Category Archives: cricket world cup

World Cup Preview – Can Pakistan end their losing streak?

Pakistan and West Indies are actually two peas in one pod. Both the teams can be highly entertaining and unbeatable on their day but can be highly frustrating otherwise to watch for their respective fans. West Indies have had mixed results coming into the World Cup, they lost the tri-series finals to Bangladesh recently but again they were missing lots of their first choice players. Pakistan on the other hand have had a horror run over the last 6 months losing 10 games in a row coming into the tournament and also losing their only warm-up game to Afghanistan last week.

Pakistan would like to shrug off their bad form and get back to winning ways when they take of West Indies in their opening game.

The biggest positive for Pakistan has been their batting. Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam have been in great form and as a batting unit they crossed 300+ in 3 of their 4 games against England earlier this month. Their bowling though is a different story. Pakistan have announced their 12 for the game against West Indies already and when we look at their line-up, the bowling does not inspire any confidence. Mohammad Amir who was initially dropped from the provisional squad and re inducted into the World Cup squad has been struggling for wickets over the last 18 months. He averages 92.6 in 15 games with just 5 wickets to his name. Hasan Ali who was Pakistan’s star in their Champions Trophy 2017 campaign has taken 24 wickets at an average of 42.49. Wahab Riaz who was Pakistan’s stand out performer in their only warm up against Afghanistan hasn’t played any ODI since the first Champions Trophy game for Pakistan in 2017.

Shadab Khan their lone specialist spinner is their best bet against West Indies as he has a decent record over that time and averages 29.28 with 28 wickets. Pakistan’s bowling has been struggling over the last 18 months and their best bowler over that time Shaheen Shah Afridi is sitting out this game. West Indies on the other had are flying high with confidence after their amazing win against New Zealand in the practice game early this week. Their batting seems extremely dangerous and with Chris Gayle back at the top, they look a formidable unit. The addition of Andre Russell in the middle order also gives them the edge as he can really hit the long ball and also bowl really quick when needed.

West Indies will want to build on their impressive win against New Zealand when they take on Pakistan at Trent Bridge.

Shai Hope has been in brilliant form with the bat and with Darren Bravo at number 4, they have a very good top 4. The bowling attack can blow hot or cold similar to their batting but with Oshane Thomas providing the X-Factor, they can really test the Pakistan batting if they get it right. The major weakness for West Indies will be their spin option. Even though Ashley Nurse is a decent spinner, he isn’t someone who the opposition will be worried too much about.

Head to Head: 

In terms of head to head in the World Cups, West Indies are way ahead of Pakistan. They are 7-3 in all time World Cup encounters. They also lead Pakistan 70-60 in the overall record. As we know we cannot make too much out of this stats as West Indies dominated world cricket in 70’s and 80’s and most of the stats reflects that domination.

Key Players:

Shadab Khan (Pakistan) – He has been Pakistan’s best bowler over the last 18 months. Even though he hasn’t done much with the bat, his bowling where he has picked up 28 wickets will be crucial for Pakistan in this world cup. Despite having the left-arm spin of Imad Wasim, Shadab is possibly their only specialist spinner in the 12. Considering West Indies’s struggles against good spin bowling, he will form the most important part of their strategy.

Babar Azam (Pakistan) – Even though Pakistan has 2 players at the top averaging 50, Babar Azam is their best bat in this format. With 9 hundreds in 64 games, he is their main stay in batting. The other Pakistan batters would need to bat around him and the onus will be on Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed to guide this young team through this tournament.

Shai Hope (West Indies) – Hope is probably the best West Indies batter in the ODI format in a long time. He averages over 50 in this format and has done incredibly well over the last 18 months. He is the calm in otherwise explosive batting line up. He along with Darren Bravo will be crucial for West Indies campaign in this tournament.

Jason Holder (West Indies) – The West Indies captain is the talisman around which the team has recently had a resurgence. He bats well and bowls well but his leadership skills is what which will be important managing a mercurial bunch of cricketers. He has been brilliant doing that over the last couple of years and he would like to continue the same in this tournament.

What they said?

“One thing I like coming into this tournament is that every player is in a good frame of mind,” Holder said. “Everybody is playing with a smile on their face, and that’s how we play our best cricket. We’re fearless, we enjoy what we’re doing and we enjoy one another’s company. I can safely say within the group we’ve got that. We’ve got the energy going into this tournament that we would want to have

“It’s good to be unpredictable. All teams are scared of Pakistan because on our day we are dangerous. It’s good that we’re unpredictable before the World Cup” Safaraz Ahmed said in a presser ahead of their opening encounter against West Indies

Probable XI (Pakistan) – Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK & C), Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali

Probable XI (West Indies) – Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (Wkt), Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (C), Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell,  Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Ashley Nurse.

I wouldn’t want to be a betting man tonight for this game against this two sides. This game probably is one of the most difficult one to predict. Probably couple years ago the obvious choice would have been Pakistan but things have changed a lot. Both teams will start on an even keel and the team who bowls well and fields well will emerge victories. Knowing how unpredictable these two teams are, it is hard to say who that will be.

World Cup Preview – Can South Africa topple the favourites?

Faf and Morgan will be aware that a good start to the campaign is crucial in a tournament like the World Cup.

Cricket World Cup 2019 begins today with a cracker of a game between hosts England and South Africa at The Oval later today. Both the teams haven’t won a World Cup yet and England  coming into the tournament as the best team in the world have their best chance of creating history this time around. For South Africa though this is a chance to shed their “Chokers” tag and go that one step further which they haven’t been able to do since their return to world cricket in 1991.

England though have a very strong squad this time and with an explosive batting line up, they are the team to beat in this World Cup. The opening combination of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow has been in explosive form followed by the calmness of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes complete arguably the best top 6 in world cricket right now. England bowling attack also received a boost with the addition of Jofra Archer to the squad. Chris Woakes who showed great form in the series against Pakistan will be a key member of the bowling attack as well.

Adil Rashid as the lone specialist spinner has done incredibly well for England over the last few years and he in combination with Moeen Ali has been crucial for England’s limited overs success. When we look at the England squad it is hard to find a weakness but again they haven’t had it all rosy in recent times. The series against West Indies showed that if the wicket has something in it for the pacers, they can struggle a bit.

South Africa though also come into this tournament with a good frame of mind. They defeated Pakistan at home recently and also had a series win in Australia towards to end of 2018. Hashim Amla who was completely out of form over the last couple of years looked to be getting back into some sort of touch in the warm up games. Captain Faf Du Plessis who will be crucial for South Africa in the middle order will be hoping that the experienced Quinton De Kock, David Miller and Jean-Paul Duminy will step up to the counted. South African bowling attack received a massive set back when Dale Steyn was ruled out from the opening encounter. Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi will be crucial with the new ball for the Proteas.  Imran Tahir in all probability will be their lone spinner and his form in the recently concluded IPL was brilliant for CSK.

Head to Head:

Both teams have been pretty much even through the history in ODIs. South Africa have a slight edge in the overall head to head with 29-26 in 59 games but in terms of the World Cup they are a even 3-3.

Key Players:

Kagiso Rabada (South Africa) – South Africa have had a rotten luck with their bowlers coming into the world cup. Anrich Nortje was ruled out just a few weeks before the main event and Dale Steyn was ruled out from the opening encounter against England just few days before. Rabada who is arguably the best fast bowler in the world will be crucial with the new ball. Dismissing the English openers soon will be crucial and he along with Lungi Ngidi will be key components of South African strategy against the hosts.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa) – The South African captain is their best batter and in a batting line-up which has struggled for consistency over the last year or so he is a vital cog in their limited overs team. He averaged 60.36 in ODIs since the last World Cup and will once again be a crucial member of the batting side along with De Kock and Amla.

Jofra Archer (England) – We have seen the hype and now it is time for some action from the talented pacer from the Caribbean. England have gone out of their limbs to draft him into their ODI side for the world cup and all eyes will be on him to perform. He is extremely pacy and accurate and even though he has played only 2 ODIs before this one for England, he will be a crucial member of the English pace attack.

Joe Root (England) – In a star studded batting line up like the one England have, he is the calm they need to neutralise all the madness. Root is England’s best overall player and his record in ODIs hasn’t been that shabby either. He has scored 3498 runs since the last World Cup at an average of 58.3. He will be the anchor the England team needs to bat around all the power hitters they have.

What they said?

“In my head, there is still a lot more to do because we will get beaten by teams. We will get knocked down and have to come back. And if we’re showing blind belief and not reacting to what is in front of us then that is no good.” – Eoin Morgan 

“We have a tremendous attack which is one of the best in the world,” du Plessis said. “We can bowl teams out for anything. Look at Pakistan [at the 2017 Champions Trophy]. On paper they had maybe the worst batting line-up but their bowlers kept winning them games. We’ll be employing a similar strategy and have confidence that we’ll be setting scores we can defend and chasing totals within our reach.”

Even though England have been brilliant over the last 4 years in the limited overs format, the South African bowling attack means that they cannot be written off completely. This will be an evenly contested game with England having a slight edge.

South Africa probable XI: Hashim Amla, Aiden Markham, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (WK) Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi

England Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (C), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer.

India against World Cup opponents Part 1

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.

 

Vijay Shankar needs to go easy on the hoick to mid-wicket

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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.

Is Rishabh Pant getting pigeonholed into a finisher role?

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.

Years later, the ‘Gilly’ effect is still being felt

I started watching cricket in the early 1990s, when the role of a wicketkeeper in a Test team was to be good with the gloves and contribute some useful runs with the bat.

Australia had Ian Healy, who was a brilliant keeper and also was a useful bat down the order, at a time when teams were happy with keepers contributing 20s and 30s, with the occasional 50.

All that changed on November 21, 1999.

Chasing 369 to win against a strong Pakistan at Bellerive Oval, Australia had lost half their side for just over a 100.

Justin Langer was holding up one end and Adam Gilchrist, in only his second Test having replaced Healy, came in to join him in the middle.

The Pakistan bowling attack was a strong one, comprising Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq. Even though Gilchrist had made his ODI debut three years earlier, no one could have predicted what followed over the next 24 hours.

Gilchrist scored a brilliant, unbeaten 149, Australia chased down the total, and the legend was born. For the next nine years, Gilchrist tormented bowling attacks around the world.

Gilchrist was brilliant behind the stumps too, was excellent keeping wickets to the legendary Shane Warne, and he had an amazing ODI career as an opener.

This success made teams world over realise how important the role of a good wicketkeeper-batsman can be, and in an effort to find their own version ended up compromising the primary skills of many a keeper.

The only other player who did well as a keeper in the ’90s was Andy Flower, but again, he wasn’t as destructive as Gilchrist.

Mark Boucher was brilliant for South Africa and was decent with the bat. Alec Stewart was good for England, as were Adam Parore and Dave Richardson, but none came even close to the impact Gilly had for Australia.

In the 2000s we saw Kumar Sangakkara, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum and MS Dhoni – all brilliant for their teams – but again, none had the impact of Gilchrist.

Sangakkara and De Villiers found keeping and batting hard to combine, and gave up their gloves to concentrate on batting. Dhoni was a good keeper but was not effective with the bat overseas. McCullum played just 52 Tests as a keeper before becoming a frontline batter for his side.

From the current generation, possibly Quinton de Kock comes close, but he has a long way to go before he can be compared to the Aussie.

Gilchrist not only averaged 47.8 with the bat but also scored those runs at an enormous strike rate of 81.95 – a deadly combination that saw him turn Test matches multiple times during his career.

Adam Gilchrist set a trend that teams the world over are struggling to follow to this date.

Link to my original article

How good is Rashid Khan?

While they are not yet there in terms of constantly troubling the top teams, Afghanistan have gained respect in one-day cricketing circles with their enthusiasm and passion.

Afghanistan also have produced some good cricketers in the recent times, with the latest addition to that impressive list being Rashid Khan, a young leg spinner with immense talent.

In his short career, Khan has become an integral part of Afghanistan side with some mind-boggling numbers. While the top eight nations are battling for the Champions Trophy, Afghanistan are taking on the West Indies, and in the first ODI between the nations, Khan claimed 7/18 in a crushing win for his side.

The West Indies batsmen were clueless and struggled to pick his variation in an abject capitulation in the first ODI. Khan also bowled brilliantly in the second ODI, which his side lost, to pick up three more Windies wickets.

At just 18 years of age, Khan has played 28 ODI games, claiming 63 wickets, with an amazing average of 14.74. These numbers may be skewed due to lack of games with the top nations, but are still remarkable.

Khan is an extremely accurate spinner with a great googly to boot.

Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL this season, Khan’s 17 wickets was second only to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for their club.

Afghanistan, as a cricketing nation, is still in its infancy, but having stars like Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi will surely help them to grow.

The series against West Indies might not get much media attention, but it’s an important series for Afghanistan, as they now stand a chance to actually win a series against a Test-playing nation.

Khan is one of the best leg spinners in world cricket at the moment, and he surely can become the best with more exposure and games against top cricketing nations.

What do other cricket fans think of this bowling? How good is he compared to other spinners around the world?

Link to my original article