul made a match-winning fifty for his IPL side against Mumbai after failing in the first two games of the cash-rich league. He had also performed well for India in the T20I series that preceded the five-match ODI series against Australia. However, he didn't get a lot of chances against Australia in the ODI series to prove his mettle in the 50-overs format.

But, Rahul isn't thinking too much about his spot in the World Cup. He was quoted by IANS as saying, “As players it is important that we try and perform well for our respective IPL franchises and team. It is also very important to stay in the present. If you do well, you are automatically in the race for selection.

But if you worry about the selection, then you put too much pressure on yourself. I am not somebody who is thinking too much about the World Cup spot. I just want to perform for KXIP and enjoy the IPL. T20 cricket is all about having fun,” he added.

News Cricket

Kohli-led India retain ICC Test Championship mace

Harshit Anand Updated: 1 April, 2019, 5:16 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Virat Kohli-led India have won the ICC Test championship mace for the third successive year. Team India won the purse of $ 1 million after they finished as the numero-uno for a cut-off date of April 1. The Kane Williamson-led New Zealand ended up at the second spot and won $ 500,000.

South Africa, who are ranked no.3 in ICC Test rankings earnt $200,000 for finishing third while the Tim Paine-led Australia got $100,000 for finishing fourth.

Virat Kohli was happy and proud of the feat and said, "Retaining the ICC Test Championship Mace once again is something we are all really proud of. Our team has been doing well across formats but it gives us extra pleasure to come out on top of the Test rankings.

"We all know of the importance of Test cricket and of how only the best can prosper in the format," Kohli added.

Feature Cricket

Nipped in the Bud

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 1 April, 2019, 4:24 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

A potentially damaging situation was nipped in the bud by the Board of Control for Cricket in India after Rishabh Pant found himself in the eye of the storm once more.

The match between the Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders should have been talked about for the fact that the match went into the super over. Instead the match quickly turned into a raging bush fire as social media sites lit up with a rather serious concern.

Caught on the stump microphone was the young wicketkeeper's voice claiming rather conveniently before the four producing ball was bowled that it would end up in a boundary. It immediately turned into a wildfire as the words were considered predictive enough to constitute some kind of illegal mischief not unlike spot or match fixing.

Even as the drama spread across to completely overshadow the match, the BCCI went into over drive as the broadcasters claimed that the circulating clip was an incomplete, edited piece when in fact Pant was merely warning his skipper Shreyas Iyer about the possible gaps in the field.

The stump microphone itself has been the subject of much debate and discussion over whether to leave it on or not and whether it should be broadcast in its entirety. Recent damaging issues were felt even by the skipper of a national team, Sarfaraz Nawaz of Pakistan, for comments considered racial and therefore, highly damaging to the image of the person and the sport.

Pant is not new to the stump microphone controversy although Tim Paine and Pant seemed to make up over the course of India's tour of Australia. Still this one had the greater danger of potentially turning the tournament on its head and bringing back nightmares of past IPL seasons that laid the dark seed of spot fixing.

With social media more rife and being used for dissemination as well as a platform for heavy debate, discussion and sometimes aspersions as was evident in the course of the mankading controversy involving the Kings XI Punjab skipper, Ravichandran Ashwin, which saw arguments and accusations flying back and forth even between the observers and commentators of the game, it is a highly dangerous, quick medium for spreading damage as well as dirt without objective and verifiable data.

With the BCCI stepping in with a clarification, it was obvious they did not want one more player getting caught in the center of an ambiguous, worrisome controversy.

This though will not end the controversy over the subject of the stump microphone.

News Cricket

Fans roast Virat Kohli & Co after RCB’s third consecutive defeat

Staff Writer Updated: 1 April, 2019, 4:15 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Royal Challengers Bangalore have lost three consecutive matches in the ongoing season of the Indian Premier League. The batting has failed to score heavily while bowlers have been hit to all parts of the ground by rival batsmen.

In the last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the visitors were hammered in all departments of the game. Virat Kohli was hoping to be on the winning side this year but things haven't panned out as per his expectations.

The host scored a mammoth 231 runs at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Jonny Bairstow and David Warner completed their individual hundreds for their IPL franchise.

RCB never looked comfortable while chasing a target of 232 runs on a batting-friendly pitch in Hyderabad. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers failed to get going and the suffered its one of worst defeats in the IPL. They lost the match by 118 runs, which is the second worst defeat in terms of runs.

Fans were not impressed with the way RCB performed against Sunrisers Hyderabad. They blasted the entire team including Virat Kohli.