Category Archives: India

India against World Cup opponents Part 2

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.

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

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The shot in the picture is what Vijay Shankar needs to play more when he takes guard for India in the World Cup

Pic Courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Hoick towards the mid-wicket seems to be the “Get Out of Jail” shot for Vijay Shankar in ODIs. It does not matter if he is playing pace or spin, when he has few dots, he tries to play that stroke. Even though he has had some success with that shot the problem is when you overdo something you are going to get caught out.

Vijay Shankar hasn’t played too many games for India and in this short span we have seen him caught at the boundary going for a big hit right after hitting one to the stands the previous ball. This from what I can remember happened twice against Australia in the recent series and at least once in the T20I series against New Zealand earlier this year. Vijay is not a slogger, he is far from it. You can see that he has a good technique when he plays the quick bowlers and hits straight. His innings of 45 against New Zealand was one of the best fighting innings from an Indian young player overseas in tough conditions. He does look million dollars when playing straight as he showed in the innings of 46 against Australia in the recently concluded series, a knock which seemed to have totally impressed the captain Virat Kohli.

Vijay also has a good first class record and averages 47 in that format. He is a good all-round cricketer who bowls a decent ball and is an excellent fielder. He is a naturally aggressive player whose strike rates are in the high 90’s in the limited overs formats. Even though playing positively is crucial these days, sometimes playing smart is crucial as well. Repeating a shot which just got you a six in a premeditated way is mostly a recipe for disaster and the risk of you skying the ball is high. Vijay has been selected in the Indian ODI team for the World Cup 2019 to bat at number 4 in the order. A position which is crucial for any team in the ODIs.

Any one playing in that position needs to be able to consolidate or bat aggressive according to the demands of the team. Vijay Shankar can make the position his own if he bats with little restraint. Every player has that one release shot, they normally keep that shot when they are under pressure but again you need to know when to use it and be smart about it.

In 18 innings so far Vijay has played for India his highest score is 45, he has gotten off to starts in few games but has lost his wicket to a restless nervous shot to lose his wicket at crucial times in the innings. The 5th ODI against Australia proves the case in point when all he needed to do was bat positively and build a partnership, he went for the glory shot against Nathan Lyon after hitting his previous ball for a six. These are small moments in the game which might be a turning point for a player as well as the team in a major tournament like the World Cup.

Cricket is majority of the times the skill but also there is a mental aspect to it. Lots of players have amazing skills but lose out because they lack the temperament to play in the pressure situation. Vijay Shankar will be thoroughly tested in the World Cup and how he responds to the various situations he finds himself in such a tournament will determine if he continues to play at number 4 for India in the ODIs. He can either lock down that spot or lose it completely by the end of the marquee tournament and lets just hope it is the former.

Playing County cricket will be good for Ajinkya Rahane

 

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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.

Focus now on the World Cup as IPL season comes to an end

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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.

Qualifier 1 Preview – CSK Vs MI

 

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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.

 

Is Rishabh Pant getting pigeonholed into a finisher role?

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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.

Are Indian pacers ready to take the lead?

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

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

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

To read the full article, click here.