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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

After starting the season with two wins, Rajasthan Royals have now lost three games in a row. It is interesting though that their two wins came at Sharjah and all their losses have been in Abu Dhabi & in Dubai. Batting has been the major issue for RR this season. While their batters have been brilliant in Sharjah, they haven’t been able to replicate the same on bigger grounds of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

RR have a very good batting line up but it does seem like their thinking is little muddled in terms of selection. They have played around with the opening combination in the five games so far. While they started with Yashasvi Jaiswal in their first game, they dropped him in their second to go with Steven Smith and Jos Buttler. After 4 games they once again decided to bring Jaiswal back to have him open with Buttler dropping Smith to number 3. This shows lack of clarity in the team management and moving players around so much normally does not yield consistent results.

The interesting fact is that they also have Robin Uthappa in their squad who was played in the middle order for the first few games only to be dropped in their last game against Mumbai Indians. Robin Uthappa being a opener himself wasn’t tried at that spot before being dropped from the team. For young Jaiswal though the pressure will be immense as he would know that another failure could see him getting dropped again. The other problem for RR has been the lack of consistency from their star player Sanju Samson. While Samson was unstoppable on tiny Sharjah ground, he has struggled on the other grounds this season.

He hasn’t tried to stick it out and has thrown his wicket away in the last three game his team has played. The pattern so far has been similar to last year for RR as Samson who started brilliantly then too fell off later in the season. Jos Buttler has looked good and has played couple of good knocks and so has Steven Smith. The fact that their middle order keeps changing every game does not help matters. Riyan Parag has played a few games, David Miller has gotten a game and there have been few others who have been hastily changed without proper chances.

They still have Manan Vohra in their squad who hasn’t gotten a chance to try out which considering their season they might do. While CSK has a problem of not having enough options, RR have the opposite issue. Sometimes to kick start a season some sort of consistency in selection is required which RR haven’t been able to achieve in the 5 games they have played so far.

While they are playing the best team of the tournament in the game tonight, they would be happy to their happy hunting ground Sharjah. Scoring freely against a varied bowling attack of Delhi Capitals will not be easy but again they will be hoping for their stars to perform. For RR to turn this season around they would need to pick their best XI and give them 2-3 games in a row. Tonight’s game will be crucial for RR and another loss might see the season slipping away from them once again.

My XI for tonight’s game:

Robin Uthappa, Jos Buttler, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Mahipal Lomror, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Tom Curran, Shreyas Gopal, Kartik Tyagi, Ankit Rajpoot/Jaidev Unadkat

When Suresh Raina decided to leave at the start of this season everyone expected CSK’s gameplan to take a hit. They were carrying two out of form openers and a bunch of rusty middle order bats. Raina who adds a great dimension to the CSK batting order has left a huge hole which I don’t think the team management were prepared for.

For some weird reason in the last years auction CSK went after bowlers but did not invest much on the batting front. The opening combination especially is pretty dicey for CSK. Murali Vijay who was once an explosive and consistent opener for CSK is just a shadow of the batsman he once was. His confidence seems to be non existent and that showed even during his fielding in the first game against Mumbai Indians. Shane Watson who was CSK’s star in their win in 2018 hasn’t been playing competitive cricket for a while now and that has shown in his form over the last couple of seasons.

This puts enormous pressure on Ambati Rayudu and Faf Du Plessis as the starts haven’t been what they would need for a T20 game. When Rayudu missed the game against RR due to injury CSK’s batting woes came into view for everyone to see. Ruturaj Gaikwad got a chance but we cannot be hard on the youngster after just one game. CSK would need to think about Murali Vijay’s role in the team. He has been poor in the field and has struggled to get going with the bat which means they would have to take a quick call once Rayudu comes back.

The problem for the men in yellow is that they do not have too many options in the squad. This leaves pretty less room for experimentation for the team management. The lack of batting options mean that CSK need to try and promote Ruturaj Gaikwad to open the batting alongside Shane Watson. This would also mean that Rayudu and Faf can play in their respective positions. Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni need to improve fast and soon in the middle order and they need to hope that Sam Curran continues to be excellent like he has been so far for the franchise.

The other major change CSK will be looking at is replacing Lungi Ngidi. The big South African made a great comeback in the first game but hasn’t been consistent enough. Josh Hazlewood can be given a chance in the upcoming games or even Shardul Thakur can get a look in which can allow CSK to play Dwayne Bravo or Imran Tahir based on the wicket for the upcoming games. Lots of things for the Stephen Fleming and co to think about ahead of their next game. The lack of batting options is something which might come back to bite them later in the season. For now moving around a few players is all they can do hoping that will be enough to get through this season.

Steven Smith led Rajasthan Royals have been the perennial underdogs of the Indian Premier League. This tag has stuck with them despite their title win in 2008 against all odds with a team which had no superstars besides their inspirational captain Shane Warne. The team which Shane Warne took to victory had Indian cricket’s future and players from around the world who were trying to make a mark or comeback. RR was the home for Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja, who went to become great international success.

The situation though is different now with RR as they boast of some influential international superstars. Steven Smith, their captain is considered one of the best players in the world. Jos Buttler is one of the most feared bat in the limited overs format and they also boast of arguably the best all-rounder in the world Ben Stokes in their ranks. Jofra Archer who is one of the most exciting talents in the world also lifts their bowling attack. Despite having such international superstars in their mix, the one thing the RR camp lacks is the presence of an Indian superstar.

They do have some excellent Indian players this season though. Sanju Samson has been their main stay but again Robin Uthappa’s inclusion means they don’t have to worry about opening problems. They also have the brilliant Shreyas Gopal who has been brilliant for them over the last couple of seasons. It does seem like the team management had put in lots of thought in assembling a good squad this season. Even though Rajasthan Royals never come in discussions when favourites for winning the title are discussed, they may well be the team to look out for this season.

They did struggle after their internationals disappeared last year but with the possibility of everyone being available for the full tournament they are a team who need to be considered as true contenders. They have a squad this time which for sure can rise above the underdogs tag and can give the more popular teams run for the money. They have good balance of youth and experience in the squad and a good mix of Indian and foreign players

My RR XI for tonight:

Robin Uthappa, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (WK), Steven Smith (C) (O), Mahipal Lormor, David Miller (O), Manan Vohra, Riyan Parag, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer (O), Varun Aaron, Jaydev Unadkat, Tom Curran

The above XI gives a good balanced look. In the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler for the first game Rajasthan Royals need to be little creative. David Miller comes into the middle order and they would need to pick between Tom Curran and Oshane Thomas in the pace bowling department. They have some good Indian pacers like Ankit Rajpoot and Kartik Tyagi who can come into the mix as well. Young Yashasvi Jaiswal will be a exciting player to watch this season. He was brilliant in the U19 WC and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressures of the IPL. So quite a lot of options for Steven Smith to choose from and it is a happy headache to have for a captain. RR will be looking to start well in a tough tournament. There aren’t any weak teams this time and all squads look well balanced. We have already have 3 close games to start the season and tonight promises to be yet another cracker.

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.

India have had a stellar last couple of years: the team has won eight consecutive Test series under skipper Virat Kohli, which has catapulted them to world number one in the ICC rankings.

But even though the Indian team has done wonderfully well over the last couple of years, everyone knows that their real test will begin later this year when they embark upon another round of overseas tours.

The young Indian team without experience went through a similar cycle from 2013 to 2015 without much success. Even though the team did not win many games, the core of the present team was formed during those tours. The team since their 2015 tour of Sri Lanka has gone from strength to strength and has now finished their run with a crushing 3-0 away win against Sri Lanka.

To read the full article, click here.

India have had a great start to their Champions trophy campaign. They won both their warm-up games with ease and they would be particularly pleased with the way the pace attack has performed.

The batting, however, was a mixed bag. India came into the tournament with an idea of who they would like to play in the XI, but after the warm-up games things have become little muddled.

Shikhar Dhawan has done enough to book his place in the XI, opening the batting with Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli showed glimpses of him returning form against New Zealand – even though the innings was really scratchy, he would have appreciated the time spent in the middle. MS Dhoni’s position in the team is not in question as he batted reasonably well in the one game he played and kept wickets brilliantly.

Ajinkya Rahane’s twin failure means that he will not feature in the XI for the first game against Pakistan. But now comes the interesting part: India played Dinesh Karthik in both their warm-up games and Yuvraj did not bat in either. Dinesh Karthik scored a brilliant 94 in the Game 2 against Bangladesh and Virat Kohli hinted in the post-match conversation that he would like to give Karthik a longer run in the team.

The position of Yuvraj Singh remains unclear, however. Is Yuvraj not fully fit? If that is the case, his selection was a blunder by the selection committee. Kedar Jadhav played pretty well for his 30-odd against Bangladesh and so did Hardik Pandya, so it will be interesting to see which way the management will go in terms of the batting.

The selection of the bowling attack isn’t that simple either. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done extremely well in both the games and for sure will take the new ball. Shami and Yadav both have done well in the chances they received, but I am not sure the team has a place for both of them. It will be a toss-up between Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah will for sure play as the third seamer as he has been India’s best bowler in the shorter formats over the past year.

Complete Article at The Roar.

Yesterday’s game between KKR and RCB was interrupted by rain. The game was on hold till the rain stopped and the ground was ready for play. The game stopped when RCB were 100/3 in 14.1 overs. After the match resumed, the bowling team just bowled 5 balls and the umpire called for strategic break. Are you kidding me? Why would either team want to strategize when they had just spent about an hour in the dressing room with the coaching staff.

What is there to strategize after just 5 balls when nothing much had changed? If BCCI wants to give an advertising break, why not just call it that? It is funny that BCCI dictates and forces teams to take a break when they don’t want to and thereby cause unnecessary break in play. If BCCI wants to sell airtime to make money they should call the break as advertisement break. If they really want to give the teams a strategic break, it should only be taken when the teams want to take it.

It was extremely funny when teams had just come in after a 45 minute break and within 5 deliveries had to go back in to strategize nothing.


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