My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

I have been following Indian cricket since early 90’s and never have I seen such an injury ravaged touring in my life time. When India landed in Australia on 12th November 2020, they already were missing Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma and knew that their captain Virat Kohli will be leaving the team after the first Test. The tour started off with the ODI series for India and by the first T20, India had already lost Jadeja to injury. This meant that the genial all-rounder had to miss the first Test at Adelaide.

Despite that one could argue that the Indian team that played the Adelaide Test was almost at full strength and was only missing the services of Ishant Sharma. Rohit Sharma isn’t a regular in Tests yet and India seldom play Jadeja and Ashwin together overseas. But again when the first Test was completed under bizarre circumstances with the tourist getting bowled out for just 36 the lost further two personnel. While Virat’s exit was already known the injury to Mohammad Shami was a body blow for an already depleted Indian attack.

While India had to pick themselves up from the disaster of Adelaide they also had to dig deep into their reserves to get a good XI on the field. The failure of Prithvi Shaw meant Shubman Gill made his debut. Mayank Agarwal who was a main stay of Indian top order was struggling with his unusually high backlift which he probably picked up during his IPL stint. The Indian team fought hard and beat the confident hosts proving all comers wrong with their resilience and courage.

while things were looking good for the tourists finally injury to Umesh Yadav further dented the Indian team which was already missing 3 of their first choice players. A confident Indian team landed in Sydney knowing that Rohit Sharma will be available to open the batting along with Gill in the 3rd Test. The Sydney Test began with Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack. While Bumrah is extremely talented and has been the spearhead for India in all formats, we need to remember that he has just played 16 Tests himself. He had Mohammad Siraj who had made his debut in Melbourne and Navdeep Saini making his debut as his bowling partners. The Test was remarkable for more than one reason. While the Indian team did pull out one of the most brilliant and resilient batting performances in recent times they also lost Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari in the process.

Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul who would have been the next choice of players to make the XI got themselves injured in the nets. While Agarwal awaits scan reports, KL Rahul is probably sipping a cup of team at home watching the game on TV. The Indian team has been hit with unprecedented bout of injuries which was least expected at the start of the series but the one heartening thing though is the fight shown by the players. The credit should be given to the team management on the tour and the unassuming yet strong leadership of Ajinkya Rahane. This series will be memorable for more than one reason but the nothing can be bigger than the courage the team has shown despite adversities.

The Indian team might struggle to put together a good solid playing XI for their toughest game of the series but again you wouldn’t bet against them giving a tough time to the Aussies. The Australia team at full strength at home has struggled to dominate a injury hit Indian team at home. This shows the bench strength of the Indian side and also the mental strength of the team to keep fighting no matter what the situation is.

The Indian team may not be able to put together a strong XI for the final Test but the Aussies will know that this touring team surely has one last fight left in them to make it hard for the hosts. With the Border-Gavaskar trophy on the line the hosts are under more pressure than the tourists who have nothing to lose going into the final Test.

Wicket-Keeping is a crucial component in a Test team. There is a reason why teams don’t compromise on quality of keeping in Tests as opposed to the shorter formats. While all Test teams have decent to good wicket-Keeping batsmen, India have struggled to find one since the retirement of the legendary MS Dhoni.

The Test keeping spot for India has been quite a game of musical chairs between Wriddhiman Saha amd Rishabh Pant. While Saha is the better keeper of the two his batting has been less than inspiring and hasn’t been of Test quality. Gone are the days when Test teams select a wicket keeper for just their good glove work. Almost every Test side in the world now has a wicket keeper who can bat really well. For India it has been a dilemma at least in the Test arena as while Rishabh Pant is an exciting bat his keeping against especially spin is lot left to be desired.

Pant has already dropped 4 chances in the Test and a half he has kept wickets in the ongoing series and things haven’t changed much since the last time he was dropped. Saha on the the other hand is known for his excellent glove work but again age isn’t on his side and his batting has dipped to a level of not being of international standard. The Indian team though over the last 5 years since the retirement of MS Dhoni from this format haven’t tried any other options which makes it very difficult to come up with a replacement immediately.

The Indian management and the selection committee need to dig deeper into the domestic system to bring out a good wicket-keeping batter for Tests. Indian domestic system has 30+ FC teams and it is hard to believe that they cannot find one wicket-keeper who can keep better than Pant and can score runs as well. While Pant is a good batter his glove work needs lots of work and international cricket isn’t the place to learn your trade. Parthiv Patel another youngster who had a brilliant Test series down under in 2003/04 was dropped because of his poor keeping which cost India a series win. Rishabh Pant despite his mouthwatering stroke play needs to spend more time in domestic cricket and work with coaches to improve his glove work if he wants to represent India has a Test wicket keeper.

The problem for India is that even when we look at the IPL squads except for Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan there aren’t many promising young keepers in any of the franchises. Most teams have an overseas wicket-keeper which isn’t helping much with unearthing talent for Indian team. While I am not suggesting we pick a Test wicket keeper based on IPL performance, we at least would have some idea about their skills with the glove in a high pressure tournament.

Right now in the ongoing series India do not have many options but in the future though the selectors need to think about giving opportunities to other young keepers in the domestic system. India will soon be playing at home where keeping against Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja will be crucial and they cannot have Rishabh Pant in the current form to be doing that. Going back to Saha will be a step back as well. If India wants to be a force in Test cricket they need a keeper who makes less mistakes and is reliable behind the wicket and at the moment Rishabh Pant is not that.

Every time an Indian national squad is announced there is always controversy. Fans and experts alike question selections, express disappointment over someone missing out and there is conspiracy theories always floating around. The three squads announced for the Australian tour wasn’t immune to that either. But again the T20I squad garnered the most criticism. Lets look at the T20 squad and analyse the “Controversial”
picks in more detail.

Team India T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The T20I squad garnered the most criticism and critique from the fans and experts alike. The biggest controversy or mystery is the omission of Rohit Sharma. Rohit has been absent from the Mumbai Indians playing XI for the past 3 games and also I am sure BCCI would have consulted the franchise medical staff before making the call. There is no way BCCI would omit their star limited overs player with hearsay or half baked information. There is a reason why Rohit hasn’t been picked for the tour. The fact that MI posted on social media about Rohit practicing after squad announcement is highly unprofessional as despite that he did not partake in an important clash against RCB last night. Considering there isn’t much time between the end of IPL and the beginning of the Australian tour, I feel the call was right.

The next controversy was with the omission of Rishabh Pant from the T20I side. I am a big fan of Rishabh but again I need to be objective about a player. Yes he is brilliant and yes he is very talented but lets look at his numbers just to stay little fair on the players picked. Pant has played 28 T20Is for India and has an average of 20 at a SR of 121. Not earth shattering numbers by any means. His IPL season this year so far has been mixed bag. He hasn’t been his belligerent best and has shown lack of form over the last year or so. Sanju Samson got a lot of criticism from experts for his lack of good FC scores but again we are talking about T20 games. Yes Sanju himself isn’t the most consistent or reliable but when Pant was given 28 games to prove himself, I feel we can at least give Samson 3 more games to show his mettle.

The other contentious spot in the squad was the selection of Varun Chakravarthy. Yes Varun is a reasonably unknown commodity and not many people rate him as a spinner. He has had a great season so far for KKR but again the argument is that there are better spinners available than Varun in India. Fair enough, the only other player who I thought could have been picked is Kuldeep Yadav as he has brilliant T20 numbers but again his bowling has been on the decline in LO formats over the last 18 months. Yes there is Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar but again I don’t see selection of a young spinner is that bad as it is made to be. It does seem like the selectors have picked him based on his IPL2020 performance but again that’s fine as both spinners I mentioned above is a future star and will be picked soon in the Indian XI. Yes Varun might not be the best spinner in India but again his selection isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Krunal Pandya and Axar Patel compete directly with Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. They both are bowling all-rounders and Varun has been picked as a specialist bowler. Sundar and Jadeja have been very good in shorter formats and their bowling this IPL has been brilliant as well. Jadeja especially has been batting brilliantly for CSK. So I don’t see any controversy in their selection.

The one player who even I though should have been in the T20I squad is Suryakumar Yadav. He has been brilliant in IPL for years and it is strange that he does not get picked for the national side. He once again proved last night how amazing he is in this format and I hope that the selectors give him a chance soon in both the LO format. He is a deserving player and should have been part of this squad to Australia.

This is just a 16 member squad and not everyone can get into the XI. There have been few people preferred over the other and while we can argue the merit of others who haven’t been picked, we cannot deny the talent of the people who are in the squad. The rest of the squad is on the expected lines except for the return of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and the addition of Mayank Agarwal in T20 after his brilliant season for KXIP this year so far.

Overall I feel that even though the T20I squad hasn’t impressed everyone, the selectors haven’t done a horrible job as it is made out to be. They have picked the best available players on merit and I don’t see this as a disaster. Everyone might feel someone someone else would have been a better choice in the squad but again that would be in the hindsight.

The T20I and Test squads were announced by BCCI yesterday and while majority of the personnel were as expected there are some interesting selections in both formats. The biggest controversy though is the absence of Rohit Sharma. Rohit who has been missing in the last few games for Mumbai Indians has been left out sparking some speculation regarding the seriousness of his injury. MI management posting that Rohit is back in the nets and is getting ready to play the rest of the games has created some confusion regarding the the star batsman’s current condition.

BCCI though have mentioned that they will monitor his status and will take a call regarding his inclusion. The rest of the squad though had some interesting choices. Varun Chakravarthy who has had a brilliant IPL for KKR has been chosen as the spinner in the T20I squad in place of Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep hasn’t been at his best in shorter format for over a year now and him not getting enough chances for his franchise also might have played a part. The T20 squad already has Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. Hardik Pandya returns to the Indian squad after missing in action due to injury for a while. The rest of the pace attack for the shorter format remains on the expected lines with Navdeep Saini retaining his spot.

Mayank Agarwal gets a go in the T20 team after a stellar IPL2020 and Sanju Samson gets another chance ahead of Rishabh Pant as the lone wicketkeeper in the squad. While Rohit Sharma’s absence does leave a huge void in the squad Shikhar Dhawan returning to the top gives the team the much needed experience in the batting department. BCCI have gone with the performers from the ongoing IPL but again it will be interesting to see how they will perform in a tough Australian tour.

T20I Squad to Australia: Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (VC & WK), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The ODI squad though is very similar to the T20 one. The biggest surprise though is KL Rahul being the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Shubman Gill is back in the ODI squad and Mayank Agarwal retains his spot in the team. Prithvi Shaw who was part of the Indian ODI squad to New Zealand does not find a place this time and Kuldeep Yadav returns after being dropped from the T20 team. Shardul Thakur is back in the ODI team and this series also marks the return of Hardik Pandya in all three formats. Ravindra Jadeja retains his all-rounder spot and Yuzvendra Chahal is the other spinner in the ODI team. In the absence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul doubles up as the deputy to Virat Kohli in the shorter formats on the tour to Australia.

India’s ODI squad to Australia:Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur

The Test team though has very less surprises. Rohit Sharma once again is absent from the squad which means that KL Rahul makes a come back as an opener. There is Pritvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal as well who mostly will be the first choice openers at the start. Shubman Gill also has been retained in the squad to provide another opening option. The spin department has the regular 3 spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Ishant Sharma’s injury means Mohammad Siraj gets another opportunity in the Test team and Navdeep Saini retains his spot in the squad.

Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah round of a varied and good pace attack. India for sure will miss Ishant Sharma as he has been India’s best bowler over the last couple of years and has helped maintain pressure from one end consistently. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane retain their middle order spots along with Hanuma Vihari who might play based on the team composition. Hardik Pandya also makes a return as a pace bowling all-rounder after missing in action due to injury.

While there are some controversial selections in the T20 and ODI squads the Test team except for the absence of Rohit Sharma probably is the best they could have done. Mohammad Siraj who has been one of the best domestic bowlers for India over the last few years gets another deserved chance and I hope he gets to play in the XI. The Australian series is scheduled immediately after the IPL and the Indian team will be short of practice in the longer format. It will be interesting how the team cope with this new normal and against a team which will be very tough to beat at home.

Test Squad for Australia: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohd. Siraj

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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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