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In this three part series we will be looking the teams India will be facing in this World Cup in the order they will play them. We will look at how India have fared against these opponents over the last 4 years since the 2015 World Cup.

Kuldeep Yadav & Yuzvendra Chahal had wood over protean batters during India’s tour to South Africa in 2018

June 5,2019 – India vs South Africa, The Rose Bowl, Southampton

India kick off the World Cup campaign with a tough game against South Africa at the The Rose Bowl. South Africa have been a difficult team for India to beat in the World Cup in the past. In fact the 2015 victory was India’s first against Proteas in a World Cup match. Even though the historical head to head record between the two sides is firmly in South Africa’s favour the last 4 years have been a little different. Both teams have met 12 times since the 2015 WC and India have a 8-4 advantage. This includes India’s crushing series win in South Africa last year. Both teams have good bowling attack but India definitely have the edge in batting. In the absence of AB De Villiers and inexperienced South African batting rely heavily on Faf Du Plessis and Hashim Amla to provide them with the stability they need. With the game being played at the Rose Bowl, the spinners with come into play. India with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be favourites in this contest.

Verdict: Even though this will be a tough game, India probably hold the edge over an injury stricken SA side. They are still awaiting confirmation on the availability of Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

June 9, 2019 – India vs Australia, Kennington Oval, London

Like South Africa, Australia have been one of the most difficult opponents to face in the World Cup for India in the past. Even though India triumphed against them in the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals, en route to the title, they were beaten by Australia in 2015 World Cup in the Semi-Finals. Both teams have met 18 times over the last 4 years with the honours even at 9-9. This is one match up which is difficult to call. The Australia team though will be buoyed by the return of Steven Smith and David Warner to the ODI side and with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins making a comeback as well they look a strong side this time as well. Their recent form has been brilliant as well as they won 8 games in a row against India & Pakistan in the sub continent over the last couple of months. The battle obviously will be between the two batting sides and how the Australian batters play the Indian spinners. In the last 4 years this has been a high scoring ground with team batting second winning 6 of the last 11 games.

Verdict: This is a tough one to call and I would probably give Australia a slight edge on this one due to their recent form and historical dominance over India in the World Cups.

June 13, 2019 – India vs New Zealand, Trent Bridge, Nottingham

India will be taking on last year’s finalists in their third game of the tournament. India will start as favourites in this contest as historically India have a good record against the Blackcaps. The recent record between the two also alludes to the same conclusion as India have won 9 out of their last 13 games against New Zealand. New Zealand are a good side and have a good bowling attack and an aggressive batting attack. They did struggle a bit against the Indian spinners in the recently concluded series between the two sides. Indian spinners will once again be crucial in this contest. The blackcaps will have Tim Southee and Trent Boult with the new ball and Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi to manage the spin department. The batting will be led by captain Kane Williamson with the experience of Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill. The Indian batters did struggle against Boult’s swing in New Zealand but again we may not see such conditions in the world cup in a dry summer in the UK. The Indian bowling attack were all over New Zealand in the recent series and it will be interesting to see if they continue to do so in the World Cup.

Verdict: India definitely hold the edge over New Zealand in this contest. This will be close game but gain India is expected to win this game against the blackcaps.

That concludes part 1 of this series and the review will continue with the next three games in Part 2.

 

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The shot in the picture is what Vijay Shankar needs to play more when he takes guard for India in the World Cup

Pic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Hoick towards the mid-wicket seems to be the “Get Out of Jail” shot for Vijay Shankar in ODIs. It does not matter if he is playing pace or spin, when he has few dots, he tries to play that stroke. Even though he has had some success with that shot the problem is when you overdo something you are going to get caught out.

Vijay Shankar hasn’t played too many games for India and in this short span we have seen him caught at the boundary going for a big hit right after hitting one to the stands the previous ball. This from what I can remember happened twice against Australia in the recent series and at least once in the T20I series against New Zealand earlier this year. Vijay is not a slogger, he is far from it. You can see that he has a good technique when he plays the quick bowlers and hits straight. His innings of 45 against New Zealand was one of the best fighting innings from an Indian young player overseas in tough conditions. He does look million dollars when playing straight as he showed in the innings of 46 against Australia in the recently concluded series, a knock which seemed to have totally impressed the captain Virat Kohli.

Vijay also has a good first class record and averages 47 in that format. He is a good all-round cricketer who bowls a decent ball and is an excellent fielder. He is a naturally aggressive player whose strike rates are in the high 90’s in the limited overs formats. Even though playing positively is crucial these days, sometimes playing smart is crucial as well. Repeating a shot which just got you a six in a premeditated way is mostly a recipe for disaster and the risk of you skying the ball is high. Vijay has been selected in the Indian ODI team for the World Cup 2019 to bat at number 4 in the order. A position which is crucial for any team in the ODIs.

Any one playing in that position needs to be able to consolidate or bat aggressive according to the demands of the team. Vijay Shankar can make the position his own if he bats with little restraint. Every player has that one release shot, they normally keep that shot when they are under pressure but again you need to know when to use it and be smart about it.

In 18 innings so far Vijay has played for India his highest score is 45, he has gotten off to starts in few games but has lost his wicket to a restless nervous shot to lose his wicket at crucial times in the innings. The 5th ODI against Australia proves the case in point when all he needed to do was bat positively and build a partnership, he went for the glory shot against Nathan Lyon after hitting his previous ball for a six. These are small moments in the game which might be a turning point for a player as well as the team in a major tournament like the World Cup.

Cricket is majority of the times the skill but also there is a mental aspect to it. Lots of players have amazing skills but lose out because they lack the temperament to play in the pressure situation. Vijay Shankar will be thoroughly tested in the World Cup and how he responds to the various situations he finds himself in such a tournament will determine if he continues to play at number 4 for India in the ODIs. He can either lock down that spot or lose it completely by the end of the marquee tournament and lets just hope it is the former.

 

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Ajinkya Rahane’s hundred at Lord’s was one of the best innings played by an overseas batter on a difficult wicket

pic Courtesy indiatimes.com

The year 2013 saw a young Indian team under MS Dhoni embark upon a overseas tour leg with their first stop in South Africa for a 2 Test series. The Indian team was touring for the first time with you the legendary trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the squad after a really long time. A young Virat Kohli along with Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were the considered the lynch pins of the Indian batting on those tours.

India did not win any of the series on those tours but two players clearly emerged as the leader of Indian batting unit and Ajinkya Rahane was one of them. Rahane had a brilliant season with the bat. He scored hundreds in England, Australia and New Zealand and was brilliant in South Africa as well. In just over a year or so he had become India’s most crucial batter in the X1 along with Virat Kohli and was rightly made as the latter’s deputy when MS Dhoni called it a day midway through the Australian series.

Rahane was brilliant and with his technique against quick bowling and his naturally attacking style of play it was a joy to watch him bat on those tours. His 100 in Lord’s was one of the best batting you will see on a spiteful pitch and was a purists delight and his  147 in Melbourne against Mitchell Johnson was one finest attacking knocks you will see by an Indian batter against quick bowling overseas. Even during initial phase of his career Rahane was always a nervous starter with a slight weakness against spin. He did struggle to score runs at home and was always comfortable playing on hard fast wickets overseas. After the overseas leg was done, he had an average close to 50 and was considered one of the leading bats in the world at that time in 2015.

Fast forward to 2018, now an experienced Indian team led by Virat Kohli began yet another overseas leg. In the 3 years between the two sets of tours Ajinkya Rahane went from one of the 2 best batters in the side to being dropped for Rohit Sharma in the first two Tests of the South Africa tour. He did make a come back into the team and played few crucial knocks on all the tours but he was a pale shadow of the confident batter we saw in the 2013-15 season.

Rahane did not score a single hundred in 19 innings he played overseas since 2018 and his average of 27.94 showed the inconsistency that had crept into his batting. He struggled to convert starts and got out playing some uncharacteristic shots during that time. His Test average had dropped from something in high 40’s to just about 40 at the start of 2019. It is very hard to decipher as to how a brilliant player can regress so much in a short span of time. He wasn’t his usual self in this IPL for Rajasthan Royals as well which cost him his captaincy this season.

Ajinkya though who wasn’t picked for the World Cup in England has signed up to play for a first division county side Hampshire this season. A decision which might be god send for him in the current state of his career. Playing endless international cricket when you are not doing well cannot be good for your psyche and have some time away from the Indian team is probably what he needs right now. A good season with Hampshire away from the razzmatazz of the World Cup and media attention will be good for him to try and rediscover his magic with the bat. The responsibility of being a senior member and an overseas player for his county side is probably what is needs to get his career back on track.

Rahane is a crucial member of the Indian Test side and with the ICC Test Championship set to begin after the world cup, him being in form is crucial for the team’s success. I hope that he has a great county season. The runs he scores is not as important as the confidence he gains by playing away against some good competition and some very good bowlers. Players in the past have benefited a lot by playing in England and if he uses this chance well, he can also do so and return as the confident player he once was for India in Tests. India begin the Test Championship in August with a 2 Test series in West Indies and he along with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara will be once again the batting leaders guiding the young players around them.

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Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will shift their focus to the world cup as the IPL has now come to an end.

Mumbai Indians beat Chennai Super Kings in the IPL finals to clinch the title for the fourth time and the result meant that an incredible close competition came to an end with a huge drama. This also means that with the IPL coming to an end, the focus of the fans and the cricket team squarely back on the World Cup 2019 to be held in England early next month.

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India will be hoping that Kedar Jadhav will recover in time for the World Cup as his replacement isn’t straightforward

The Indian squad had been already announced and it was nice to see that most of the players picked had a reasonably good IPL. The players also looked fit except for few niggles and were in good form by the end of the tournament. The only concern for India right now will be the fitness of Kedar Jadhav. Jadhav is part of Indian World Cup squad and has been a regular fixture in the Indian team over the last few years.

There hasn’t been much news about how his injury is progressing even though it does seem like the management is confident that he will be fit for the marquee tournament. If India are to look for a replacement, the front runners are obviously Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu. Both the players who were left out of the initial 15 announced by the selectors last month. While Ambati Rayudu has played a lot of games for India over the past year the cries for inclusion of Rishabh Pant has never been louder after the youngster once again had a good IPL this season. The biggest problem for India is that neither of these two players provide India with a bowling option which Kedar does in ODIs.

The selection committee will have to weigh in the options and need to make the right decision if at all it comes down to finding a replacement for Kedar Jadhav. It will be unfortunate for Jadhav if he had to miss out due to injury as this may be his final chance to represent India in a 50 over World Cup. The rest of the squad though looked in prime fitness and also looked in good form.

Shikhar Dhawan who was having an indifferent 2019 had a very good IPL for Delhi Capitals. Rohit Sharma once again had a 400+ season, even though he could have been more consistent for his title winning side. Even though Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore once again failed to make the play-offs, he had a good season with the bat with 464 runs. MS Dhoni had a brilliant season behind the stumps and with the bat for Chennai Super Kings.

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Kuldeep Yadav’s bowling form will be a concern for India but again IPL format is different and he is India’s best ODI spinner

The bowlers except for Kuldeep Yadav had a fantastic IPL. Yuzvendra Chahal was brilliant for RCB and Ravindra Jadeja did his bit for CSK with both bat and ball. Jasprit Bumrah was once again in his elements for MI with wickets as well as his economy rate and once again proved why he is India’s spearhead in all formats. The two bowlers India will be concerned about is Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav. Both of them did not have a good tournament this time around and struggled to pick wickets. Even though there is no doubting their skill, India will be hoping that the change of format might help them gain their form back. Mohammad Shami was fantastic for Kings X1 Punjab and looked fit through the season.

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Hardik Pandya was brilliant for Mumbai Indians in this IPL

The biggest gain for India in this IPL was the form of Hardik Pandya. Pandya had been missing in action for India due to non-cricketing reasons earlier this year and he showed why India need him in the team for the world cup. He was brilliant with the bat for Mumbai Indians at crucial times in this season and was good with the ball as well picking 14 wickets. He will be the crucial cog for India in this world cup and will provide us with the X-Factor in the X1.

The selectors will be keeping a close eye on Kedar Jadhav and will have to announce a replacement soon as India will be playing their first warm up game against New Zealand on the 25th at the Kennington Oval, London which is just over 10 days away.

India’s World Cup Schedule:

May 25 – India vs New Zealand (Warm Up)
May 28 – India vs Bangladesh (Warm Up)
Jun 05 – South Africa vs India
Jun 09 – India vs Australia
Jun 13 – India vs New Zealand
Jun 16 – India vs Pakistan
Jun 22 – India vs Afghanistan
Jun 27 – Windies vs India
Jun 30 – England vs India
Jul 02 – Bangladesh Vs India
Jul 06 – Sri Lanka vs India

I will be doing a two part blog later going over India’s opponents and how India have done against them since the last world cup.

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Despite their indifferent season Chennai Super Kings will start as favourites against Delhi Capitals

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Delhi Capitals (DC) with take on each other at Visakhapatnam tonight for a spot in the IPL finals. They will be meeting Mumbai Indians in the finals on Sunday. Both teams had a good league phase as they both finished on an identical 18 points. Delhi Capitals who began the season with some inconsistent performances finally found their mettle towards the latter half to reach the play-offs after 7 years. By beating Sun Risers Hyderabad in the first eliminator they also completed another first by winning their first knockout IPL game ever.

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Delhi Capitals will hope that they can show enough mental fortitude to pull one through against CSK

DC have a strong team. Their batting led by Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant has been firing and their bowling with Ishant Sharma and Kagiso Rabada did very well during the league phase. Even though they are missing Rabada for the play-offs they have a world class replacement in Trent Boult who has had a good couple of games. The addition of Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford also has given them a good balance which they were missing early in the tournament. Prithvi Shaw who seemed checked out after a great start to the season came back some sort of a rhythm in the eliminator 1 with a fifty and Rishabh Pant looked in fine touch with a match winning 49.

For CSK though batting has been their achilles heel throughout the season. Their opening combination barring couple of games has struggled and Shane Watson on whom the team had put lots of faith hasn’t really repaid them with performances. Suresh Raina has once again done well without being spectacular and apart from MS Dhoni the rest of the batting has simply struggled. The bowling has done well especially on slow Chennai wickets but again they haven’t tried anything different even when they have been on the road except for few games here and there. For CSK to be competitive they need to have their batting firing for them to have a chance against a good DC unit.

Head to Head:

Chennai Super Kings have had the wood over Delhi Capitals over the years. They have beaten DC twice already this season and they have an overall record of 13-6 against DC in IPL.

Key Players:

MS Dhoni (CSK) – There isn’t a player who is more important to a franchise than MSD is for Chennai Super Kings. CSK have shown that during this season where they have struggled to win without their captain in the helm. MSD has been their best batter this season and has already scored 405 runs at an average of 135. He will once again be crucial for the men in yellow.

Imran Tahir (CSK) – Tahir has been the constant for CSK this season while they have rotated their other spinners around. Tahir has had a wonderful season so far and is currently second in the list of highest wicket takers behind Kagiso Rabada. With an economy rate of 6.62, he has not only picked up wickets but also has been tough to get away in the middle overs.

Shikhar Dhawan (DC) – Delhi Capitals have never been in this situation before. With a chance now to reach the finals and go all they way, they would his experience to guide them. Dhawan after an indifferent start has had a good season with the bat. He has scored 503 runs so far and will be expected to guide a young team in the all important clash.

Rishabh Pant (DC) – Rishabh Pant will always remain DC’s talisman in any game they play in IPL. He showed in a tight game in the Play-Offs how destructive he can be and how he can change the course of the game in a short span of time. He once again will be crucial in the middle overs against CSK’s spinners as he can easily break open the game with few big hits.

This will be a really mouth watering contest. Probably last season I wouldn’t have given DC any chance against CSK in a play-off game but again this time, the latter haven’t been at their best throughout. DC have the bowling and the firepower in the batting to pull this through but again I just feel CSK just has enough experience to pull this through.

Probable Playing X1’s:

CSK X1 – Shane Watson, Faf Du Plessis, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (C & WK), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Scott kuggeleijn/Mitchell Santner, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir

DC X1 – Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (C), Rishabh Pant (WK), Colin Munro, Axar Patel, Sherfane Rutherford, Keemo Paul, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult

Quotes:

“We need to have more balance in the first six – around 40 would be nice. That may get you to a score of 150-160 which can be a match-winning score. We’re just falling behind at different stages but it’s the first six that’s holding us back when we lose wickets. Maybe in case we just throw the shackles off and have a crack in the next game and see if we can just get ourselves into form and confidence,” – Stephen Fleming

“It’s not about who we’re playing, it’s about how our preparations are. And we’re really looking forward to it and hope we do what we’ve done earlier” – Prithvi Shaw

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Shreyas Iyer (Left) and Rishabh Pant (Right) will be crucial for Delhi Capitals in their Eliminator clash against SRH

Delhi Capitals will be wondering what they are doing in the first eliminator after a stellar league phase finishing on 18 points. That’s how good the competition has been this season. Both Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians beat them by just a smidgen to get to the top of the table. This means that DC will take on Sun Risers Hyderabad who have qualified for the play-offs by skin of their teeth. Both teams have had their issues but in this encounter, Delhi Capitals surely start as the overwhelming favourites.

DC’s batting is more settled and their bowling attack has been doing well throughout. Even though missing the purple cap holder Kagiso Rabada will be a huge blow for them, they still have the bowlers to cause trouble to the struggling SRH batting line up. Trent Boult had a good game against Rajasthan Royals and with Ishant Sharma bowling brilliantly with the new ball they have a good attack which can be hand full on their day. The batting has always been DC’s strength though. Their captain Shreyas Iyer has been in great form throughout and even though Rishabh Pant has been inconsistent, he can on his day turn any match on its head. With the experience of Shikhar Dhawan at the top, DC have almost all bases covered and are probably one of the most stable sides of the tournament.

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SunRisers Hyderabad will rely on their bowling attack and runs from their captain in their crucial clash against Delhi Capitals

For SRH though, things haven’t been that rosy. They have qualified for the play-offs on 12 points which is the lowest in the history of the IPL so far. Their batting was dragged along by David Warner and Jonny Bairstow through the season and they have struggled for runs since their departure. Their Captain Kane Williamson had a very good game against Royal Challengers Bangalore but again they would need contributions from rest of the batting to put pressure on DC. With Khaleel Ahmed with the new ball along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, their bowling though has looked good but once again their trump card will be Rashid Khan. He has been their go to bowler this season as well and once again will be crucial in the eliminator.

Key Players:

Shreyas Iyer (DC) – The captain of Delhi Capitals has been the linchpin of their batting through the season. He has scored 442 runs this season and has been the cool head in the middle overs guiding the team through some important phases of the game. He will once again be important not only with his batting but also with his captaincy in the field.

Rishabh Pant (DC) – Pant has had a frustrating series with the bat. When you look at his numbers (401 runs at 36 at a SR of 157), it does not look bad but again his temperament has come into question a few times. He does bring an X-Factor to Delhi batting though. If he gets going, it will be difficult for the opposition to stop. DC will be hoping that he has a good day.

Kane Williamson (SRH) – Williamson by his standards has had a very poor season. The 70 runs he scored against RCB was his first 50 of the season which has been very ordinary. Williamson though is a very good captain and he had led SRH to an IPL final last year and his leadership along with some runs at the top will be crucial for SRH to put up a fighting total.

Rashid Khan (SRH) – Rashid is second in the list of wicket takers for SRH but once again he will be the crucial cog in their bowling arsenal this evening. He bowls majority of his overs in the middle phase of the game and picking up wickets during that time will be crucial in restricting DC to a manageable score.

This will be an interesting game and even though Delhi will start as the favourites, we need to keep in mind that they have never won a play-off game yet. They will be under tremendous pressure to achieve what they haven’t in 12 years of this competition. For SRH though they have won IPL before and they were the finalists last year as well. This will be a close game but I feel that DC just has the edge to pull through this one. DC might play the same XI they played in their last league game but SRH might make couple of changes based on the surface.

Possible XI:

Delhi Capitals – Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (C), Rishabh Pant (WK), Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Axar Patel, Keemo Paul, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult.

Sun Risers Hyderabad – Martin Guptill, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson (C), Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi/Billy Stanlake, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Basil Thampi/Siddarth Kaul

Quotes:

“We have to take the confidence from our win against them in Hyderabad. They also beat us in Delhi, so both the teams are fairly confident, and it is going to be a tough match. However, they are also missing some of their players, and we are without Kagiso now, so it is going to be a difficult task as well, but a well-matched encounter” – Shreyas Iyer, Delhi Capitals captain

 

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Mumbai Indians will start as the favourites tonight in their crucial encounter against Chennai Super Kings

So after 56 games with 8 teams battling out for 4 spots in the play-offs, we are finally in the business end of the IPL 2019. Chennai Super Kings will take on Mumbai Indians in the first qualifier later today in the MA Chidambaram Stadium,Chennai. Mumbai Indians have been the team to beat this year. They have qualified at the top of the points table after the league stage and possibly have the best balanced side of the competition this year.

Their bowling has been brilliant throughout with Lasith Malinga and Jasprith Bumrah leading the attack and the batting has come to its own at the latter half of the tournament. Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav batted well and look in good form going into the play-off. They have beaten Chennai Super Kings in both the games this season and will start as favourites for tonight’s encounter. For CSK though the sailing hasn’t been as smooth. Despite being one of the top sides of the season, they haven’t quite performed as a team this season. Their batting has been a suspect and MS Dhoni has been the talisman who has dragged them to victories in some crucial games in the league stage.

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CSK will be hoping that their batters finally click in the all important game against MI tonight

Shane Watson except for the one innings has struggled and the rest have been inconsistent which makes their task much harder in the play-offs. The bowling though has done well especially at home with Imran Tahir being their chief wrecker. The biggest advantage though for CSK is that they are playing at home where they have been brilliant again this season. Their only loss though has come against Mumbai Indian whom they will be facing off in the play-offs tonight.

Key Players:

MS Dhoni (CSK) – There is no bigger player in the CSK camp at the moment than the captain himself. CSK have struggled in games when the captain has been absent and his performance on the field and the bat will be crucial for the success of the team. He so far has been brilliant and has scored 368 runs at an average of 122 with a brilliant SR of 139.92. He will for sure be the key player for the home side.

Imran Tahir (CSK) – Tahir has been the go to bowler for MS Dhoni throughout this season. He has been brilliant at home and in away games for CSK. He has been economical and has also picked up wickets at crucial moments for his side this season. He is currently second in the list of highest wicket takers this season with 21 wickets with a brilliant economy rate of just 6.5. On a slow Chennai pitch, he will be crucial in the middle overs.

Hardik Pandya (MI) – For MI this season, even though Quinton De Kock and Keiron Pollard have played some brilliant knocks, it has been Pandya who has been the X-Factor for them this season. He has scored 380 runs at a SR of 198 so far and will be crucial for them once again in the play-offs.

Lasith Malinga & Jasprith Bumrah (MI) – These two have been so brilliant this season with the ball that it is hard to separate them. Both Bumrah and Malinga have been hard to get away this season and they have also picked wickets at crucial stages through out. They have taken 32 wickets between them and have been fantastic at the death.

This game will be a cracker and both the teams playing tonight have won the IPL three times each. The advantage of finishing in the top 2 means, both these teams will get another crack at making the finals even if they lose tonight but that will be the last thing on their minds at the moment. Even though Mumbai Indians start as the favourites for this game, MS Dhoni & CSK cannot be written off in an important game like this. Don’t see many changes in the XI’s of both sides but due to injury, CSK have to look for replacement for Kedar Jadhav. For MI though they have been unlucky with the pace bowling stocks but for Chennai, they might need an additional spinner. They might bring back Mayank Markande in the XI for today.

 

Rishabh-Pant

Ever since the Indian World Cup squad was announced, the one thing which has been in constant discussion is the omission of Rishabh Pant from the 15. Yes there have been talks about Ambati Rayudu missing out as well but Pant has been the favourite for everyone and the noise has only got louder. I agree that Pant is an amazing talent. A supremely talented batter who has impressed one and all within just a year of playing Test cricket but his omission is valid for what the team management is scouting for.

Pant is a brilliant young player and for sure is the future of Indian batting in all formats.  The one thing though I am not that convinced about is everyone trying to fit him into a finisher role. A finisher role in LO format requires two completely different skill set to be effective. One while batting first providing the required impetus to get the team to a good total and two is while chasing playing at a right pace to finish games for your side. While I agree that Pant can easily fit into the former when the team is batting first , he I am afraid is not there yet as a finisher while chasing.

While Pant is the replacement for Dhoni in the limited overs format, we should not take it literally and expect him to do what Dhoni does so effectively. Dhoni was different, when he came in, it felt as though he was always meant to be a finisher. Within a year he was winning games for the country chasing some big totals with mature head on his shoulders. Pant isn’t there yet and needs time before he can get there.

That’s the reason I feel he missed out on the selection as well for the World Cup. In the current scenario, the best value you can get of him in the LO format is at the top of the order. He can bat at number 4 or even open the batting in the future. Effectively he can be the floater in the batting line up can be used based on the situation of the game. That will give him the freedom to go after the bowling without the pressures of trying to preserve his wicket. He is just 21 and trying to pigeonhole him into a role where he isn’t that comfortable yet is completely destroying his potential and his ability to effectively contribute to the team’s success. While the experts are right about his potential their premise for the argument is wrong. We could see the effect of the same in the recently concluded Australian series where he was trying things he wasn’t comfortable doing. We need to give him space and provide him with the freedom to express himself as we have done in the Test format.

I am not saying Pant can never be a finisher in ODIs, he will get there in the future, but he isn’t there yet.

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Rishabh Pant’s brilliant 78 of 27 balls downed MI by 37 runs at the Wankhede Stadium.

pic courtesy The Cricket Times

The season 12 of IPL began last Saturday with it’s usual glitz and glamour. The defending champions Chennai Super Kings took on Royal Challengers Bangalore in the opener at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Let us take a look at all 3 games which took place over the weekend.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) (MAC Stadium Chennai)

Chennai was the venue for the IPL 2019 opener and even though the game was played between two strong teams, the game itself ended up as a snooze fest. The wicket at MAC was slow and low with lots of turn and the batting was incredibly difficult for both the teams. RCB won the toss and batted first and lost their captain Virat Kohli soon for 6. The rest of the batting struggled on a sluggish pitch to end up with a sub-par total of 71 in 17.2 overs. Imran Tahir 3/9 and Harbhajan Singh 3/20 were the chief wreckers for the hosts. The pitch wasn’t ideal for a T20 game and was criticised after the game by CSK captain MS Dhoni. Chennai Super Kings crawled their way to the target in 17.4 overs with the loss of 3 wickets. Overall an underwhelming game for the fans but for the hosts though, this was a perfect start to the tournament.

CSK 71/3 in 17.4 overs (A Rayudu 28, Y Chahal 1/6) beat RCB 71 (P Patel 29, I Tahir 3/9) by 7 wickets.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) (Eden Gardens, Kolkata)

KKR opened their campaign of IPL 2019 with a game against last years finalist SRH at Eden Gardens. KKR won the toss and elected to field first on a very good batting track. SRH did not waste the opportunity with the bat though with David Warner making a brilliant comeback to IPL. He scored 85 of 53 balls and strung a 118 run first wicket partnership with Jhonny Bairstow (39) for the first wicket. SRH due to some late push from Vijay Shankar (40 of 24) reached 181/3 in 20 overs. KKR lost Chris Lynn early in the chase but Robin Uthappa and Nitish Rana added 80 runs for the second wickets to keep them in the hunt. With 64 runs needed of 27 balls, Andre Russell with his brilliant 49 (19) took the game away from the visitors and KKR won the game by 6 wickets with 2 balls to spare.

KKR 183/4 in 19.4 overs (N Rana 68, R Khan 1/26) beat SRH 181/3 (D Warner 85, A Russell 2/32) by 6 wickets.

Delhi Capitals (DC) vs Mumbai Indians (MI) (Wankhede Stadium,Mumbai)

Mumbai Indians won the toss and elected to field first on a very good batting track. DC through Shikhar Dhawan and Colin Ingram kept their run-rate steady after losing Shreyas Iyer and Phritvi Shaw with just 29 runs on the board. The entry of Rishabh Pant though changed the mood completely. Pant who looked in brilliant form completely exploded with the bat and MI bowlers did not realise what hit them. Pant finished on 78 of just 27 balls propelling DC total to 213/6 in 20 overs. For MI though the target proved too stiff in the end as they got bowled out for 176, losing the game by 37 runs. The bowling performance of Kagiso Rabada (2/23) will be a big boost for DC as he will be their trump card at the start of the season. This was a brilliant win for Delhi Capitals as their new look squad this season looks more balanced and they will be looking to build on this win to reach the play-offs this season.

DC 213/6 (R Pant 78*, M McClenaghan 3/40) beat MI 176 (Y Singh 53, K Rabada 2/23) by 37 runs.

Review:

The weekend and the start of IPL season 12 wasn’t the best with a poor pitch at MAC playing the spoilsport. Royal Challengers though have themselves to blame with some daft team selection and some poor shots from the top order. CSK did not have to do much in the chase as they took their time to knock off the runs. CSK read the pitch better than RCB and picked the right team for the conditions. The RCB batters played into their hands by playing some atrocious strokes to lose their wickets as well. Both captain’s were unhappy with the pitch and Dhoni especially was critical of CSK’s home conditions.

SRH who were without their captain will be extremely happy with their batting performance and particularly will be ecstatic with David Warner’s form in the tournament opener. Vijay Shankar who has been a regular in the Indian ODI team recently also did well with the bat. The biggest concern for them will be their bowling. After keeping the runs in check for 15 overs, the last 4 overs saw them completely imploding. Their star bowler Rashid Khan was once again the best with 1/26 in 4 overs. The rest of the attack though have lot to work on in the upcoming games.

The game at Wankhede was a run fest and Rishabh Pant just tore into MI’s bowling attack with a mind blowing innings. MI who were hoping to chase something in the vicinity of 180, suddenly found themselves chasing more than 200 runs. Rishabh Pant’s brilliance meant that MI’s batting struggled to keep up with the rate and ended up on the losing side. Yuvraj Singh scoring some runs will be a good thing for MI as they had hoped for him to provide some stability to the middle order. For DC though, Rishabh Pant’s form at the start of the season will be a boost and they will be hoping to get more out of Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer in the upcoming games.

Overall a good weekend of cricket and with teams just starting to get their feet wet, we will see them evolve and improve as the tournament goes on.

Some Quotes after the games:

“The wicket definitely needs to be much better, even with dew it was spinning big,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation ceremony here last night.

“(On Pant) He is a really destructive batsman, that’s the only thing I can say about him. He has matured over the years. Today, he played four dot balls early on and then just took them apart.” Shreyas Iyer in the post match presentation ceremony.

“We made a lot of mistakes today and that was the reason we lost the match. We were in the game in the first 10 overs while bowling but the way Rishabh batted, we have to give the credit to him.” Said Rohit Sharma after their loss to DC.

 

Sammohanam-1-700x540

Beautiful Aditi Rao Hydari from Sammohanam (Pic courtesy pinkvilla)

Let me start off with a confession, I haven’t watched any of Aditi Rao Hydari’s Hindi films except for Murder 3 few years ago. So, when I saw Mani Ratnam’s “Kaatru Veliyidai” last year, I started off with a clean slate. I was mesmerised with Aditi’s portrayal of Dr. Leela in Mani Ratnam’s rather confusing romantic tale between a fighter pilot and a MBBS doctor.

But watching Sammohanam last week further emphasised what a brilliant performer Aditi is. I don’t think anyone could have played the role of Sameera Rathod as brilliantly and gracefully as Aditi did in the film. I am not for once saying that Sammohanam is a classic, it was far from it. It was a feel-good entertainer which had a brilliant first half and a bizarre second half. The performances from the cast though cannot be faulted.

There were couple of scenes from the movie which lingers in my mind still, one where Sameera and Vijay have a conversation in the terrace and the other when Sameera hears Vijay say “I love you” in the climax and breaks down. Both those instances showed the range Aditi possesses as an actor and her ability to bring the right kind of emotion to every scene. Even in a space thriller like “Anthariksham”, which I watched yesterday only because Aditi was in it, he performance was brilliant and I really enjoyed her ability to speak through her eyes. Not many actors currently can do that.

Thanks to Mani Ratnam for bringing Aditi back to South Indian films. I am saying bringing back as she had begun her career down south in 2006 before moving to Hindi films. This is a fantastic time for female actors down south especially in Tamil. There are some strong characters being written for women by the young directors and the producers are now receptive to scripts with strong female leads. Even though Malayalam cinema has been doing this for a while, Tamil industry is finally catching up. Aditi Rao Hydari is a brilliant actor and I hope she gets more amazing characters to portray in the future. I also hope that she does more films down south as well as in a short career, she has managed to do some memorable roles here.

I haven’t still caught up Aditi’s Hindi films, and probably will do so in coming months. I just got done with her two Telugu films but her Hindi filmography is little longer, so will take a while for me to get to them. I also don’t normally write articles raving about actors on my blog but again Sameera Rathod of Sammohanam compelled me to write this and I am now a huge fan.


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