How good is Rashid Khan?

While they are not yet there in terms of constantly troubling the top teams, Afghanistan have gained respect in one-day cricketing circles with their enthusiasm and passion.

Afghanistan also have produced some good cricketers in the recent times, with the latest addition to that impressive list being Rashid Khan, a young leg spinner with immense talent.

In his short career, Khan has become an integral part of Afghanistan side with some mind-boggling numbers. While the top eight nations are battling for the Champions Trophy, Afghanistan are taking on the West Indies, and in the first ODI between the nations, Khan claimed 7/18 in a crushing win for his side.

The West Indies batsmen were clueless and struggled to pick his variation in an abject capitulation in the first ODI. Khan also bowled brilliantly in the second ODI, which his side lost, to pick up three more Windies wickets.

At just 18 years of age, Khan has played 28 ODI games, claiming 63 wickets, with an amazing average of 14.74. These numbers may be skewed due to lack of games with the top nations, but are still remarkable.

Khan is an extremely accurate spinner with a great googly to boot.

Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL this season, Khan’s 17 wickets was second only to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for their club.

Afghanistan, as a cricketing nation, is still in its infancy, but having stars like Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi will surely help them to grow.

The series against West Indies might not get much media attention, but it’s an important series for Afghanistan, as they now stand a chance to actually win a series against a Test-playing nation.

Khan is one of the best leg spinners in world cricket at the moment, and he surely can become the best with more exposure and games against top cricketing nations.

What do other cricket fans think of this bowling? How good is he compared to other spinners around the world?

Link to my original article

Have Australia picked a one-dimensional side for the Champions Trophy?

Now that IPL is out of the way, focus shifts to the 2017 Champions Trophy, kicking off on June 1 at The Oval, where the hosts take on Bangladesh.

Australia have won the tournament twice and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy. Most Australian players were involved in the two-month-long IPL and have just few days to recuperate before they play their first warm-up game, against the Sri Lankans.

Read the full article at The Roar

Strategic Break, really?

Yesterday’s game between KKR and RCB was interrupted by rain. The game was on hold till the rain stopped and the ground was ready for play. The game stopped when RCB were 100/3 in 14.1 overs. After the match resumed, the bowling team just bowled 5 balls and the umpire called for strategic break. Are you kidding me? Why would either team want to strategize when they had just spent about an hour in the dressing room with the coaching staff.

What is there to strategize after just 5 balls when nothing much had changed? If BCCI wants to give an advertising break, why not just call it that? It is funny that BCCI dictates and forces teams to take a break when they don’t want to and thereby cause unnecessary break in play. If BCCI wants to sell airtime to make money they should call the break as advertisement break. If they really want to give the teams a strategic break, it should only be taken when the teams want to take it.

It was extremely funny when teams had just come in after a 45 minute break and within 5 deliveries had to go back in to strategize nothing.

IPL 2015 – Young talent makes IPL an interesting watch

IPL evokes mixed emotions among fans across the world. Some people call it great entertainment whilst the others call it a meaningless slogathon. The only thing as an Indian fan which compels me to watch this long drawn out tournament is the young Indian players. In the past the only way to know about a young talent is when they made the Indian team. In the last 15 years or so television has brought domestic games closer to us but still not a lot of us get time to follow them. The IPL though is something which sheds light on these young talents. The current IPL is no different. Performances in the IPL need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Even though there are some great bowlers taking part in the tournament, flat pitches and small boundaries kind of negate any sort of impact they might have on the batsmen. In spite of all that it takes a special talent for an uncapped player to perform in front of record crowds and against some international greats. So here is the list of players that impressed me this season. I am only including their list A and FC records as a yardstick as I don’t think performances in IPL should be taken into account when selecting players for ODI’s and test cricket.

Shreyas Iyer (FC: 50.56, LA: 54.60)

Of all the young players this season none impressed me more than this 20 year old. Shreyas Iyer opened the batting for Delhi Daredevils and has performed brilliantly with the bat. Shreyas represents Mumbai in first class cricket and has made an impressive start to his career. He already has 2 hundreds in 10 first class games and averages 50. His List A record is also impressive as he averages 54 with a hundred already to his credit in 6 games. Shreyas looks primed for India debut sooner than they would have imagined but again it will be interesting to see if the selectors go for him in the upcoming tour to Bangladesh. Shreyas looks like a test prospect for India and I hope he is not thrown in too soon in that format.

Deepak Hooda (FC: 50.63, LA: 40.60)

Here is another youngster who has had an impressive beginning in first class cricket for Baroda. Deepak Hooda has 2 first class hundreds in 8 games at an impressive average of 50.63. He had a brilliant start to IPL for Rajasthan Royals but has fallen off the grid as the tournament progressed. Hooda has brilliant hand eye coordination and has shown that even at the age of just 20 he can hit long balls. Hooda looks a perfect middle order prospect for ODI/T20 format for India as he can bowl part time off spin if needed. Hooda is another brilliant find this season by Rajasthan who lead the way in unearthing good Indian talent.

Pawan Negi (FC: Bat – 27, Bowl – 42, LA: Bat – 6.00, Bowl – 33.66)

The Delhi left arm spinner who plays for CSK does not have enough FC experience at this point. The 22 year old though has shown enough spark in the T20 games to suggest that he could be a good back up for Ravi Jadeja in the shorter formats. Pawan is a good lower order bat and a good left arm spinner who has done well for CSK in IPL games. He needs to play more FC games for us to judge if he can represent the Indian team beyond T20’s and ODI games. Pawan has shown great talent with the bat which augurs well for India in the shorter format. Let’s hope that with experience he can become a good bowling all-rounder for India in all formats.

Sarfaraz Khan (FC: 23.75, List A: 29)

Young Sarfaraz is all of just 17 years of age and has been a revelation for RCB in IPL 2015. He has played couple of crucial innings for RCB this season and looks like a great prospect for team India in the future. Sarfaraz hasn’t played too many FC games to take his stats seriously. He is just 17 and has few more years to find his feet at this level. His talent is apparent but we need to make sure that he is not rushed to international cricket. Sarfaraz needs few years in FC cricket before he can be considered for Indian team and I hope that he gets there.

Yuzvendra Chahal (FC Bowling: 40.06, LA Bowling: 23.28)

Chahal is a good young leg-spinner who has held his own this season for RCB. The Haryana leg-spinner does not have earth shattering FC record but has a very good LA record. With India looking for a good leg-spin option in shorter format, Chahal can fit the bill. He has great control for the shorter formats and his economy rate of 3.98 in LA games show that he can be miserly as well. A bowler who can pick wickets and also keep the lids on the scoring is a perfect recipe for shorter format. The Indian selectors need to keep a close eye on him for the future as he can be a useful addition to the Indian ODI/T20 bowling line up.

Shreyas Gopal (FC Bat: 34.86, FC Bowl: 23.55)

Okay Shreyas Gopal hasn’t played many games for Mumbai Indians this season. In fact he just played one game at the start of the season and has not been considered again for MI in this season. Shreyas is a brilliant prospect for India in all formats. A leg-spinner with good control, Shreyas provides great variation the Indian team is looking for in the bowling lineup. Not only Shreyas is a good leg-spin option he also has 2 first class hundreds to his name at an average of 35 which makes him a very good option in tests and ODI. I included Shreyas because he is very talented even though we hardly saw him play this season. Hopefully the selectors are keeping an eye out form as he has performed brilliantly for Karnataka in Ranji trophy.

Honorable mention: Anureet Singh (FC Bowl: 26.67, LA Bowl: 23.36) and Jagadeesha Suchith

The above players might get a look in sooner if the selectors are going to send in an experimental squad to Bangladesh earlier next month. There are also others like Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Sandeep Sharma and KM Jadav, who are consistent performers for their state sides over the years and have also performed excellently in the IPL who will be hoping to get a look in, in the upcoming tour. It will be interesting to see what team the BCCI decides to send to Bangladesh. The performance of Bangladesh against Pakistan at home would probably sway BCCI to send much more balanced squad this time but again there is scope for some experimentation. It will be interesting to see if any of the youngsters find a place in the ODI team. Sanju Samson, Sandeep Sharma, Anureet Singh and Kedar Jadav will be in the top of the pile as some regulars are expected to miss out.

Bowlers need to be nurtured, can BCCI step up?

Injury to Mohd Shami is a blessing in disguise as the Indian spearhead gets a well deserved rest after a grueling world cup.

Injury to Mohd Shami is a blessing in disguise as the Indian spearhead gets a well deserved rest after a grueling world cup.

Since 2000, India has had embarrassment of riches as far as fast bowling talent is concerned. From no good fast bowling option in the previous two decades, India ended up with too many in the last 15 years or so. Even though we had lots of bowlers except for Javagal Srinath and Zaheer khan, none of the Indian fast bowlers managed to go past 200 test wickets in the last 20 years. India has always found it difficult to manage fast men, in spite of the overseas bowling coaches, the ability of the bowlers after a promising starts dwindles away after a year or so.

The fitness is an issue, they drop pace and in some cases they lose their swing too. The list is endless, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Nehra, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma etc. all fall under the same category. The recent interview of former Indian bowling coach Joe Dawes was interesting. He mentioned that the Indian bowlers bowl too much. The format they bowl in is also pertinent information. The 2 months of grueling IPL season followed by endless ODI games and then the CLT20 at the end of this year saps whatever energy the bowlers might have to be available for test cricket. Till the 90’s fast men used county cricket as their learning ground and were fairly successful at that.

India’s best two fast bowlers of the last 20 years Srinath and Zaheer owe their turnaround to county cricket. Srinath who was a one dimensional bowler until mid-90’s played a full season for Gloucestershire in 1995 and came back as a different bowler. Zaheer Khan who had lots of fitness and consistency issues came back a changed bowler after a full season of county cricket with Worcestershire in 2006. That trend has come to a halt now. Except for couple of short stints by Sreesanth and Agarkar, Indian players haven’t been allowed to play in county cricket by BCCI.

The Indian fast bowlers play in IPL instead which doesn’t help their development as test bowlers in any way. The jam packed international calendar means that the Indian bowlers don’t get to play in domestic first class games either. No wonder the Indian pacemen find it difficult to make an impact in the longer format as they have no experience bowling for that long. India’s current spearhead Mohd Shami who made his first class debut in 2010 has played a grand total of 30 first class games out of which 12 are tests for India. Varun Aaron whose first class debut was way back in 2008 has played a grand total of 30 first class games out of which 5 are tests. Mohit Sharma has 24 first class games to his credit, Ishant Sharma has 88 (61 of them are tests for India), Bhuvneshwar Kumar has 58 (First Class debut in 2007, 12 of 58 are tests) and Umesh Yadav has 40 (First class debut in 2008 and 12 of them are tests). So we see a pattern here.

Indian bowlers are over bowled in meaningless T20 games and ODI games which leave them no time to work on their chinks. The bowlers get paid hefty sum to get hit around the park in IPL, so they hardly have any motivation to work on their bowling at the test level. If India has any hopes of unearthing at least one good fast bowler, they need to keep these bowlers from playing in too many meaningless tournaments. After a long time India has finally found 3 bowlers who can bowl in upwards of 140 KMPH regularly with Aaron able to touch 150 KMPH. This is the right time for BCCI to invest in these bowlers and make sure they don’t fall by the wayside. India also has some young exciting fast bowlers like Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh who need to be nurtured.

It will be helpful for these bowlers to play in county cricket on helpful pitches to learn their trade rather than getting hammered around in the meaningless T20 leagues on flat pitches. These are exciting times for an Indian fan as for the first time we have bowlers who can bowl really fast but unless they are taken care properly we might lose them quicker than we realize. India’s international season starts right after the IPL and hopefully we will have the fast bowlers fit and available to be picked for India. The board and the coaches need to step up and work on keeping these bowlers fresh for international games. IPL is a good launch pad for young and upcoming players from domestic arena and it should stay that way. BCCI has enough finances to keep these young bowlers away from the T20 leagues and allow them to play more first class games which is the only way these bowlers are going to improve their skills. Let’s hope that things will change and the current crop can actually achieve what they set out to do and don’t become another Irfan or RP Singh.

Do the Indian bowlers actually care?

Ishant Sharma has been extremely poor in all forms of cricket for India over the last few years

Ishant Sharma has been extremely poor in all forms of cricket for India over the last few years

It is very disappointing when your young pace hopeful goes back to India after the team’s 4-0 drubbing in New Zealand and says to the media that he is excited to take part in IPL 7 and he was disappointed missing the last couple of seasons.  Varun Aaron is a young quick bowler who spent more time recouping from injuries than playing cricket on the field. He did make a comeback in the New Zealand tour but was really wayward, even though clocking really high speeds.

India was hammered 4-0 in the ODI series and the performances of the bowlers was really disappointing. India conceded over 6 runs per over in almost every game and put enormous pressure on the batting line up. The Indian bowling has never been brilliant but the bad part is that it has gotten worse over the last couple of years. The Indian pacers have struggled to get teams out even on pitches that are aiding fast bowling. The bowling has lacked intensity and purpose and it does not seem to be improving. The BCCI does not seem to care about the current situation and is busy making more money.

The IPL has done a lot of damage to the Indian bowling and the young bowlers don’t seem to care about their performances at the International level. Ishant Sharma after reaching 150 wickets has expressed his joy on doing the same. His averages 38 with the ball in test cricket after 50 tests and he should consider himself extremely lucky to be playing for India with such mediocre stats. The Indian team is currently struggling in New Zealand to take 10 wickets leave alone taking 20. The bowling and fielding has been mediocre and it looks like they are on the way to losing another test overseas.

The bowling issue needs to be tackled soon if India wants to be at the top of the pile in world cricket. Varun Aaron’s recent interview suggests that he is more excited playing for IPL and says that he has lots of cricket coming up before the IPL to prepare for the season. This is all that is wrong about the India bowling attack. As a fan you sometimes think if these bowlers even care about improving themselves. India would be travelling to England and then Australia later this year and it does not look good for the team at the moment. The drubbing the team is currently receiving from a team ranked 8th in the world is a huge wakeup call. If India needs to preserve these bowlers they need to keep them away from IPL and have them play lots of four day cricket. The BCCI have the finances to take care of these bowlers and keep them fresh and ready for international cricket.

It is hard to imagine India competing overseas without a decent bowling attack. The bowlers seem to not worry too much about improving themselves after making the Indian team. Sometimes you question, are they working hard to play for the country or they just want to represent the country so that they will be considered in higher pay packet during the auction for IPL? This is a question which only the Indian bowlers can answer. Hopefully BCCI will finally wake up and realize that India needs a good cricket team and the organization is there to ensure that and not just to make money.

 

Champions Trophy – Confusing team selection

The Indian team for the upcoming Champions Trophy was announced a few days back and there were for sure some surprises. The biggest surprise was the selection of Murali Vijay. Vijay had a great home series against Australia in tests but he hasn’t done anything for India in shorter format to inspire any confidence among the fans. He has struggled for CSK in the ongoing IPL season and does not look like a right candidate for the ODI’s.

The selector’s argument is that Vijay is technically equipped to see off the new ball in England but again is he the right candidate to accelerate in the ODI format is the question everyone has in their mind. This seemed in the lines of Rahul Dravid’s selection in the 2009 Champions Trophy. Gautham Gambhir should probably have been selected in the squad for some experience in the top of the order. Gambhir has struggled in the recent times in all forms of cricket but again in the absence of Sehwag, Gambhir would have been an ideal player to have in those conditions.

Dinesh Karthik’s selection raised little concerns considering his brilliant form in recent times. He has been in excellent form in domestic cricket and also has done brilliantly well for Mumbai Indians in the current IPL edition. Shikhar Dhawan is another expected selection as he has been in wonderful form recently. He has been in brilliant form after returning from injury for the SRH in the current IPL season. Irfan Pathan makes a comeback to the Indian team as the bowling all-rounder. His comeback was expected as the champions trophy is being held in England and a pace bowling all-rounder in the X1 is an asset.

Amit Mishra’s selection raised a few eyebrows too as India already have Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja already in the squad. Mishra has been in brilliant form and his IPL performances this year have probably forced the selectors to include him in the squad. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the overall picture considering India already have two inform spinners in the squad.

The bowling attack is on the expected lines. Ishant Sharma will be leading the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan. Umesh Yadav is back in the squad after a long injury layoff and so is Bhuvneshwar Kumar after his brilliant performances in the home series against Pakistan and England. Ashwin will lead the spin attack with Jadeja taking the spin all-rounder spot. Vinay Kumar is yet another baffling selection. His good performances for RCB notwithstanding, he hasn’t done anything great in the past in Indian colors. Shami Ahmed who impressed one and all with his pace in the home series against England and Pakistan would have been a better choice. It will be a huge disappointment for the youngster to lose out after a good performance in the home series.

The team overall seems to light on experience especially in the batting department. The absence of Gambhir at the top of the order and Yuvraj in the middle will be a huge disadvantage for the team. In the absence of the experienced campaigners the onus will be completely on the trio of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli, since the rest of the batting order is either inexperienced or inconsistent.

The absence of Manoj Tiwary due to injury also played a part in selection but one would have expected Pujara to be selected in the squad to add some solidity. It will be very interesting to see the combination India would play in the tournament. It is going to be a tough tournament for India and it will be a challenging one for Dhoni and Fletcher to get the combination right.

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar