Tag Archives: Cricket

World Cup Preview – Can South Africa topple the favourites?

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

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

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

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

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

Head to Head:

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

Key Players:

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

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

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

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

What they said?

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

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

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

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

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

India against World Cup opponents Part 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.

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.

IPL 2019 – Weekend 1 Review

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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.

 

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.

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

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

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

All that changed on November 21, 1999.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to my original article