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I grew up predominantly in the 90’s. My early tryst with movie reviews were through newspapers. We lived in Chennai and Hindu’s Friday feature was the only way to get a movie review at least till mid-90’s before satellite TV took over. Even though there were movie reviews in print in the 80’s & 90’s people went to the theatres solely based on either the cast or the director. Tamil cinema is one of the few industries where directors have the same pull as the actors. For example in 70’s & 80’s K Balachander, Mahendran, Balu Mahendra & Barathiraja had their own following and people will flock to theatres just to see their films. Even when movie reviews were prevalent in the print media in the 80’s word of mouth was still the preferred way of people finding out about the quality of a movie.

For example when a Rajini film released no one cared about reviews, you will see people standing in long queues to watch a film. Same with Kamal Hassan and other big stars. Once the first few shows were over, the audience talk will what will decide the fate of a film. Things have changed drastically over the past decade and with the advent of social media reviews are almost instant. While the audience post their reviews on Twitter while watching the film, there are 100’s of YouTube channels reviewing the movies as well. To be frank I have lots of respect for people who have their own YouTube channels. It takes courage to put yourself out there and talk about anything. There are a few creative channels while most of them are either reaction channels or movie review channels.

There are a few professional ones working for famous publications while others who have garnered subscribers through their content. I have no way of knowing credentials of any of these so called “Film experts” by just looking at their content though. It is very important for anyone who is reaching out to a large audience to understand that movie reviews are basically personal opinions. Something the experts these days seem to have forgotten. The popularity of their channel or the subscribers they have seems to have completely gotten to their head which makes for some cringe movie reviews. As a consumer of such reviews, the only thing I want to see is what the reviewer thinks about the film, what he/she likes or dislikes about the movie. I am not there to see some agenda driven rant or the reviewers trying to show off their knowledge of film making. As a common man I care a damn about some of the content of the reviews as it does not matter to me.

Also as a reviewer you need to steer clear of generalising. Everyone has the right to say they don’t like the movie but they cannot be under the illusion that they speak for others. The reason these “experts” have a huge following is because people actually respect their opinions. When that happens it also becomes the responsibility of the reviewers to stay balanced when they review the movies. Using their popularity to further their agenda or someone else’s agenda isn’t very ethical and that is the reason I steer clear of few of these channels these days.

The other irritating part about these YouTube channels is that they go looking for controversy as soon as some update on a movies comes about. A film releases it’s first single or a look or a teaser they immediately go on the streets with a mic and a camera asking people on the streets their review. Reviewing a movie is a tough art and being balanced is even tougher. I have hardly seen a few reviewers who give their opinion and let the audience make a call whether they would like to watch a film. That’s how it should be as trying to influence the audience is not why you review a movie.

The one thing everyone needs to understand is that there is nothing called a perfect film. A movie which is perfect for someone might not be for someone else. A film succeeds because there is something which keeps the viewers entertained throughout its runtime. That is exactly what the audience wants. Most of the reviews these days feel like they come right out of a film school. While it is good to show off your knowledge of film making, I feel that should be in a separate video and not in the review itself.

The biggest disappointment for me though is that while technology wise we have come a long way, the quality of movie critics has fallen in recent times. Things aren’t going to change much as in this age of competition people are ready to present controversial content to gather more views and subscribers. When that is what these channels aim for, you cannot expect them to give quality content to the viewers. The sad part is that the viewers also have gotten used to these substandard and agenda driven reviews that they seem to think that this is the norm. I have stopped watching majority of the review channels and only follow a few who I think try to provide balanced take on a film and leave rest to the viewers.

What do you think about movie reviews these days? Do you think they provide you with balanced views on a film? Or do you think they try to push their agenda on their viewers?

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so I have seen both the Doordarshan times as well as the satellite television boom in the mid-90’s. Before Satellite television came to India in the early 90’s movie stars were extremely elusive to the fans. They were like this larger than life hero figures in the mind of the fans who only appeared in films. In those times this actually helped a lot with success of films for these stars. This is how the star culture was formed. Fans who do not see their heroes other than on movie screen or posters rushed to theatres to watch them on the big screen.

In a way Tamizh cinema still has that star value. The elusive nature of the Tamizh stars has always worked in their favour. You would normally not see Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith or any major superstar making too many public appearances. This surely has helped them to maintain that culture which we see in some of the next generation actors as well. This means that most of the movies in Tamizh cinema comes with little or zero promotions, especially the big star films. For example Vijay’s interview for Beast earlier this year was his first in years but again you can say that he at least appears for audio release functions.

This lacklustre promotions from the stars has trickled down to the female leads and the supporting cast as well in Tamizh cinema. In recent times we have seen majority of the cast not being present for any promotions of a film. For example “Vikram”, the industries biggest hit this year had no promotions from any of the cast except for Kamal Hassan, Naren and Gayathrie. Recently Aatharva’s “Kuruthi Aatam” released after lots of struggle but again except for the hero and the director, none of the others were involved in any promotions for the film.

The biggest issue though hampering Tamizh film industry is that the release of a film is unknown to anyone at most of the times. The director of “Kuruthi Aatam” said in an interview that he just knew a week before that his film is going to release. We see a trailer released for a film and hope it will release in the near future but we end up seeing the movie a year or two later in theatres. This also causes issues for the cast to make themselves available for promotions. I understand that getting screens and taking the movies to the audience has become a huge problem in the industry but again the makers are making it difficult for their movies to succeed if there isn’t enough time to market their films. You might have a great product but if the audience don’t know about it, they are not going to come and see it. This is the era of OTT and you need to reach the audience big time if you want them to leave their home to watch a film. The big star films are fine as the fans will come in huge numbers just by watching a good trailer, but again that is not true for smaller films.

The other elephant in the room for Tamizh cinema is the Pan-Indian films. If we look in the past, Tamizh film industry was kind of the pioneers for Pan-India success. Manirathnam had Roja and Bombay and then we had Shankar’s Indian, Robot & 2.0 all being successful ventures all through the country. The biggest thing Tamizh movie makers need to learn now is that not all films are going to be successful when released through the country. The recent success of Telugu & Kannada cinema has taught us that there are certain type of films which appeals to the Hindi speaking public.

The Tamizh actors are extremely lucky as they have formed a great market in Southern states especially in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana but that’s not the case with Hindi audience. Yeah some percentage of the population knows some of the Tamizh actors through their dubbed films on TV but again that is not going to help sell the films there. The first thing is the content. It is very important as to what movies we are dubbing in Hindi language. The kind of cinema which would mostly work is Big mass masala films like Bahubali 1 & 2, Pushpa & KGF or Movies about our Indian culture like Karthikeya 2 or Nationalistic films well made like RRR. The second most important factor is promotions. People might say that Nikhil did not promote Karthikeya 2 nor did Dulqar for Sita Ramam but again these films did great in the Hindi market.

The reason for the same is that Telugu cinema has created a lot of goodwill with the Hindi audience. They have released the right kind of films with the right kind of promotions which has made the audience there to take notice of any film which comes from that industry. This is what Tamizh cinema has failed to do in the last few years. We are thinking like in the 90’s when Roja, Bombay, Indian succeeded we can just dub a film and release a trailer 10 days before the release and that will bring the audience to the theatre. It does not work that way now. In the 90’s before Satellite channels, just movie posters were enough to sell a film to the audience and if released at the right time people used to come to theatres. They did not have the alternatives they have now in terms of OTT or TV which meant that they had to look at cinemas for entertainment.

Now in this era where marketing and promotions are crucial just dubbing a film and releasing it in any language isn’t going to work. Tamizh cinema also has this very poor trend of releasing movie trailers just a week or 2 before the actual movie release giving the actors just about 6-7 days to do the promotions. That may work in Tamil Nadu but will not work in rest of the country. For example “Naane Varuven” movie touted to release on the 29th of September just saw a teaser release on the 15th of the same month. That is ridiculous but again Dhanush’s popularity means that the audience will make it to the theatres despite no promotions.

In the past 2 years we just dubbed Master, Valimai, Beast etc in Hindi and released them in theatres without any promotions. Most of the Hindi audience don’t even know what these films are, so you cannot expect them to come to theatres. For Vikram, Kamal tried his best but again the time for promotions was very less and he was the only one doing the same. If Tamizh cinema are really serious about going Pan-India with their films, they need to take a leaf out of Telugu and Kannada industry. They need to see how they promoted their films over the past few years and how they have made a market for themselves all over the country. I think the problem lies with the producers who want the film to go Pan-India but again cannot convince the actors to actually promote the films

Tamizh cinema needs to wake up and realise that the method which has been working for them for decades in the state isn’t going to help them sell films to different audience across the country. The producers should stop advertising a film as Pan-India if the actors aren’t game to aggressively promote their films all over the country. If the actors are happy to just have their films release in southern states, so be it, the producers to make the films for just that audience. The next big film which is going Pan-India is Ponniyin Selvan (PS1). The director is Manirathnam who has had huge success across the country with his films. The film is just 2 weeks away from coming in theatres but we haven’t seen any promotional activities. The movie is clashing with one of the biggest Hindi films of this year, Vikram Vedha and the crew is still not taking this seriously it seems.

PS1 is a film which has a possibility of succeeding all over India. It has a theme of Indian history which Hindi audience like and with right amount of promotions this might become Tamizh cinema’s biggest hit of the year. The only good thing about the cast of PS1 is that everyone is game to promote the films. Vikram, Jeyam Ravi and Karthi always promote their films well which works in favour of the makers. The film will take a huge opening in Tamil Nadu as it is our history and we will for sure flock the theatres to watch the film but again the film needs to be promoted aggressively in other states for it to succeed. Manirathnam has done this in the past with his Hindi films so I am hoping that he understands what needs to be done to take his film to the nook and corner of the country.

To be frank if PS1 fails in Hindi, I don’t think we have any chance of getting a successful Pan-Indian film in the future from our industry. The film has the right content and the right actors to go all out to take the film to the audience, so if this fails that means it will be on the makers to not give enough time for marketing. The good thing is that the movie stars Aishwarya Rai in an important role which means that there will be promotions at least in Mumbai but I don’t think that will be enough. If PS1 succeeds it might give a template to other makers from Tamizh cinema as to how to promote films which they seem to not aware of due to the no-marketing culture in the industry. The stars need to wake up and smell the coffee. They get paid ridiculous amount of money to act in a film and I feel they need to make an effort to help out the producers if they want to go Pan-India with the content.

I am a big Virat Kohli fan and like everyone I want him to come back to form and score loads of runs for team India. Since his last hundred against Bangladesh in 2019, Virat has struggled in Tests mostly but has had decent success in other two formats until recently. The home series and the one which just concluded in England hasn’t been very kind in terms of runs for the former captain. The problem also has been that in between these poor performances, Virat hasn’t been playing too much cricket. He did play in the IPL this year though with limited success for RCB.

After another poor series against England earlier this month, Virat has once again requested for a break thereby missing the series against West Indies. Over the past year or so the Indian superstar has hardly played any international cricket or otherwise except for the IPL. This is why these constant breaks need to be taken with a pinch of salt. As a star player in the team and one of the leading players in the world a prolonged struggle for runs mean you either play as many games as you can or try to improve form in domestic cricket away from the spotlight. Virat hasn’t done either over the last couple of years.

While the reason for Cheteshwar Pujara to represent Sussex might have been due to the lack of interest from the franchises to pick him, it is at least commendable that he forced his way back into the Test XI with performances. Virat Kohli hasn’t played much domestic cricket nor has he expressed any desire to play county cricket to try and get back some form. While mental fatigue might be one of the reasons for players to lose form, Virat’s issues seems technical too. The way he has been getting out in all formats over the past couple years shows that his weakness outside off stump has returned.

I am not saying that Virat isn’t working on his chinks but again practicing in the nets can only take you that far. It will be wonderful if Virat gets back his form and starts scoring runs again as that will make India much stronger in all formats but breaks aren’t going to help him achieve that. Rohit in no uncertain terms has confirmed that Virat Kohli will be part of the Indian XIs despite his lack of runs, so we will for sure see him in the team once he is available. The question now will be how long will that rope be extended to the legend before it runs out? The question only the team management can answer or maybe they don’t have to if Virat starts scoring runs again.

The first time I saw Virat Kohli bat was in the 2008 ODI series against Sri Lanka. A series made famous by Ajantha Mendis who tormented the Indian team throughout that tour. Virat was pushed to open the batting with Gautam Gambhir in the absence of the seniors and as a 19 year old playing on some unusually bowling friendly conditions he showed a lot of composure. Since then Virat was marked for greatness and for the next decade he did not disappoint.

Virat had to wait a year before he became a permanent fixture in the Limited Overs format but he had to wait a little longer in Tests. His breakthrough series came in Australia in 2011/12 after a poor outing in West Indies in 2011. Virat even at a very young age came across as someone who always wanted to succeed. He was aggressive and mentally strong, a product of that time in a team which was lead by MS Dhoni.

In just couple of years he Virat became the leader of the new age Indian Test middle order post the retirement of the greats. Him along with Pujara and Rahane became the face of Indian batting for the next decade. Virat loved Test cricket and he did not shy away from making that known to everyone. From the time he took over the captaincy from MS Dhoni in the middle of the 2015 series against Australia he always wanted to make India a force in the format. He started to work on his fitness thereby inspiring the next generation of Indian cricketers and brought about the change in the mindset of the team.

His confidence in the pace bowlers meant that India went from a bunch of spray guns to bowlers who could hunt in pairs and make life difficult for the opposition. After the 2015 Australian series, Virat asked his bowlers to watch Josh Hazlewood who not only bowled economically but also ended up with the best average among pacers in the series. Virat always had the hunger to keep improving himself and you could see that in his preparation. After his disastrous 2014 tour of England, he made it a point that he wouldn’t do the same mistake when he toured again in 2018.

From that series in Australia in 2012 till 2019 November (Month of his last international hundred) Virat scored more international runs than any other player in the world. His 17872 runs were scored at 60.99 with an incredible 62 tons. He not only became the best all-format batter at that time but also transformed the Indian Test team into number 1 team in the world. The Indian pace attack became the best in the world and Indian became the flagbearer for Test cricket.

But again when things were going brilliantly for Virat the batsman & the captain, things took a turn after the home series against Bangladesh in 2019. Virat’s batting form started to dip and while India continued to be a good Test side the collective failures of the experienced middle order became the topic of discussion. Virat is yet to score a hundred in any format since November 2019 his 2478 international runs during that time came at 37 with no centuries. His ODI & Test form were the most affected while his T20I record still remained good.

His dip in form meant that Virat also relinquished his Test captaincy after the series loss in South Africa earlier this year, this also meant that he was forced out of the LOI leadership as well. Virat has always been this fighter who always proved his doubters wrong but this time it does feel that he probably lost that hunger to improve. His weakness outside offstump which he fought so hard to improve upon after that 2014 series in England has returned and this time it has started to affect his limited overs batting as well.

His performance in this ongoing IPL further highlights his struggles. He has struggled to score runs this season and when did score, he has struggled to maintain a good strike rate. He has had 3 first ball dismissals this season as well which hasn’t happened ever in his career. The year 2022 is an important one for India and with the T20 world cup around the corner, India would need Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to be in good form with the bat to guide a young team.

Virat still has at least 2-3 years of cricket left in him but I do expect him to retire at least from one format soon. His Test record has taken the most hit and with his average dropping below 50, couple more failures in the upcoming season might see him bid adieu to the format. It will be sad if Virat isn’t able to turn this form around to finish his career with an average of 50+ which he so deserves.

Virat did have a spark at the end of the the IPL with a match winning 70 odd in a must win game for the RCB but again there wasn’t much else after that. While as fans we would love for him to get back to his pomp but again it will all depend of what Virat Kohli wants from his career here on in. It will be disappointing if Virat hangs up his boots without 10K Test runs at 50+ average, so the hope is that he will be able to have that one last dash towards greatness.

I have been following Indian cricket since early 90’s and never have I seen such an injury ravaged touring in my life time. When India landed in Australia on 12th November 2020, they already were missing Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma and knew that their captain Virat Kohli will be leaving the team after the first Test. The tour started off with the ODI series for India and by the first T20, India had already lost Jadeja to injury. This meant that the genial all-rounder had to miss the first Test at Adelaide.

Despite that one could argue that the Indian team that played the Adelaide Test was almost at full strength and was only missing the services of Ishant Sharma. Rohit Sharma isn’t a regular in Tests yet and India seldom play Jadeja and Ashwin together overseas. But again when the first Test was completed under bizarre circumstances with the tourist getting bowled out for just 36 the lost further two personnel. While Virat’s exit was already known the injury to Mohammad Shami was a body blow for an already depleted Indian attack.

While India had to pick themselves up from the disaster of Adelaide they also had to dig deep into their reserves to get a good XI on the field. The failure of Prithvi Shaw meant Shubman Gill made his debut. Mayank Agarwal who was a main stay of Indian top order was struggling with his unusually high backlift which he probably picked up during his IPL stint. The Indian team fought hard and beat the confident hosts proving all comers wrong with their resilience and courage.

while things were looking good for the tourists finally injury to Umesh Yadav further dented the Indian team which was already missing 3 of their first choice players. A confident Indian team landed in Sydney knowing that Rohit Sharma will be available to open the batting along with Gill in the 3rd Test. The Sydney Test began with Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack. While Bumrah is extremely talented and has been the spearhead for India in all formats, we need to remember that he has just played 16 Tests himself. He had Mohammad Siraj who had made his debut in Melbourne and Navdeep Saini making his debut as his bowling partners. The Test was remarkable for more than one reason. While the Indian team did pull out one of the most brilliant and resilient batting performances in recent times they also lost Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari in the process.

Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul who would have been the next choice of players to make the XI got themselves injured in the nets. While Agarwal awaits scan reports, KL Rahul is probably sipping a cup of team at home watching the game on TV. The Indian team has been hit with unprecedented bout of injuries which was least expected at the start of the series but the one heartening thing though is the fight shown by the players. The credit should be given to the team management on the tour and the unassuming yet strong leadership of Ajinkya Rahane. This series will be memorable for more than one reason but the nothing can be bigger than the courage the team has shown despite adversities.

The Indian team might struggle to put together a good solid playing XI for their toughest game of the series but again you wouldn’t bet against them giving a tough time to the Aussies. The Australia team at full strength at home has struggled to dominate a injury hit Indian team at home. This shows the bench strength of the Indian side and also the mental strength of the team to keep fighting no matter what the situation is.

The Indian team may not be able to put together a strong XI for the final Test but the Aussies will know that this touring team surely has one last fight left in them to make it hard for the hosts. With the Border-Gavaskar trophy on the line the hosts are under more pressure than the tourists who have nothing to lose going into the final Test.

Wicket-Keeping is a crucial component in a Test team. There is a reason why teams don’t compromise on quality of keeping in Tests as opposed to the shorter formats. While all Test teams have decent to good wicket-Keeping batsmen, India have struggled to find one since the retirement of the legendary MS Dhoni.

The Test keeping spot for India has been quite a game of musical chairs between Wriddhiman Saha amd Rishabh Pant. While Saha is the better keeper of the two his batting has been less than inspiring and hasn’t been of Test quality. Gone are the days when Test teams select a wicket keeper for just their good glove work. Almost every Test side in the world now has a wicket keeper who can bat really well. For India it has been a dilemma at least in the Test arena as while Rishabh Pant is an exciting bat his keeping against especially spin is lot left to be desired.

Pant has already dropped 4 chances in the Test and a half he has kept wickets in the ongoing series and things haven’t changed much since the last time he was dropped. Saha on the the other hand is known for his excellent glove work but again age isn’t on his side and his batting has dipped to a level of not being of international standard. The Indian team though over the last 5 years since the retirement of MS Dhoni from this format haven’t tried any other options which makes it very difficult to come up with a replacement immediately.

The Indian management and the selection committee need to dig deeper into the domestic system to bring out a good wicket-keeping batter for Tests. Indian domestic system has 30+ FC teams and it is hard to believe that they cannot find one wicket-keeper who can keep better than Pant and can score runs as well. While Pant is a good batter his glove work needs lots of work and international cricket isn’t the place to learn your trade. Parthiv Patel another youngster who had a brilliant Test series down under in 2003/04 was dropped because of his poor keeping which cost India a series win. Rishabh Pant despite his mouthwatering stroke play needs to spend more time in domestic cricket and work with coaches to improve his glove work if he wants to represent India has a Test wicket keeper.

The problem for India is that even when we look at the IPL squads except for Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan there aren’t many promising young keepers in any of the franchises. Most teams have an overseas wicket-keeper which isn’t helping much with unearthing talent for Indian team. While I am not suggesting we pick a Test wicket keeper based on IPL performance, we at least would have some idea about their skills with the glove in a high pressure tournament.

Right now in the ongoing series India do not have many options but in the future though the selectors need to think about giving opportunities to other young keepers in the domestic system. India will soon be playing at home where keeping against Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja will be crucial and they cannot have Rishabh Pant in the current form to be doing that. Going back to Saha will be a step back as well. If India wants to be a force in Test cricket they need a keeper who makes less mistakes and is reliable behind the wicket and at the moment Rishabh Pant is not that.

We are in the final week of the round robin stage of IPL2020 and the playoff spots are still up for grabs. Mumbai Indians with 16 points are almost in but again they would feel safe with another win under their belt. The fantastic thing about this season is that all the teams except for Chennai Super Kings have an outside chance of making the playoffs. Kings XI Punjab who looked like being down and out after first 7 games have made an incredible comeback winning 5 games on the bounce to become one of the top contenders for the playoff spot. Kolkata Knight Riders have had a mixed tournament. They surely haven’t been consistent but again they have done enough to keep themselves in the race.

Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals though have been hanging by a thread and possibly have an outside chance of making it if they win both their games and other results go their way. The two top teams of this years IPL Royal Challenges Bangalore and Delhi Capitals though have seen their season take turn for the worse in the latter part of the tournament. DC who have been brilliant in this years tournament have had very poor last few games. They have not only been losing but the losses have been heavy as well. Their 88 run loss to SRH has given the latter a lot of hope but has dented DC’s NRR pretty badly. RCB who have been very consistent in this years IPL have now lost two games in a row making their qualification path slightly more complicated.

This season has been extremely competitive and the most dangerous team in the coming days is going to be CSK. The men in yellow have nothing to lose and they would want to end the season on a high. The next few days is going to be crucial for all the sides in the competition. While the top 3 sides want to finally confirm their playoff spots, the rest of the 4 are battling to topple one of them into the playoffs as well.

DC and RCB have been brilliant this season but their recent reversal in results would have surely caused some jitters in their camp. Both these teams have been in these situations in the past an they surely would want to avoid that from happening again this season. RR and SRH who at max can reach 14 points would not only want to win their remaining games but would also want to improve their NRR as there is bound to be tie at number 4 in the table.

This years IPL in the UAE has been exciting and close and the final week is no different. With as many as 7 teams in the running for 4 spots, the tournament has been one of the best in history of IPL. All the teams would want to make one last push towards the playoff spots and it will be interesting to see who gets there.

Every time an Indian national squad is announced there is always controversy. Fans and experts alike question selections, express disappointment over someone missing out and there is conspiracy theories always floating around. The three squads announced for the Australian tour wasn’t immune to that either. But again the T20I squad garnered the most criticism. Lets look at the T20 squad and analyse the “Controversial”
picks in more detail.

Team India T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The T20I squad garnered the most criticism and critique from the fans and experts alike. The biggest controversy or mystery is the omission of Rohit Sharma. Rohit has been absent from the Mumbai Indians playing XI for the past 3 games and also I am sure BCCI would have consulted the franchise medical staff before making the call. There is no way BCCI would omit their star limited overs player with hearsay or half baked information. There is a reason why Rohit hasn’t been picked for the tour. The fact that MI posted on social media about Rohit practicing after squad announcement is highly unprofessional as despite that he did not partake in an important clash against RCB last night. Considering there isn’t much time between the end of IPL and the beginning of the Australian tour, I feel the call was right.

The next controversy was with the omission of Rishabh Pant from the T20I side. I am a big fan of Rishabh but again I need to be objective about a player. Yes he is brilliant and yes he is very talented but lets look at his numbers just to stay little fair on the players picked. Pant has played 28 T20Is for India and has an average of 20 at a SR of 121. Not earth shattering numbers by any means. His IPL season this year so far has been mixed bag. He hasn’t been his belligerent best and has shown lack of form over the last year or so. Sanju Samson got a lot of criticism from experts for his lack of good FC scores but again we are talking about T20 games. Yes Sanju himself isn’t the most consistent or reliable but when Pant was given 28 games to prove himself, I feel we can at least give Samson 3 more games to show his mettle.

The other contentious spot in the squad was the selection of Varun Chakravarthy. Yes Varun is a reasonably unknown commodity and not many people rate him as a spinner. He has had a great season so far for KKR but again the argument is that there are better spinners available than Varun in India. Fair enough, the only other player who I thought could have been picked is Kuldeep Yadav as he has brilliant T20 numbers but again his bowling has been on the decline in LO formats over the last 18 months. Yes there is Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar but again I don’t see selection of a young spinner is that bad as it is made to be. It does seem like the selectors have picked him based on his IPL2020 performance but again that’s fine as both spinners I mentioned above is a future star and will be picked soon in the Indian XI. Yes Varun might not be the best spinner in India but again his selection isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Krunal Pandya and Axar Patel compete directly with Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. They both are bowling all-rounders and Varun has been picked as a specialist bowler. Sundar and Jadeja have been very good in shorter formats and their bowling this IPL has been brilliant as well. Jadeja especially has been batting brilliantly for CSK. So I don’t see any controversy in their selection.

The one player who even I though should have been in the T20I squad is Suryakumar Yadav. He has been brilliant in IPL for years and it is strange that he does not get picked for the national side. He once again proved last night how amazing he is in this format and I hope that the selectors give him a chance soon in both the LO format. He is a deserving player and should have been part of this squad to Australia.

This is just a 16 member squad and not everyone can get into the XI. There have been few people preferred over the other and while we can argue the merit of others who haven’t been picked, we cannot deny the talent of the people who are in the squad. The rest of the squad is on the expected lines except for the return of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and the addition of Mayank Agarwal in T20 after his brilliant season for KXIP this year so far.

Overall I feel that even though the T20I squad hasn’t impressed everyone, the selectors haven’t done a horrible job as it is made out to be. They have picked the best available players on merit and I don’t see this as a disaster. Everyone might feel someone someone else would have been a better choice in the squad but again that would be in the hindsight.

The T20I and Test squads were announced by BCCI yesterday and while majority of the personnel were as expected there are some interesting selections in both formats. The biggest controversy though is the absence of Rohit Sharma. Rohit who has been missing in the last few games for Mumbai Indians has been left out sparking some speculation regarding the seriousness of his injury. MI management posting that Rohit is back in the nets and is getting ready to play the rest of the games has created some confusion regarding the the star batsman’s current condition.

BCCI though have mentioned that they will monitor his status and will take a call regarding his inclusion. The rest of the squad though had some interesting choices. Varun Chakravarthy who has had a brilliant IPL for KKR has been chosen as the spinner in the T20I squad in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep hasn’t been at his best in shorter format for over a year now and him not getting enough chances for his franchise also might have played a part. The T20 squad already has Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. Hardik Pandya returns to the Indian squad after missing in action due to injury for a while. The rest of the pace attack for the shorter format remains on the expected lines with Navdeep Saini retaining his spot.

Mayank Agarwal gets a go in the T20 team after a stellar IPL2020 and Sanju Samson gets another chance ahead of Rishabh Pant as the lone wicketkeeper in the squad. While Rohit Sharma’s absence does leave a huge void in the squad Shikhar Dhawan returning to the top gives the team the much needed experience in the batting department. BCCI have gone with the performers from the ongoing IPL but again it will be interesting to see how they will perform in a tough Australian tour.

T20I Squad to Australia: Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (VC & WK), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The ODI squad though is very similar to the T20 one. The biggest surprise though is KL Rahul being the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Shubman Gill is back in the ODI squad and Mayank Agarwal retains his spot in the team. Prithvi Shaw who was part of the Indian ODI squad to New Zealand does not find a place this time and Kuldeep Yadav returns after being dropped from the T20 team. Shardul Thakur is back in the ODI team and this series also marks the return of Hardik Pandya in all three formats. Ravindra Jadeja retains his all-rounder spot and Yuzvendra Chahal is the other spinner in the ODI team. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul doubles up as the deputy to Virat Kohli in the shorter formats on the tour to Australia.

India’s ODI squad to Australia:Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur

The Test team though has very less surprises. Rohit Sharma once again is absent from the squad which means that KL Rahul makes a come back as an opener. There is Pritvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal as well who mostly will be the first choice openers at the start. Shubman Gill also has been retained in the squad to provide another opening option. The spin department has the regular 3 spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Ishant Sharma’s injury means Mohammad Siraj gets another opportunity in the Test team and Navdeep Saini retains his spot in the squad.

Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah round of a varied and good pace attack. India for sure will miss Ishant Sharma as he has been India’s best bowler over the last couple of years and has helped maintain pressure from one end consistently. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane retain their middle order spots along with Hanuma Vihari who might play based on the team composition. Hardik Pandya also makes a return as a pace bowling all-rounder after missing in action due to injury.

While there are some controversial selections in the T20 and ODI squads the Test team except for the absence of Rohit Sharma probably is the best they could have done. Mohammad Siraj who has been one of the best domestic bowlers for India over the last few years gets another deserved chance and I hope he gets to play in the XI. The Australian series is scheduled immediately after the IPL and the Indian team will be short of practice in the longer format. It will be interesting how the team cope with this new normal and against a team which will be very tough to beat at home.

Test Squad for Australia: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohd. Siraj

Chennai Super Kings haven’t had the greatest of seasons so far. With just 3 wins from 9 games their chances of getting to the playoffs is thinning with every loss. Their loss against Delhi Capitals over the weekend was a must win game to keep their confidence going but again despite putting up a good total their bowling and fielding let that chance slip.

While Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab kept their hopes alive with a moral boosting win, they also put a lot of pressure on CSK and Rajasthan Royals. CSK not only lost the game against Delhi Capitals, they also lost their star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo to injury. Losing him mid game and having to bowl Ravindra Jadeja in the final over cost them dearly. This would also mean that they would have to change their team combination once again. CSK haven’t been able to field a settled combination so far this season and Bravo’s absence is not going to be easy.

The middle order batting options isn’t something which is abundant in CSK’s arsenal. They only have Kedar Jadhav and Narayan Jagadeesan in their squad to fill that slot. The other decision they need to make is between Josh Hazlewood and Lungi Ngidi. Kedhar Jadhav had a poor IPL and was a regular for CSK in the first few games. He isn’t bowling anymore which means that he needs to play only as a batter in the XI. He really struggled with the bat this season and him not being the fastest mover on the field might weigh heavy in the decision making process. Jagadeesan played only one game for CSK and scored 30 odd, it would be unfair to not give him another chance in the XI.

The other option Dhoni & Co have is playing an extra spinner in Piyush Chawla in place of Bravo which also might be one of the discussion points. The other pickle CSK have is that with Bravo missing they need to plug their death bowling void. Bravo and Shardul Thakur did that for CSK in the last few games and with the former injured they need to decide between Hazlewood and Ngidi for that spot. Ngidi does seem the natural choice but again Hazlewood provides CSK with wickets with the new ball. It will be a tough call for the team management ahead of their all important game against Rajasthan Royals.

Making change to the playing XI is always tough but doing it when you are not particularly performing well as a team is even more difficult. CSK will know that any more slip up would mean that their chances of making it to the final four will almost be over. This is a must win the pressure is enormous on MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming.

My Playing XI:

Sam Curran, Faf Du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, N Jagadeesan/Piyush Chawla, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi


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