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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.

Here is the part two of the continued review of India’s world cup opponents and how India have fared against them since the last World Cup. The first part saw the reviews of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Let’s dive into the next 3.

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Considering the recent track record India does hold the edge over Pakistan when they take them on at the Old Trafford on the 16th.

June 16, 2019 – India vs Pakistan, Old Trafford, Manchester

This is a biggie and the most anticipated clash in this World Cup. The fact that India & Pakistan do not play that often makes these encounters more special. Both teams have had a poor run into the tournament. Even though India are the number 2 side in the world, they did enter the tournament with 3 straight losses. They also lost the game against New Zealand in the warm up encounter as well. Pakistan have had it worse over the past year or so and are currently in 11 match losing streak. Even though past stats and form does not factor into India-Pakistan games, the fact is that India does hold a slight edge over their arch rivals. To top that India have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup encounter in their history. In the last 4 years, despite that crushing loss in the Champions Trophy finals, India have a 3-1 advantage over Pakistan.

Verdict: Even though form and past results don’t matter in this historic match up, India does have a slight edge over their arch rivals and are expected to win this encounter.

June 22 – India vs Afghanistan, The Rose Bown, Southampton 

Technically when you look at this match up you should back India to comfortably put it past Afghanistan but reality is far from it. Afghanistan have just beaten Pakistan in their warm up game leading up to the tournament and the only game they have played against India over the last 4 years or so has resulted in a tie in Sharjah. Afghanistan are a much improved team and they are not a push over by any imagination. The Rose Bowl will provide great help for their spin attack and their batters will allow the pitch at Southampton. For India though this might end up being a crucial game and all said and done they are still expected to beat Afghanistan in this encounter.

Verdict: This will not be an easy game and Afghanistan is more than capable of toppling their senior Asian gurus. India though with the experience and skill in major tournament like the World Cup should be able to get it past the newbies though while it might be a banana peel game as well.

June 27 – West Indies vs India, Old Trafford, Manchester

This is yet another game which can be tricky for team India. Even though India have a 6-2 win-loss record against the Island nation, the latter have always been a tough opponent for India in the past. The West Indies team have been able to beat India in crucial games especially in T20Is recently. West Indies have their stars return to their side, Chris Gayle is back and looks in tremendous form. Andre Russell who had an amazing IPL is back in the XI as well for them. Their bowling attack with has some good pacers is something which can trouble Indian batters if the conditions are right. This will be an amazing game against an experienced team like India and a team who can be unpredictable in the way they play on a given day.

Verdict: Once again when you look at the strengths of the team you would expect India to easily go past West Indies, this will be yet another tough game for India. India in all probability should be able to put it past West Indies but again it is not going to be easy.

That ends part two of this series and with just 3 games to go, past 3 will cover the rest of the opponents. As we have seen this format of the tournament is thankless and there are no easy games. The team which sticks to their guns and does not give into the pressure will be the ones who will triumph and reach the final four.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Rishabh-Pant

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.

 


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