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Just about a year or so ago, Jasprit Bumrah was bowling like a dream in all formats of the game. The thing which has always been unique about Bumrah is his control in all formats and the way he adapts to different formats easily unlike few other bowlers around the world. He had a brilliant tour to South Africa followed by another brilliant one in England and Australia. All this culminated into that dream series against West Indies where he absolutely demolished the hosts in the 2 Tests he played. He was swinging the ball both ways and caught the host batters napping in both the Tests.

Right after the series the stress fracture happened. The fracture was minor and luckily did not involve surgery. He had a break for few months and was back for the series against Australia in January of 2020. Bumrah struggled in that series for rhythm. He not only was expensive but was also unable to take wickets. While that series may be attributed to him being rusty for missing in action for few months the following series in New Zealand followed similar pattern.

He struggled in the first couple of T20Is but did pull it back with some good spells later in the series. The following ODI series was disastrous for India and Bumrah as the latter struggled for control and wickets once again. Even in the Test series which followed Bumrah’s lack of wickets was one of the reasons India struggled against New Zealand batting. Bumrah finished with 6 wickets at an average of 31 which was below par for his standards. Even though there hasn’t been much cricket played this year due to COVID19, it has been probably the worst year for Bumrah in terms of returns.

In 6 ODIs he played this year he averaged 287 with just 1 wicket. In T20Is he did well with 8 wickets at 20 but in Tests he took 6 wickets in 4 inning for 32. While IPL isn’t the standard we normally would want to measure a player, Bumrah has been a stalwart in this tournament and his start to the season further proves that he is still struggling for rhythm. He has gone for runs in all games he has played and has struggled to bowl yorkers like he used to do before the injury.

His lengths has been all over the place and the way he fed short deliveries to AB De Villiers to be hit for sixes is something you don’t see with Bumrah ever. India tour Australia later this year and Bumrah is a crucial bowler for for the former if they want to repeat their 2018 success. The only reason India won in 2018 was because of the sustained pressure created by the pace bowlers. Bumrah was brilliant in that series bowling at high pace and accuracy. This year Australia will be stronger with the return of Steven Smith and David Warner and the Indian pace attack will have their task cut out.

Ishant Sharma has just returned from an injury and Jasprit Bumrah is still searching for his rhythm. Mohammad Shami has been the only Indian pacer who has looked in fine form in this IPL. Jasprit Bumrah is once in a generation talent and is a bowler who will be winning India lots of games in the future but again the team management should make sure he is in the right headspace. He is being captained by Rohit Sharma and I hope he and MI camp are doing everything to get his confidence back. As an Indian fan I will be watching all the games MI play just to see Bumrah’s bowling as I know that his form is crucial for India in the Test championship and also for the T20 WC next year.

Two matches and two losses is what Sun Risers Hyderabad’s resume reads in this season of IPL. In a tournament where teams are breaching 200 for fun SRH have scores of 153 and 142/4 in the two games they have batted so far. SRH have never been a batting team, far from it. They rely a lot on their bowling attack to bail them from shoddy batting displays. Their batting heavily relies on David Warner to score runs. The Australian has seldom disappointed as he has basically carried a weak batting lineup to a title win in 2016.

Jonny Bairstow since joining the franchise has been another great addition to the top order and has done exceedingly well in the games he has played. But after that the SRH batting barring Manish Pandey lacks any sort of punch. Multiple times last season we saw how their batting crumbled after Jonny Bairstow got out. Kane Williamson who does not find a place in the XI probably needs to get a look in to bolster a struggling top order.

SRH bowlers have always been their strength and they do operate in a certain way. The IPL mainly takes place during the summer in India and the slow/rough wickets back home is perfect for the SRH bowlers. Their bowling attack relies a lot on Rashid Khan and the seamers. Bowlers like Sid Kaul who rely a lot on cutters and slower ones are difficult to get away on wickets in India during the summer time. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma give them the breakthrough with the new ball and the spinners led by Rashid Khan choke the opposition in the middle overs.

This has always been their plan in the IPL and they have been fairly successful in their strategy over the years. The big problem for SRH is the pitches in UAE at least at the start of the season. The wickets have been flat with true bounce and batters who can it big have ruled the roost. The fact that captain David Warner hasn’t hit the straps yet has caused SRH to struggle with the run rate. Bairstow has had one good innings but again once he got out like in the 2019 season the SRH batting crumbled.

SRH bowlers need to get back into the groove and quickly assess the conditions and length which will work on them for SRH to come back into the season. They also need to get Kane Williamson in to the XI at number 3. Manish Pandey will bat at number 4 followed by Mohammad Nabi or Vijay Shankar. Wriddhiman Saha in the middle order does not provide any value to SRH and they would benefit from someone who can go after the bowling in that position.

Losing Mitchell Marsh in the first game of the tournament is not the kind of start SRH would have hoped for but again they need to look past that. They have an okay squad and they need to make the most of it. Their bowling attack needs to adjust to the UAE wickets and provide their batter the backing they so wonderfully do back in India. Today’s game isn’t going to be easy as Delhi Capitals are one of the best teams of the tournament but again SRH will be hoping for the openers to get going to help the bowlers with a target they can defend.

SRH XI for tonight’s game:

Jonny Bairstow (Wk), David Warner (C), Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Mohammad Nabi, Vijay Shankar, Priyam Garg, Rashid Khan, Abhishek Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma/Basil Thampi

Five years and four T20I games is all Sanju Samson has to show for in his international career. A talented Wicket Keeping batter from Kerala, Sanju first got his chance as a 20 year old in Zimbabwe. He did not cover himself with glory there but again it was understandable due it being his first series as an Indian national. He then went on to give some stellar performances in IPL for Rajasthan Royals which forced the selectors to give him another chance in the New Zealand tour earlier this year.

Samson got just 2 games in the series and he wasn’t successful in the two outings against New Zealand. The biggest problem though is that though is four chances over 5 years isn’t much for a young player. Sanju Samson is a gifted hitter and an amazing talent who also gives you an added advantage of being a wicket-keeper as well. He has been amazing in the IPL for multiple seasons and has once again begun the 2020 season in stellar fashion.

The Indian selectors and team management haven’t shown any patience with young players in the XI over the past few years. Different players have different yardsticks and the selection has been unfair on certain domestic talents. Karun Nair’s name comes into mind immediately. Only in India we would see a player whose last innings was a 300 and does not play in a Test XI for 4 years. Manish Pandey is another player whose career has been mismanaged. People talking about his slow batting in ODIs etc need to understand that he is a brilliant player and a fielder and should be part of Indian plans for all formats of the game.

Sanju Samson falls under same category. As an amazingly gifted batter he needs to be given a long rope in limited overs formats. His FC average of 37 isn’t that great but he is just 25 and I am sure he will make amends on that too before he ends his career. While India’s T20 team has been struggling for hitters over the past few years it is strange to see them ignore such talents at the highest level.

India’s current LO wicket keeper is Rishabh Pant. While Pant himself is an incredible talent his performance in LO formats hasn’t been very consistent. He for sure has earned his stripes as a Test player with hundreds on first tours to Australia and England but that hasn’t translated to LO performances. In 39 innings so far in LO format Pant averages 23. He made his debut in 2018 and has already played 44 games. There is nothing wrong in backing a player like Rishabh Pant but again other players need to be extended the same opportunities. The chances and selections need to fair. This is where Sanju Samson hasn’t been backed by the management yet.

Shreyas Iyer went through the same but again the Delhi Capitals captain made a stunning comeback after the world cup and has cemented his place in the LO teams. The Indian fans are already calling for Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devdutt Padikkal to be picked for the National team but again we need to make sure we do not ignore an entire generation of talent for the future. Sanju Samson needs to be given a fair go and I hope the selectors/team management take cognizance of that. It is all good to have great talent at the domestic level but if they aren’t utilised it does not mean much.

Kings XI Punjab had a heartbreaking loss in their first game again Delhi Capitals. They were in control of the game for most of their bowling innings before Marcus Stoinis broke loose. While batting as well they started well but the middle order crumbled before Mayank Agarwal played a stellar knock to almost get them to a win.

KXIP went in to the first game without Chris Gayle. Gayle who calls himself the “Universe Boss” is obviously a legend in this format. An opener who could destroy any bowling attack on his day. The problem for KXIP though is that Gayle is always a hit or miss type of player. To be fair to the West Indian, he has had two back to back good seasons in IPL. He was second highest run getter behind KL Rahul in 2019 and his average of 40 was at a very high SR of 153. Gayle though hasn’t played any competitive cricket for a while and isn’t one of the quickest movers on the field either. Gayle is someone who hits big but again he also has a tendency to get stuck if things aren’t going good for him. He isn’t the greatest of fielders and I don’t think he prefers to bowl anymore. This means that KXIP by including him will be taking a huge chance.

Their choice of Nicholas Pooran for the first game did not go according to plan which might make them speculate for sure ahead of their clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore. It would be unfair on Nicholas Pooran though as he is no mug with the bat either in this format. He did have a poor game but again he does deserve another chance. KXIP also will be mulling over the inclusion of Mujeeb ur Rahman after Chris Jordan went for 30 runs in the last over of their game against DC. Sheldon Cottrell had a very good game with the ball thereby retaining his spot in the XI.

Karun Nair is another batter who will be under the scanner. He played a poor shot to the first ball he faced of Ravi Ashwin and kind of caused a mini collapse after KL Rahul had just gotten out. There is an option of Deepak Hooda or Mandeep Singh who are waiting in the wings for that middle order spot. KXIP also have the all-round option of Jimmy Neesham who provides them with a seam bowling option along with his batting ability off course.

While there is a lot for KXIP to ponder the primary discussion will be around the inclusion of Chris Gayle in the XI. The first game wasn’t as terrible as it seems. They could have gotten over the line if few things went their way and if their lower order did not panic. So possibly the franchise might still go ahead with the same XI giving all the players another opportunity to succeed. It makes sense as well as you don’t want to drop players based on one performance considering most of them haven’t played any cricket for months.

It will be interesting though to see if KXIP will avoid the temptation of tinkering with the XI. RCB are a very confident team with a great squad this season and it will not be easy to defeat them. The team from Punjab though boast of a very good bowling attack and they will be hoping for the batters to step up. Today will be a great game and all the eyes will be on the Kings XI team management as to what decision they would take in terms of the final playing XI.

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.

A star studded franchise led by one of the most influential cricketer of the era, Royal Challengers Bangalore seem to have got it all but for an IPL title. For some reason despite having a talented and best cricketers around the world, RCB has never been able to put together a title winning season. Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers have been the constant for the franchise and they have in fact carried the hopes of the team for over 12 seasons.

This time again Virat Kohli led RCB have one of the best squads in the tournament. AB De Villiers and Captain Virat Kohli are back again in the mix. The biggest problem for RCB over the last two seasons have been their openers. Since they have gotten rid of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, the team has struggled to find the right combination at the top. This has meant that Virat Kohli has had to move up the order leaving the middle order inexperienced. The signing of Aaron Finch though will help RCB a great deal on that regard.

The Australian captain has been match fit and is coming straight after a ODI series in England which would mean that along with Parthiv Patel, RCB has finally taken care of the opening combination at least for now. They also have another exciting signing of 20 year old Devdutt Padikkal who has had an incredible start to his T20 career averaging 64 at a SR of 175. His addition in the middle order will be exciting for RCB.

Their bowling arsenal is strong as well with the legendary Dale Steyn and India’s Navdeep Saini. Adam Zampa has been roped in and they have the ever reliable Yuzvendra Chahal in the squad as well. Even though Zampa has been in tremendous form for Australia in the recently concluded ODI series, it is hard to see him make the X1 for the first game. Washington Sundar’s availability means Moeen Ali will be benched as well.

Similar to most of the seasons RCB once again have a great squad and excellent talent at their disposal. The biggest criticism they have received over the years is the way they use their squad. Their selection is all over the place and Virat kohli hasn’t shown too much patience with players which means the consistency in the X1 is something which is non existent.

Also the Bangalore venue hasn’t been kind to them as well. A small ground and a flat pitch means they normally don’t have any advantage like a team like CSK of playing in the home ground. Probably the change of scenery is what they need. The first couple of games in Dubai has shown that long boundaries mean hitting sixes isn’t that easy and scores are not that high. A fit team like RCB might take advantage of that and they pace/spin attack can actually put pressure on the batters with the pitch having some assistance to good bowling. Virat Kohli will be hoping that this year finally breaks their jinx and they would be able to claim their first IPL title.

My RCB XI for the first game:

Parthiv Patel (Wkt), Aaron Finch (O), Virat Kohli (Capt), AB De Villiers, Devudutt Padikkal, Washington Sundar, Chris Morris (O), Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn (O), Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammad Siraj

They can play Gukeerat Mann Singh if they want another batter to replace Siraj and they can include Adam Zampa or Moeen Ali by replacing Chris Morris by Shivam Dube. So RCB does have a very balanced squad and obviously they don’t have to have the perfect XI in the first game. The Above XI looks very balanced with good mix of batters/all rounders but again I will be tempted to get Zampa in due to his brilliant form recently.

When England won the toss and batted again they wouldn’t have envisioned what would transpire over the next 99.4 overs. England themselves started poorly. They had lost both Jason Roy and Joe Root before even getting off the mark. Jonny Bairstow who has been in supreme form this series once again was the saviour. He along with captain Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler got England to 96/4 but again the visitors were still firmly on top.

Sam Billings who has already scored a hundred in this series first stitched a significant partnership of 114 to get England out of the woods. Billings once again was brilliant and scored 57 before he was dismissed by Adam Zampa. Bairstow though kicked on and completed a brilliant hundred (112). Chris Woakes scored a quickfire fifty to guide England to a competitive 302/7. For Australia though Adam Zampa was among wickets again with 3/51. He has been brilliant with the ball all through the series and has also been able to keep the runs in check.

Australia’s innings did not get to a great start either. The found themselves 73/5 in just 17 overs and with half of their side gone the game was firmly in the grasp of the hosts. Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey then counterattacked with a stunning assault on the English bowlers. Both of them completed brilliant hundreds. Maxwell who has been in great nick through this series once again was fantastic. He scored his runs at a high strike rate and kept the bowlers under pressure throughout. Carey was brilliant as well and when the pair was separated after an enormous partnership of 213, the game was all but over for England.

Even though there was a bit of drama at the end, Australia completed the win with 2 balls to spare. Australia will be thrilled to have won the series and they have been brilliant in this format over the last year or so. They would particularly be happy with the performances of the middle order. Almost the entire series was won by the middle and lower order as the top order did not contribute much in this series.

For England though this series has been a difficult one. They are probably the only team to have played a lot of international cricket over the last few months and frankly were not at their best in this series. The other good thing about the series were the pitches. These weren’t the roads we normally see in the ODIs in England. The bowlers had a fair chance in all the games and we can see that in the scores across the 3 games.

The Australian bowling was excellent and Zampa in particular. The consistency shown by Glenn Maxwell is another positive for Australia in this series. This series was brilliant and Australia surely were the better team and should have won the series 3-0, if not for their horrendous collapse in the second ODI.

When England won the toss and batted first no one could have predicted the roller coaster of a game they would witness over the next 98.4 overs. England’s start was anything from smooth as Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood tied the English openers into a knot. Both Bairstow and Roy struggled to get away. England found themselves in trouble when Roy was run-out for 21. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan battled hard against some brilliant bowling and great fielding of the visitors. The scoring was tough but they hung around.

When the partnership was broken though, England batting collapsed. They found themselves at 149/8 from a healthy 90/2. Adam Zampa was at it again with a fantastic 3/36. Josh Hazlewood was miserly once again with a spell of 1/27 in 10 overs. A late order partnership between Adil Rashid and Tom Curran got England to a fighting 231/9.

While England lower order fought well, 232 wasn’t a target Australia would have been worried about. Even though Australia started poorly themselves losing 2 wickets early, the partnership between captain Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne meant that Australia were cruising at 144/2 in 30 overs. At that stage of the game, there wouldn’t have been too many people who would have given the hosts any chance. England though kept plugging and as soon as they broke the partnership, Australia collapsed losing 8 wickets for 63 runs.

For England Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer were the heroes with 3 wickets each. Sam Curran picked up 3 as well and Tom Curran was miserly giving away just 28 in his 10 overs. This win should give the hosts huge confidence as there were down and out at one stage.

For Australia though this would be yet another heartbreaking loss as their batting once again collapsed from a winning position. It is not often a team restricts England under 250 after the latter bats first after winning the toss. Australia would know that they have blown a great opportunity to go 2-0 up. With this win though England would have gotten a lots of confidence and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t go on to win the series from here.

I haven’t written in a while and when I sit down to write this I feel a bit rusty. I last wrote a piece during the 2019 World Cup and it has been more than a year since I even logged into my blog. A India trip happened at the end of last year and when we came back we never thought the chaos this year would turn out to be. When we first heard of COVID-19 late last year we did not realise it would bring the entire world to a halt.

I feel lucky that I was able to get back to India in over 10 years finally before everything went down. The entire 2020 has been really hard for everyone around the world and I am sure everyone wants this to end soon. For now though the only thing we can do is stay safe and follow the safety precautions as prescribed by the Government of the country we live. In Australia though we have been lucky especially in South Australia as the local Government has been brilliant in arresting the spread with good proactive management.

But again for me though this has also made me realise that we should never stop things we love to do. Life isn’t predictable and you never want that regret. I am back to writing again. Even though it might be difficult for me to write as often, I will be publishing as often as I can. The cricket has already started which is great and I do have few things to share regarding the same.

The IPL starts this month and India would be resuming their International cricket with a tour to Australia later this year. Even though watching cricket isn’t going to be the same for a while, it is great that we are getting to see some good games coming our way.

Till next time stay safe and stay indoors.

Faf du Plessis returns as South Africa take on a very difficult assignment against a team who are chasing 11 consecutive home series win. South Africa’s last visit to India did not go well and their 3-0 loss was one of their worst performances in subcontinent conditions and possibly left many of their young players pretty scarred. The chief destroyers from the series Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be back in action for the Indian team and the pitches this time as well will be aiding spinners.

The South African team though will rely a lot on the batting of captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. The rest of the batting though except for Aiden Markham are inexperienced in these conditions and will be hoping for lots of help from the experienced heads. The bowling attack will have the talented Keshav Maharaj and the fantastic Kagiso Rabada leading the attack. Vernon Philander is back to take the new ball giving South Africa a pretty well rounded bowling attack for the conditions.

For India though the opening combination is still an issue. Rohit Sharma will be taking up that mantle this time along with Mayank Agarwal. The middle order though has a settled look with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Hanuma Vihari who had a great West Indian tour will take the number 6 slot in the batting order. Rishabh Pant has been dropped owing to his poor performances in Tests recently which means Wriddhiman Saha makes a comeback to the Test side. Jasprit Bumrah’s stress fracture means that Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami will be the two lone Pacers in the XI. Jadeja and Ashwin as the spin bowling all rounders will complete the Indian bowling attack for the first Test.

Key Players:

Cheteshwar Pujara (India): Pujara was instrumental in India achieving the historic series win in Australia earlier this year. Even though he had a poor series in West Indies, his credentials as a very good player of spin makes him very important in home conditions. He averages 62 at home with more than 3000 runs and he once again will be crucial for India in this series.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India): Closing in on 350 Test wickets Ashwin will be back to being the lead spinner in home conditions. His record at home is exceptional with 234 wickets at 22.68 and he will once again be key for India on pitches which will for sure be helping spin.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa): In an inexperienced batting line up Faf will hold the key for South Africa’s chances. He has been on multiple tours to India and has most experience playing in these conditions and him having a good series will be crucial for his side on this tough tour.

Keshav Maharaj (South Africa): Maharaj was brilliant in Sri Lanka and bowled his heart out on yet another subcontinent loss for his side. He would want to bring all that experience onto this series to help his side against a very strong home batting line up. It will not be easy but Maharaj is extremely talented and will be leading the South African spin attack this series.

Probable XIs:

India XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami

South Africa XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi

What they said?

“I think the most amount of credit has to go to the team, because we, we lay down a vision in 2015, that, you know, we’re going to be flexible [with our combination]. We were going to choose sides according to the conditions that we’re playing in. Because we want results, we want to be successful as a team, and we want to be at the top of the world. So if the team hadn’t bought into it, then it becomes a little difficult for guys who started don’t start to, you know, play with the kind of intent that you played with.” Said captain Virat Kohli about the success of his team over the last few years

“If you look at our squad, there’s a hell lot of new faces from the last time. It could work in our favour in terms of the brand of cricket and positivity. Yes it may not go our way but we are here to compete. We are not going to lie down and back down with the sort of old woes from the last tour. And who knows, it could be our time, in the next three Test matches, to shock some people.” Said Keshav Maharaj ahead of the first Test

This will be South Africa’s start of the Test championship and they will be hoping to make a good start to their campaign. India who have already been to a flying start with 120 points would want to build on it and start of the home season with a bang. Even though the visitors are expected to give a better account of themselves this time around, the hosts are overwhelming favourites to win this series and it will be hard to bet against that result.


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