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Virat kohli_002

Photo : BCCI

Was It The Right Call Taken To Make Virat Kohli Open?

Even an in form batter – Virat Kohli- has been unable to find his feet in the ongoing ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup. The leading run-getter in the Twenty20 internationals before the start of the competition amassed 741 runs in 15 innings of the Tata-IPL_17, all as an opener, but in the three innings of the preliminary stage in New York, Kohli has been off-colour, making one run off five balls against Ireland, four off three balls against Pakistan and 0 off one ball against the USA. So he goes into the fourth match of the tournament – against Canada at Florida — facing a mere 10 balls and eager to get going before the start of the Super 8 stage phase of the World Cup in the West Indies. He has hit one boundary shot at the 34000-capacity Nassau County Stadium that’s dismantled after India’s third straight match there. The team’s think tank’s call to pair Rohit Sharma and Kohli as openers – to find balance in the playing XI — has not worked well so far. The champion batter has scored 405 runs as an opener (from 12 innings, including the three at Nassau) with one century and two fifties, but 3076 runs at No 3 with 32 fifties at No 3. He has also batted at numbers 4,5 and 6, but one-drop is his most productive position. His single-digit scores in the World Cup are the fourth in a row, dismissed as he was for 0 by Afghanistan in Bengaluru in January 2024. Kohli has disappointed New York, and the Pakistan captain Babar Azam has dislodged him from the top spot in the game’s shortest form.
Amol Kale

Will Amol Kale’s Untimely Death See A Politician Return As MCA President?

The untimely passing away of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) President Amol Kale, 47, following a cardiac arrest — hours after he saw the India-Pakistan ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup clash at the Nassau County ground in New York – could see heavyweights across parties come into play in a big way. Kale, a family friend of the Maharashtra State Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, defeated the 1983 World Cup star Sandeep Patil by 25 votes to become the MCA President in 2022. Right from the time of Seshrao Wankhede — who is credited with MCA breaking the umbilical cord with the Cricket Club of India (CCI) and bringing up its own stadium at `D’ Road, Churchgate fifty years ago — politicians like Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, Congress’s Vilasrao Deshmukh and BJP’s Ashish Shelar have called the shots as MCA President. The trend of politicians occupying the top post was broken by Vijay Patil, whose father was aligned with the NCP, and Kale, a friend of Fadnavis from his younger days in Nagpur.  Kale would have completed two three-year terms as vice president and president next year, but his sudden demise has caused a vacancy to be filled for 15 months. Vice-President Sanjay Naik will fill in as chair at official meetings for 45 days, by which time the MCA members, as per their Constitution, will have to elect a new President. Two years ago, the State government successfully pushed for the election of Kale. The million-dollar question now is: Will the BJP-Shiv Sena take a plunge into the high-stakes election scene or hand it on a platter to UBT Shiv Sena’s Milind Narvekar — an Apex Council member now — who is said to have good equations with one and all.
ajinkya_rahane_002

Ranji Champs Mumbai To Play With A Theme -- Home Of The Champions!

The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) began the fresh season 2024-2025 with a bang at the MCA’s Indoor Cricket facility at Bandra-Kurla Complex. And it pleased Milind Rege — whose heart and soul has been with Mumbai cricket for six decades as player, administrator, selector and advisor — no end. Sitting alongside the brilliant Mumbai stalwarts in Ajinkya Rahane, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur, Abhishek Nayar and Sarfaraz Khan, the former Mumbai all-rounder and captain Rege said the past is history and that he is looking forward to another bright and successful season during which the dressing rooms of different MCA teams — men and women and juniors and seniors — will have the running theme of “Home of the Champions”. Mumbai won the 42nd Ranji title three months ago, a performance that reflected teamwork of all concerned. Rege and Rahane thanked the MCA administration for its wholehearted support, in particular its President Amol Kale and the hands-on Secretary Ajinkya Naik. The season opener assembly — held three months in advance — enabled the cricketers to tell the 400 odd off season campers the importance of maintaining fitness in order to face challenges during the six month long season. The meeting was meant to happily convey to the boys and girls that MCA means serious business about its cricket, but with a great deal of passion. Soon the MCA will celebrate its golden jubilee of the Wankhede Stadium and what it can mull over is putting in place a museum which doesn’t seem to be taking off at all!
kuldeep chahal

`Kul-Cha’ Is Back On The Menu After 10 Months!

The most famous Indian ‘Kul-cha’, not of the tandoor variety, but derived from the first name of left-arm leg-spin-googly practitioner Kuldeep Yadav and the surname of conventional leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, can turn out to be quite handy for teams like Ireland, USA and Canada in the preliminary stage of the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in the USA. They were India’s top dog pair from September 6, 2017, after the mauling of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja by the Pakistan batters in the Champions Trophy final  (50 overs). The Kul-cha pair has taken 28 wickets in 15 innings, sending down 57 overs. Given a short shrift after 2018, Yadav played in nine matches in 2023 and took 14 wickets at 13.14. And Chahal’s 23 scalps in 2022 and nine in 2023 have compelled the decision-makers to plump for him for the ICC’s marquee event. Chahal has been a Twenty20 veteran, taking 98 wickets in eight years with an economy rate of 8.19, and Yadav has a collection of 59 scalps at an economy rate of 6.75. In the 2023 away series in the West Indies, Yadav took six wickets in four matches, and Chahal five wickets in as many matches, and with the Super 8 of the World Cup to be played in the West Indies, the team management took a logical call. They, together, did not feature in the previous four series against Ireland, South Africa, Australia and Afghanistan, adding to 14 matches. Chahal’s 18 wickets in the recent IPL tilted the scales in his favour juxtaposed against Ravi Bishnoi, unlucky to miss the bus, having taken 36 wickets for India in 24 matches since February 2022. Kul-cha will have to compete with another successful Twenty20 practitioner though in left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who has taken 36 wickets from 2022 from 37 matches.
icc mens t 20 WC

India Has To Cross The Ireland Hurdle First Before It Clashes With Pakistan

On the face of it, the Ireland hurdle in the first group match of the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in New York should not cause much anxiety to the Indian team. Yet, India has to make a bright start and get the winning points against a competitor from the British Isles. England and Scotland are not in the group India is in. Ireland has played 166 Twenty20 internationals in 16 years and has won 72 and lost 86 with the other eight matches being tied (1) abandoned (3) or not producing a result (4). It has never got the better of India in seven outings from 2009. The most recent clash between the two teams happened in August 2023 that actually marked Jasprit Bumrah’s return to mainstream cricket after a long injury related break. In fact Bumrah was the captain of the team that won by two runs (adjusted target in a rain affected match) and 33 runs. Prasidh Krishna, Ravi Bishnoi and Washington Sundar were part of the bowling attack then, apart from Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh and Shivam Dubey. Ireland has beaten Bangladesh and Pakistan and hence are capable of causing an upset. Whatever may be the conditions in New York on June 5, Rohit Sharma’s team has to win two points before the big clash against Pakistan on June 9. India’s other two matches are against USA and Canada.
chandrakant pandit_002

Photo : IPL

Chandu `Guru' Pandit Has Played His Part For KKR!

Gautam Gambhir is hogging all the limelight mentoring Shah Rukh Khan’s IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, into the final of the World’s most acclaimed Twenty20 league for the third time. The former Delhi left-hander, who played pivotal in India’s splendid 2011 ICC World Cup win against Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankhede Stadium, led KKR to IPL title triumphs in 2012 and 2014. So it is happy tidings for KKR, which has entered the title match in grand style, disposing of Rajasthan Royals in the qualifier 1 in Mumbai. While Gambhir deserves all the accolades, the team’s Chief Coach, Chandrakant Pandit, has, without making all the noise, guided the team’s Indian component and also shared knowledge with the overseas players. After playing, Pandit plunged into coaching; having learned the art of leadership and coaching from the former Mafatlal and Mumbai captain Ashok Mankad. Likeable but tough, Pandit has shown cricketers from Mumbai, Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh how to play a long multiple-day Ranji Trophy league and win the title.  He has also coached the teams of Maharashtra and Kerala.  Last year, KKR finished seventh in the league, but this season, it has stunned one and all, topping the leaderboard and winning the first playoff with Shreyas Iyer at the helm. Pandit is 62 and cannot even think of a role with India’s national team. But the smart cricketer raised in the Mumbai maidans and in the Mumbai dressing room filled with legends of Indian cricket would be a happy man. Winning the title on Sunday (May 26) will make him doubly happy and bring joy to his dear and near ones.
gavaskar party

What A Party, Mr. SMG!

Like his eye-pleasing straight drives, among other copybook strokes, Sunil Gavaskar has warmed the cockles of many a heart over nine years and seven gatherings by throwing a party to his friends, acquaintances, and cricketers from his school and club days. Some were many, many years older than him, like former Test cricketers Nari Contractor, Chandu Borde, and Chandu Patankar. A superb all-rounder in his days, Borde, 89, came from Pune accompanied by Raju Metha of Sunny’s Sports. Patankar – one of the great Col. CK Nayudu’s favourites — is 93, and Nari Contractor, 90, a resident of South Mumbai, drew much of the attention. So did Chandu Joshi,92, Rajasthan’s leggie of the past and excellent standing, making the road trip Pune-Mumbai-Pune for seven hours and in between spending a breezy four hours at the bash where everyone was trying hard to, as they say, “paint the town red.” The little master shuffled towards the golden gang and welcomed them with a delightful: “Ah, here are the youngsters” as the “Indus Club” chatter at BKC Mumbai began to raise its decibel level. Everyone would agree with SMG’s Instagram post that a handful, most notably Tukaram Surve and Avinash Karnik, were missed. The much looked forward “SMG Party” had the charming presence of many Bombay and Mumbai boys, including Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar, Sandip Patil, Milind Rege and Abdul Ismail. Three times each at the MCA- BKC and the Indus Club and once at the Cricket Club of India…where next, Mr Gavaskar! Only Anil Joshi can tell us all, come next year.
rohit sharma_017

SunRisers Hyderabad Offers Rohit Sharma A Blank Cheque And IPL Captaincy?

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  If Rohit Sharma is unhappy at Mumbai Indians, a team with whose success in the IPL he was involved with on five occasions, he may have just been given a valuable escape route. A blank cheque for the transfer as well as captaincy of the SunRisers Hyderabad are on offer from the owners, it is learnt. Hyderabad is a city Rohit is familiar with as he was originally a Deccan Chargers pick in the early IPL seasons when once he famously met a 21-run target in the final over to win a game for his then home team. The transfer of Hardik Pandya from Gujarat Titans was the talk of IPL Season 17 and he was brought over by Nita Ambani who, in tandem with her son Anant, is in charge of the popular franchise Mumbai Indians. But so disruptive was the Pandya influence on the season that many established MI stars might be thinking of transferring out and are scouting for offers. There are some who are also waiting to put their names when the mega auction comes along. It is Kavya Maran’s carte blanche offer for Rohit that is the most interesting among options ahead of Rohit who was first in a winning IPL team in 2009 when he was with Deccan Chargers.  His decision is keenly awaited by the Marans.
BCCI_001

BCCI In Search Of A Suitable Boy For The Indian Team, Come July!

  The head-hunting process — to find a suitable boy for the exalted position of head coach of the Indian cricket team across the three formats — has begun. Perhaps for the first time in 10 years, the opportunity for an overseas talent has presented itself.  The BCCI has invited applications for the same, with a closing date of May 27. Not anybody and everybody can apply for a job that entails expectations around skill sets, man management and a lot more. The BCCI is not yet inclined to employ independent coaches for the conventional Test or white-ball formats. It has been a decade or so since the national team has been working under three home-grown coaches – all distinguished former India cricketers Ravi Shastri, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid. The question that Indian cricket would be faced with — assuming that Dravid has made up his mind to bid adieu to the position he holds now – is whether the BCCI is ready to look at overseas options. The national team has not had issues with Shastri and Dravid, but the surmise is that Kumble was forced out because of one or two stalwarts not liking his style of functioning. John Wright, Greg Chappell, Gary Kirsten and Duncan Fletcher had their time with the Indian team, and among the four, only Chappell’s ways did not go down well with a few senior players. The money for the job will be tempting and the Indian talent would not mind spending 10 months away from home for three years, but an overseas talent will think hard.
Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli's Strike Of 9.31 An Over Is His Best In The IPL

While the Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Virat Koli has been pilloried for his alleged slow scoring in the Tata-IPl-17, he has a scoring rate of 9. 31 for a tally of 661 runs in 13 matches which gives him the pride of place as the leading Indian opener in the 10-team league. The three overseas openers who have a superior scoring rate are Australian left-hander and Sunrisers Hyderabad opener Travis Head (11 matches, 533, 12.11), Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) Sunil Narine (12 matches, 461, 10.98) and England and KKR opener Phil Salt (12 matches, 435 runs, 10.97). Kohli has one more match, wins it for his side and places it in contention for a playoff berth. Kohli has hit one century and five half-centuries this season and is the holder of the Orange Cap for being the highest run-getter. Travis Head, Chennai Super Kings’ captain Ruturaj Gaikwad, and a few more are in the running to displace Kohli for the Orange Cap. Kohli’s scoring rate in 242 IPL innings is 7.91, and as an opener, it is 8.29. Kohli is going through a remarkable phase in the League; his scoring rate of 9.31 is the best across all batting positions since the start in 2008. In 109 innings for India, his scoring rate is 8.29, which has gotten him into the all-time top 15 batters in the world. No wonder Chairman of the Selection Committee Ajit Agarkar said they don’t talk about Kohli’s scoring rate in Twenty20 matches or otherwise!
KL Rahul _Sanjiv

Rahul-Goenka Episode Did Not Make For A Pleasant Picture

The visuals from the cricket stadium in Uppal, Secunderabad, where the home team Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Lucknow SuperGiants hollow, conveyed anything but warmth between the owner of the Lucknow team, Sanjiv Goenka and the team captain, KL Rahul. The boundary line episode for a few minutes mirrored Goenka’s disappointment at the team going down without a fight – LSG lost the match by 10 wickets to the Sunrisers — and allegedly getting into a stern talk with Rahul who has been going through difficult times, even not considered by the selection committee and team management for the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 in the USA and West Indies. The injury to express fast bowler Mayanak Yadav has largely made the LSG bowling department without firepower, resulting in the team winning only half of the 12 matches it has played.  With two more matches to be played against the playoff hopeful, Delhi Capitals, and the down and out Mumbai Indians, the Rahul-led team can still qualify for the knock-out part of the Tata-IPL-17. Rahul has played 197 matches for India across formats. The cricket fan has never seen the courteous cricketer being given a public dressing down by the BCCI officials or the captains and coaches he has played under. Only three people were in the visual – Goenka, Rahul and an LSG support staff – and one could not lip-read what a seemingly worked up Goenka was telling Rahul, but it certainly did not make a pleasant picture!
Rinku singh

Photo : BCCI

Rinku Singh Is Plain Unlucky!

  Rinku Singh has awe-inspiring numbers in 15 Twenty20 internationals for the men in blue. The numbers are: 11 innings, seven times not out, 356 runs, balls faced 202, average of 89, highest score of 69 not out, 2 x 50s, scoring rate of 10.57 an over, 20 x 6s, 31x 4s and seven catches. He has not bowled a single over. He has featured in 11 wins against Ireland, Nepal, Bangladesh, Australia, South Africa and Afghanistan. In comparison, Shivam Dube — almost four years older than the Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata Knight Riders left-hander– has played 21 Twenty20 internationals, 14 innings, seven times not out, 276 runs from 190 balls, scoring rate 8.72, 15 x6s, 19x 4s, 11 catches and he has taken eight wickets bowling 36.3 overs. He has featured in 14 wins against Bangladesh, West Indies, New Zealand, Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan. It has to be construed that skipper Rohit Sharma would have preferred Dube to Rinku because, as he revealed at a media interaction, he will use him as a bowler when necessary. Sharma and the selectors also preferred a second left-arm spinner, Axar Patel (an injury forced him out of the 50-over World Cup), because he has been India’s leading spinner, playing 37 matches since January 2022. He has taken 36 wickets at an economy rate of 7.54. He also scored 282 runs. It’s just that Sharma chose an additional left-arm finger spinner (in addition to Ravindra Jadeja) apart from two wrist spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Rinku – a travelling reserve now – was plain unlucky not to make the cut for the ICC event in the USA and West Indies.
rohit ajit

Photo : BCCI

Ajit Agarkar Says Picked Indian Team, Not IPL-2024!

Ajit Agarkar looks far from stressed when it comes to selecting Indian teams. The 46-year-old who took 349 wickets across formats for India as an attacking seamer, looks lean and mean and fit enough to compete even today with the red and white ball. The chairman of the BCCI’s senior national selection committee since July 2023, the former Mumbai and India all-rounder who fashioned India’s spectacular victory against Australia in the Adelaide Test of 2003 with an incisive spell of 6 for 41 in the second innings and who can brag about of Lord’s century against England in 2002 articulated at a press conference on Thursday (May 2) that his committee, more or less aligned itself with the needs of the captain Rohit Sharma for the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 in the USA and Caribbean Islands. Agarkar made it plain and simple that his committee picked a 15-member Indian team and not an IPL-2024-XV. Even the selection of Sanju Samson when juxtaposed against KL Rahul (for the second stumper’s slot) was based on the six hitting prowess of the Keralite, and the boundary shots he hit in the ongoing IPL only selection in his favour. Similarly, Shivam Dube’s unbeaten knocks of 60 and 63 in the last series against Afghanistan, followed by his long-lever hitting in the Tata-IPL-17 ensured his selection for the first-time bash under the American sky. Without having to say so by either Agarkar or the captain Rohit Sharma, the rest of the team has been picked on the runs and wickets when turning out for the men in blue team.
hardik pandya_003

Photo : IPL

Hardik Pandya's 'Runs And Wickets' For The Men In Blue Was The Clincher!

Once the news broke out that Hardik Pandya was set to return to the Mumbai Indians for the ongoing Tata-IPL Season 17, he has been the hot topic of conversations.  The India all rounder has also been the butt of criticism for his dismal show in the league, but numbers — 197 runs at a high scoring rate of 11 an over and six wickets at 42.17 after 10 matches puts him among the top six all rounders in the league. The selectors were satisfied with his fitness after his recovery from an ankle injury of his landing foot, and the fact that he sent down 23 overs also could not be ignored, although they would have liked to see him more proactive with the ball. What the selectors considered it necessary to look at was his display with the bat (359 runs in 19 Twenty20 internationals) and ball (19 wickets at 21.11) after the last Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. Pandya’s overall record in Twenty20 internationals is 1348 runs and 73 wickets with a strike rate of 19.63. Moreover, he is a classy fielder and has led India in 16 matches with a success percentage 62.50. So it was his performance for the Men in Blue that gave weightage to his choice as a player and vice -captain for the Twenty20 World Cup in the USA and West Indies. Had he not gone down with the ankle injury in the World Cup match against Bangladesh last October, Pandya, a game-changer, would have probably been the team’s captain.
Rohit virat_002

Photo : BCCI

Indian Cricket's "Beau Geste" To Rohit Sharma And Virat Kohli

Indian cricket, nay the BCCI’s selection committee, will do a Beau Geste (beautiful gesture) to both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli by picking them for the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 in the USA and Caribbean. Perhaps Ravindra Jadeja, too.  While the two batters are the top two run-getters in the Twenty20 format in the world, their appearance for India since India’s last World Twenty20 match against England in Adelaide on November 10, 2022, has been a little something; after a gap of 14 months, Sharma played the three-match series against Afghanistan (0,0, 121), and Kohli played two against Afghanistan (29,0). Jadeja has played in two matches since August 2022, missing many because of injury. With Hardik Pandya going down in the home 50-over World Cup last year, the selectors returned to the old war horses Sharma and Kohli. With Hardik being made the India Twenty20 captain in January 2022, Sharma and Kohli did not fit into the Twenty20 scheme of things. But the ankle-related injury to Hardik in the World Cup match against Bangladesh in Pune paved the way for Sharma and Kohli’s recall. After the semi-final exit in 2022, India has played 28 Twenty20 internationals and the leading batters have been Suryakumar Yadav (857 runs),  Yashasvi Jaiswal (502), Ruturaj Gaikwad (365), Rinku Singh (356), Shubman Gill (339), Tilak Varma (336), Ishan Kishan (253) and Hardik (231). The leading wicket-takers have been Arshdeep Singh (33 wickets), Ravi Bishnoi (20), Axar Patel (15), Kuldeep Yadav (15), Mukesh Kumar (12), Hardik and Yuzvendra Chahal (11 each). In a few days, the India squad will be announced for the World Twenty20, and we will know whether performance in the IPL counts!
ishan yashasvi

Sharma-Kishan Or Sharma-Jaiswal As Openers, Not Sharma-Kohli For ICC World Twenty20

If the BCCI’s national selection committee apply the performance in the Tata-IPL-17 as the yardstick, then Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan should be the top choice opening pair for the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean starting in June. Sharma and Kishan have made 332 runs in eight matches with one century, and the three 50-plus stands for the first wicket partnership, the best by miles by an Indian opening pair in the ongoing IPL. Mumbai Indians are going through a rough ride in the league this season, but Sharma and Kishan have given roaring starts in the first six over power play. Sharma and KL Rahul are India’s best, with 1412 runs in 34 matches, and Sharma and Kishan have opened in six games. Kohli has scored 3076 of his 4037 at No 3 with 32 x 50 plus knocks, and hence, India should look at him at the one drop position. Kohli, Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rahul, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Kishan are some openers who have been in good nick in the IPL. Sharma with Kishan (also a wicketkeeper) and Jaiswal fit nicely as a right-left combination. Moreover, Jaiswal has played 16 Twenty20 internationals and scored 502 runs with one century and four half-centuries.  And so it should be either Jaiswal or Kishan with Sharma as the opening pair and not Sharma and Kohli. Numbers do not support Kohli to be picked as an opener.
sunil gavaskar_002

Another "Jeevan Puraskar" For Sunil Gavaskar In San Jose, California

Sunil Gavaskar is a big draw wherever he goes in India and abroad; thanks to his splendid deeds with bat right from the debut series against the West Indies in 1971, he has a massive fan following across the cricketing world and beyond. In recognition of his yeoman service to cricket and other walks of life for half a century and more, the Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal (BMM) in the USA has chosen him for the Jeevan Puraskar, an award that will be conferred upon him at a four-day function in San Jose, California from June 27 to 30. The BMM represents 54 marathi organisations in North America. Apart from his achievements in the cricket field, he has been the face of Indian cricket via the media expert route. He is quietly doing charity work for a number of NGOs and other organisations especially for the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital. The BMM’s biennial event in California is likely to be attended by other personalities from India and people from Maharashtra who have settled in the USA. During the four-day social gathering Gavaskar will get a chance to interact with the local milieu, and the champion orator that he is, Gavaskar will regale the audience with his terrific wit in Marathi and English. Of course Gavaskar is likely to be in the USA for cricket’s major show there; for the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in New York and Florida — the two cities the Indian team will play in the group stage matches.
jasprit bumrah 002

Bumrah Imposing In IPL, Siraj Quite Ordinary!

With a little over seven weeks left for the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 to start in New York for the men in the blue team, the BCCI’s senior selection committee ought to be anxious about the form demonstrated by its leading lights — barring the notable exception of Jasprit Bumrah — in the fast bowling department. Bumrah has been exceptional, imposing himself upon the batters with a high degree of consistency; turning out for the beleaguered Mumbai Indians, he even bagged his second five-for in the home match against Royal Challengers Bengaluru. In six Tata-IPL season 17 matches, Bumrah has bowled 24 overs for returns of 10 wickets at 14.60 apiece. But his partner, Mohammed Siraj, has sent down 22 overs in six matches for RCB and taken four wickets at a high cost of 57.25, numbers similar to the 2022 season when he took nine wickets at 57.11 in 15 matches. But in the IPL-16, he took 19 wickets at 19.74 in 15 matches, numbers reflecting the blow-hot, blow-cold nature of the shortest format. Khaleel Ahmed (Delhi Capitals), Mohit Sharma (Gujarat Titans), Arshdeep Singh (Punjab Kings), Harshal Patel (Punjab Kings), Umesh Yadav (Gujarat Titans), Yash Thakur (Lucknow SuperGiants) and a few more are in the list of wicket-takers (5-6 band). Lucknow Super Giant’s Mayank Yadav was sensational in two matches before a side strain rendered him out of action. Luckily, the selectors have a fortnight to name the initial squad for the big show in the USA and Caribbean. Of much interest will be the news of Yadav’s fitness.
WA

World Athletics Set A New Trend, To Give Away $50,000 Cash Prize To Gold Medal Winners

A prize of $ 50000 each to the 48 gold medal winners of the Track and Field events at the Paris Summer Olympics in July –August 2024 may not be seen as a jackpot by the particular fraternity. Still, the sum is not pocket money either! It’s the sentiment that counts, and the World Athletics (WA) decision to disburse $ 2.4 million to the gold medallists in Paris — a portion of the revenue WA receives from the quadrennial Olympics — is a move that could trigger similar initiatives from other international sports federations. WA needs to be applauded, particularly its president, Sebastian Coe, a distinguished middle-distance runner who won gold medals at the Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984) Olympics. India’s own Adille Sumariwalla, a sprinter-achiever, an Olympian and administrator (president of the Athletics Federation of India), was part of the WA decision as its Council member. The medal winners at the Olympics do not receive cash prize money, and hence, the WA decision would compensate the gold medal winners in a big way. The silver and bronze medal winners will likely get a cash prize from the WA but from the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. An Indian track and field athlete will receive Rs 41 lakh plus should they win a gold medal in Paris, and as of now, it looks as though only javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra can win the gold; he won at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
mayank yadav

Mayank Yadav, A Genuine Quick Arrives

The last week in the Tata-IPL-17 has been all about the thrills and frills provided by a speed merchant who has made the cricket world sit up and take notice of him, and the fans have shown the appetite to see his explosive deeds, more and more. Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) fast bowler Mayank Yadav has awakened people and more significantly has not given peace of mind to the batters in the Twenty20 league; the speed he has generated consistently at 150 km plus, the lift of the pitch he has extracted and directed the white ball within the stumps, meaning accuracy, has been compelling action to watch. The 21-year-old from Delhi has been trigger-happy like, keen to cause the batters’ downfall in a jiffy. In two matches against Preity Zinta’s Punjab Kings and the United Spirits-owned Royal Challengers Bengaluru,  Mayank returned 3/27 and 3/14 and his fans were saying: Aur Bahut Kuch Baaki Hai. The IPL is a long way from the finishing line and the LSG skipper KL Rahul will deploy him in such a way to ensure his team’s entry into the playoffs. The million dollar question though is whether the BCCI’s selection committee with Ajit Agarkar in the chair will, without batting an eyelid, put him in action against Ireland and thereafter Pakistan and USA during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the USA and West Indies in June. There is already a clamour for it!
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Mumbai Indians Branding Upgrades Wankhede Stadium Look

Thanks to Reliance Industries, aka the Ambani family that own the IPL team, Mumbai Indians, and their constant endeavour to make the venue spectator-friendly, the Wankhede Stadium was not only a sea of blue for the first home match of Season 17 between Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, but the 50-year-old stadium at D Road, Churchgate itself looked classy and grand with its branding team giving emphasis to the team’s luminous blue in elements inside and outside the stadium. MI has always made refreshing changes to its branding during the IPL matches depicting its entire team and bringing in themes like the “Mumbai Meri Jaan” theme song. The team symbol, Sudarshan Chakra is another striking part of the MI branding. The only disappointment for the “Mumbai Paltan” on Monday (April 1) was that their favourite team went down to Rajasthan Royals. The Jaipur franchise is making up a lot for Rajasthan’s dismal displays in the Ranji Trophy against Mumbai. The nearly full house stadium expressed its fondness for Rohit Sharma shouting “Rohit, Rohit, Rohit” and booing the new captain Hardik Pandya. But a big part of the crowd applauded Pandya’s bold, big and brave shots as he began the process of repairing the damage inflicted by left-arm seamer Trent Boult. The spectators had a good fill of the overall atmosphere and would be hoping for winning results in the forthcoming matches.
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Photo : @ChennaiIPL

Chennai Super Kings Driving Its Fans Into The Mood!

If the flavour of the Indian summer is the Tata-IPL-17, the fortunes of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are followed by a frenzy that is matchless! The team bought by India Cements for $ 90 million has been a 10-time finalist and 5-time winner, all under the stewardship of “Thalaiva” Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The 226-time captain of the team in 14 seasons (the team was suspended for two seasons), MSD — he passed on the captaincy mantle to Ruturaj Gaikwad before the start of the ongoing season — is still the league’s biggest draw. CSK in its “Manjal” (yellow in English) is known more for getting its nuts and bolts right when giving shape to the composition of the squad and the playing XI. CSK has made a roaring start to its campaign and looks like the team to beat for the title. The unprecedented 6th title is on the way is the refrain amongst its fans and with a number of breathtaking batters and match winners in its line up, and equally efficient bowlers accustomed to seeing through their side past the finishing line. CSK would like to clinch the trophy for its fans, Dhoni and team promoter N Srinivasan, who must have been disappointed that Tamil Nadu did not win the Ranji Trophy. Two wins on its home turf at the Chepauk against the Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Gujarat Titans, in a most convincing manner, is just what the doctor ordered for its fans to get into the mood.
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Shabash Mumbai Cricket Association, But You Can Walk The Extra Mile!

  While a Mumbai cricket faithful would like to say “Shabash” to the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) for becoming the avant-gardist in Indian cricket by announcing a like-for-like match fee (if the BCCI fee is Re 1 we will top it up with an equivalent sum for each match day) to its Ranji Trophy cricketers from the next season (2024-2025), the 42-time winner of the national championship has not walked the extra mile; it has not put in place an annual retainer programme. The other members of the BCCI should take a leaf out of the MCA book that augments the first-class cricketers’ monetary resources from a single season; they cannot say they don’t have the money. Looking at a broader canvas, an annual retainer programme will be a most welcome development for hundreds of Ranji Trophy players. The borderline lot who warm the bench need more financial security/incentive. Every Ranji Trophy player in the country will doff his hat to the MCA which awarded a team bonus of Rs 5 crore to the Ajinkya Rahane-led team for winning the Ranji Trophy recently. The BCCI has loosened its purse strings and disbursed a substantial percentage to its members — Rs 100 crore or thereabout every fiscal is not small money. The performance (results achieved) of its team in the BCCI tournaments is a true and only reflection of its strength. So Messrs Amol Kale/Ajinkya Naik and the MCA Apex Council, you can take a step further now. The topping up of per day match fee could have been from the just concluded season too.
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Photo : @imVkohli

Virat "King" Kohli In Action After A 77-Day Break!

The $ 10 billion Indian Premier League (IPL) will get off the ground at the good old Chepauk on Friday (Mar 22). And it’s a no-brainer that attention will bolt down on the Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Virat Kohli who has not faced a ball in a competition after the second innings of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town, which means he will be facing a Chennai Super Kings bowler in the Tata IPL-17 lung opener after a 77-day break from the game. Virat has played 237 matches (229 innings) and scored 7263 runs — the highest in the League — but he and his fans are yet to see RCB lift the trophy. Now the RCB men can only be second best to its women’s team that cracked the code to win the WPL! Last year, Virat  (he doesn’t like being hailed as King Kohli) scored 639 runs with  2x100s. The champion batter has shown loyalty to the franchise bought in 2008 for $ 111.6 million, owned by United Spirits Ltd, a Diageo Group company. The cricketing world, especially India’s selection committee chaired by Ajit Agarkar, captain Rohit Sharma and Head Coach Rahul Dravid will be keen to see how Virat shapes up in the league. Virat is a big brand which will be present at the ICC Men’s Twenty 20 to be exhibited in New York, Florida and Texas, apart from Caribbean venues. The interest will be around how the champion is hitting the ball!
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Photo : Mumbai Indians

Has Hardik Greeted Rohit With A "Hi Buddy"?

Is the Rohit Sharma-Hardik Pandya (Mumbai Indians) captaincy saga sticking out like a sore thumb? On the face of it, the answer is a definite yes. From what Hardik said at an IPL pre-season interaction with the media it appears that they have not said “Hi buddy” to each other for a long time.  MI is a five-time winner of the IPL and the owners — the Ambanis of the RIL — want more silverware in their cupboard. All action happened in November last when the IPL confirmed the trade-off between MI and Gujarat Titans and, subsequently Hardik was named the captain. Rohit was dislodged after a 163-match run (158 in IPL and 5 in the 2013 Champions League) as captain with five IPL titles in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 and one CL20 title in 2013 and this change of guard made the Rohit bandwagon squeal against Hardik. All said and done Hardik (92 matches for MI) crippled with an ankle injury for a few months, is the MI chieftain and he will be his own man. He said, “he (Rohit) will always be there to help me out if I need his help.” Hardik has led the Gujarat Titans to a title win in 2022 and only CSK’s Ravindra Jadeja stopped him from a repeat in 2023. Hardik has a near 71 % win record for the Titans (22 wins from 31). He has had lower back and ankle injury issues for two years. Can he withstand the 14-match league run from March 24 when MI and GT lock horns at the Narendra Modi Stadium?
Cricket associations

Time Overdue To Award Annual Contract To Ranji Trophy Players

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) annual retainer or contract was introduced with the primary intention of providing financial security to the potential India players (Test and white ball) based on their performance in the preceding season (Oct-Sep). While the past (monthly gratis and medical cover) and present players have been receiving monetary assistance from the BCCI’s policy of looking after the welfare of a select group, women included, the reluctance on the part of the member associations to follow suit for its players who take part in the BCCI tournaments is most baffling. Recently the BCCI went a step further offering an incentive (match fee) to prioritise Test cricket /domestic first-class cricket. It’s seen as a most welcome move with a player capped in nine Tests from October to September getting Rs 5.4 crore (9 x Rs 60 lakh). The domestic players not on the BCCI’s retainer list need to be provided financial security by their State just as those who play for India.  The BCCI members reportedly receive Rs 100 crore as annual subvention from the BCCI and hence they are in a position to frame a retainer policy and disburse a few crore for its players, mainly those who play the Ranji Trophy.  If the BCCI truly believes that domestic cricket is important then it must tell its members to institute a retainer policy for its players. Immediately! Someone has to give it a start. POWERED BY IDFC FIRST
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Shardul Thakur Lights Up Ranji Trophy!

Shardul Thakur, not in action in the ongoing Test series against England, is giving his best shot for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy tournament played over multiple days. Thakur took the responsibility of bailing his team out against Tamil Nadu in the semi-final. Thakur’s enterprise with the bat and ball mirrored a Mumbai cricketer who wears the Lion crest with an immense sense of pride and dignity. Mumbai in pursuit of its 42nd Ranji Trophy triumph brushed aside the challenge posed by Baroda in the quarter final, but it was in dire straits against Tamil Nadu before Thakur’s brave heart knock of a century and superb effort with the ball put paid to the Southern India team’s aspirations. Thakur’s game-changing effort came on the heels of a record-breaking century from tail-enders Tanush Kotian and Tushar Deshpande against Baroda. Thus Mumbai demonstrated its wherewithal and ambition to reach the title match against Vidarbha which will be hoping to walk into serendipity and win the title for the third time. This season Mumbai has not once been able to field its full team (for all matches)   that in the absence of a home internationals, would have had the following big batters:   Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav (injured), Ajinkya Rahane, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shah, Sarfaraz Khan and Shivam Dube and all-rounder Thakur. Mumbai lost to Uttar Pradesh in a group match but showed its backup strength to reach the final to start at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Vidarbha will fancy its chances after getting past Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
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Photo : BCCI

Ravichandran Ashwin Set For A Memorable Century

After breaching the 500-wicket mark in Test cricket, Ravichandran Ashwin is on the verge of another magnificent landmark of turning out in 100 Tests. The 37-year-old is set to play his 100th Test against England in Dharamsala on March 7. The significance of the fantastic feat gets enhanced when one takes into account the fact that only 76 cricketers (from 3174) have been capped in 100 Tests and more. For some reason or the other Ashwin did not feature in 24 Tests after his debut against the West Indies in November 2011. The tall off-break bowler who bowls the stock ball (turning from off to leg) and many variations, is only the eighth spinner who has taken 100 wickets and more to reach the magic marking of 100 Tests. The others are Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Nathan Lyon, Harbhajan Singh, Daniel Vettori, Anil Kumble and Carl Hooper. He will be the 14th Indian to compete in Test cricket for such a long time. Ashwin has not only excelled with the ball taking 507 wickets (354 at home and 153 abroad in 40 Tests which is the second highest after Kumble’s 269 wickets in 69 Tests overseas), but he has also scored 3309 runs with five centuries and 14 half-centuries. He has held 33 catches. 100 Test caps is a remarkable feat his family, the cricketing fraternity in his home State of Tamil Nadu and India will be proud of. He has been part of 58 Test wins, the highest by any Indian bowler.   
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Mr Roger Binny, The Iron Fist Policy Is Not Done!

Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan have received the short end of the stick — not offered the annual retainership —  for not showing commitment to the Ranji Trophy tournament. Iyer has to face the consequence because he did not play against Baroda and Kishan, not a match this ongoing 2023-2024 season. Iyer played against Andhra a month ago.  The tournament began in the first week of January 2024 and the BCCI issued an advisory to its members in mid-February that players with annual retainership must play in the premier tournament when not on duty for India. So it’s the whims and fancies of someone in the system responsible for the   “must play Ranji Trophy” idea being introduced mid-way through the tournament that has advanced to the semi-final stage; unfair to the players of the teams taking part in the tournament. India Head Coach Rahul Dravid was the one who went public saying that Kishan could come back (after taking a break from national duty in South Africa) after playing in the Ranji Trophy.  The mid-season rule would not have come about without the knowledge of Dravid and the India captain Rohit Sharma. Just because they were seen training allegedly with their IPL teams is a flimsy reason not to consider them for the annual retainership. The BCCI with World Cup star Roger Binny as its president ought to have shown sagacity and dealt with it in a better way, and not by showing its iron fist.
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Photo : BCCI

From Jurel Who? To Jurel The Hero!

When the national selectors chose Dhruv Jurel in the squad for the first two Tests against England in mid-January, there were plenty who shrugged their shoulders and asked: Jurel who? Such was the surprise element in his selection as a spare stumper to Kona Bharat for the Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. With KL Rahul not in the scheme of things as the primary ‘keeper — which he was in South Africa — the choice fell upon Bharat who had donned the big gloves in the previous four-Test home series against Australia. The concussion-related like-for-like rule fast-tracked Jurel’s entry into the big league of Test cricket, more so after Ishan Kishan was ‘discarded’ from the selection process. For many talent scouts, Jurel held promise in 2020 when he led India in the under -19 World Cup; then Rajasthan Royals made him its main ‘keeper for IPL 2023. The national selector kept an eye on him and plumped for him for the opening two Tests,  After the Visakhapatnam Test,  Head Coach Rahul Dravid and Captain Rohit Sharma firmed up to look at Jurel as a serious option from the third Test in Rajkot. Bharat’s poor returns with the bat cost him a lot. Thereafter Jurel — son of a Kargil War soldier — has only excelled in front and behind the stumps; his brilliant 90 and 39 ensured India victory in the Ranchi Test and thereby the series 3-1. He’s been top-class with the big gloves too.  So far, so good… Jurel!
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Photo : BCCI

Resting Bumrah Not A Wise Call Says Karsan Ghavri

India took the field for the fourth Test against England in Ranchi without its best bowler in the series, Jasprit Bumrah. The BCCI explained that Bumrah has been rested taking into account the “duration of the series” and the workload he has taken in recent times. It takes some guts to keep a player, nay a match-winner in many ways in the previous two Tests in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot, out of a winning combination. England would not be disappointed with the decision taken by the Indian team, selectors and the BCCI. With India leading 2-1 in the five-Test series the “rest Bumrah” call has not gone down well with former India left-arm seamer Karsan Ghavri. “When you are getting a chance to play for India, keep playing. The series is in a vital stage and to rest a key player in the middle of a series is not a wise call” said Ghavri who has taken 100 plus Test wickets. Beset with injuries to key players, India has been handicapped to field a full-strength team in the last three years. The national team’s head coach Rahul Dravid pointed out this aspect after winning the second Test in Visakhapatnam. Ghavri added:  “Bumrah could have taken a break after the fate of the series is decided, as much as he wants.” India may win the fourth Test in Ranchi and thereby the series, but England thinks it can win the series 3-2. So was it the right call to rest Bumrah for the Ranchi Test?
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Photo : BCCI

Rohit Sharma Guarded On Yashasvi Jaiswal

Skipper Rohit Sharma held back his assessment of Yashasvi Jaiswal’s spectacular display with the bat in the third Test against England at Rajkot. “I won’t say anything on Jaiswal. Everyone is talking about him. Let him play. He is playing well, it’s good for us and he is in good form. I am not going to say much more than that. Itna bas hai abhi ke liye (this should be enough for now). Seven Test matches is only a small sample to pass judgment on a player, but Jaiswal has played seven Test matches without a break and has already won admirers from the cricket world. The Mumbai left-hander Jaiswal began with a century on debut against the West Indies in last July, was put through the wringer in South Africa by its fast bowlers and in the home series, he has taken apart the English bowling. It’s not the question of hitting the World’s greatest swing and seam bowler Jimmy Anderson for three sixes in an over and much more, it’s the manner of his batting that has seen him take the centre stage. A natural striker of the ball, Jaiswal has flayed England’s top pacers Anderson and Mark Wood and the inexperienced spinners.  A double century each in the Visakhapatnam Test and another one in Rajkot has earned him kudos, but the skipper who has seen Jaiswal score 171, 209 and 214, chose to be guarded.  POWERED BY : IDFC FIRST BANK
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Photo : @sarfarazkhan977

Another Khan On The Horizon, His Name Is Sarfaraz!

Call it a lovely cameo or what not, Sarfaraz Khan gave a master class to not only respond to the England spinners, but also flay them with a kind of confidence that not a single Indian batter has been able to since the first Test in Hyderabad. The surface may have been amenable to stroke play without fear, but the young debutant’s raw nerves exposed to the highest level of the game for the first time, smashed the England spinners all over the park, with his penchant for the slog sweep evident against off break bowler Joe Root. Sarfaraz has been reminding the selection committee of his gifts for a few years now, and he got the nod once both KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer were not in the squad picked for the third Test. It was an emotional moment for the Khan family, especially for his father Naushad who has chaperoned his son right through his career and with a dream to see the day he would walk out to bat for India. Sarfaraz with 10 years of first class cricket behind him and tons of runs and a good number of centuries showed courage and skill for an hour and twenty minutes and proved that he has the goods to succeed in Test cricket. So another Khan has arrived, not in the tinsel world though.  Can India ignore him for the Twenty20 World Cup!
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Photo : BCCI

Ravichandran Ashwin Gets Ready For His 500th Wicket

Although off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has taken nine wickets in two of the ongoing Test series against England, it was not great going for the seasoned campaigner in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. The 37-year old has been taken apart by the sweep and reverse sweep shots employed by the England batters notably Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Joe Root. For the first time in the 36 Test series he has played over 12 years and three months, he has conceded in excess of four runs an over. His career average is under three runs an over. All said and done, Ashwin is on the lookout for his 500th wicket, a feat only the legendary leg spinner Anil Kumble (619 wickets) has achieved among Indians. He has 499 so far. He will be only the third finger spinner in the history of Test cricket to accomplish the unique record after Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800 wickets) and Australia’s Nathan Lyon (513). The Tamil Nadu bowler has turned out to be a match-winner in 56 Tests, with a majority of 42 at home and to a lesser number, 14 in overseas conditions. He has taken 25 wickets and more at five venues:  Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Nagpur. He has taken six wickets at Rajkot in a Test against the West Indies in October 2018. Ashwin will be keen to put this record behind so that he can focus to check the England batters who have been red hot with their flashing blades.
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Photo : BCCI

Can India's Batters Avoid The Airy-Fairy Shots?

Can some of the frontline batters of the Indian cricket team eschew playing the aerial shots in the remaining three Tests of the series against England? The ill-timed shots have caused their doom in recent times. There is no gainsaying the fact that the days of stonewalling are a thing of the past, one that would bring boredom during the six-hour action every day causing drawn results. The scoring rate, even on the not-so-perfect batting strips, has risen with England’s batters averaging 3.92 an over in the first two Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam as against India’s 3.27 an over. Thanks to Yashasvi Jaiswal’s 209 India reached 396 in the first innings of the second Test in Visakhapatnam; a score 40 runs short of the first innings In Hyderabad where the total was 436 but which could have been upwards of 550 if only India’s top five were thoughtful in shot selection.  Both Test matches did not go beyond the fourth day and hopefully, India’s batters will respond appropriately to Head Coach Rahul Dravid’s observation that decision-making on the issue of shot selection is crucial to piling up runs, especially in the first innings. So can the big batters of India’s top and middle order cut out the frills of hitting airy-fairy shots that they did in the first innings in Hyderabad?  Ground shots yield good returns, food for thought for the lines of Sharma & company.
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Photo : BCCI

Rahul Dravid Hits The Nail On Its Head!

  Rahul Dravid hit the nail on its head while saying that “reading the game and game situation” is paramount in cricket, in particular Test cricket. The most famous “Wall” of Indian cricket, whose cautious, mentality was recently acknowledged by the former South African fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, had without pointing fingers at any individual, said that India was short by 70 odd runs in the first innings of the first Test in Hyderabad, and again after the 106 run win in the second Test in Visakhapatnam, he pointed out that India’s first innings score was under par and that the score, instead of 396 should have been 450-475, especially with Yashasvi Jaiswal getting 209. The former England captain Michael Atherton, the Chief Cricket Correspondent of ‘The Times’ wrote that the top and middle order Indian batters were careless in the first innings in Hyderabad. He did not name individuals, but he was referring to the careless shots played by Rohit Sharma, Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul. India’s head coach m said that it’s all about understanding that (reading the situation)and knowing that they are making the right decision to put them (the opponent) under pressure or recognise that this is the moment to soak in the pressure and be a little bit more conservative rather than attack. India lost the first Test partially because it was not able to score 500 plus in the first innings. 
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Photo : X

It's Tom Hartley In Hyderabad, Will Shoaib Bashir Follow Suit In Vizag?

The story of the India versus England Test series so far has been the champion Indian batters being foxed by a tyro orthodox left-arm spinner in Tom Hartley in the first Test. Handed over the Test cap by former England captain Michael Atherton — both from Lancashire — the 24-year-old spinner was carted by Yashasvi Jaiswal in the first innings, but without showing any feelings of being embarrassed, Hartley, 6.4 ft in his socks, ran amok taking seven wickets in the second innings and inflicted a shocking defeat on India. The right-hand wrist spinner Rehan Ahmed turned out to be ordinary though. Now in the second Test, England which created a ruckus about Shoaib Bashir not being given the entry permit on time has included the off-spinner in the XI for the second Test. England which has been advertising the aggressive brand of cricket to sustain interest in the multi-day Test cricket has taken outrageous calls while choosing personnel, it has been peculiar for the five-Test series in India.  It may have erred in choosing its most experienced left-arm spinner, Jack Leach because of his hamstring and knee-related ailments, but Bashir was not available for selection because he did not have the Indian visa in Abu Dhabi where England ran the preparatory camp for 10 days.  But Hartley grabbed the opportunity and stunned the home team that was supposed to outplay the spinners. Bashir will be keen to make the ball obey his whims. The outcome of the second Test will indicate as to which team is likely to win the series.
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@OPope32

Ollie Pope Leads "Bazball" Rough Up On India

Call it “Bazball” or whatever that is supposed to convey playing a brand of cricket to take the rival head-on and thereby entertain the paying spectator, England has sent across a message to India in no uncertain terms that its batters from 1 to 11 will go after its bowlers. In two opening stands in the first Test at the Uppal venue in Hyderabad, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett swung their bats without fear of getting out to rattle up 55 and 45 runs before the first wicket went down. Clearly the camp the team held in Abu Dhabi to prepare for the five-Test series has yielded results. England made only 246 in the first innings and trailed the home team by 190 runs, but not perturbed by a daunting task, it roughed up the bowlers with the brilliant Ollie Pope collaring the spinners to make a near double century, though he was let off at 110 by Axar Patel and 186 by KL Rahul. From a clear first-innings setback England gave it a chance to cause a turnaround in the first Test and in the event of India going down will give plenty of thought for the national selectors to look at options in the bowling department. Moreover, questions will be asked about the attitude of the batters in offering catches when set. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul will do well to introspect.  All said and done the “Bazball” style has made an impact in India.
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Ben Stokes To Reach A 100 Tests For England, Very Soon!

Ben Stokes is all set to join the elite group of English cricketers who have played a century of Test matches and more. The ongoing Test match at Uppal here is his 98th which means the third Test at Rajkot will be his 100th. Previously 15 cricketers have played 100 Tests and more for England with the expert manipulator of the seam, Jimmy Anderson turning out in 183 Tests starting from 2003. Without a doubt the New Zealand-born Stokes who bats left-handed and bowls with his right hand has made a phenomenal contribution to England’s fortunes for 11 years, scoring 6117 runs, taking 197 wickets and 102 catches. On Friday, he gave an exhibition of top class batsmanship excelling in defense and attack, one that enabled his team to put up a competitive total on the board. Stokes bats at No 5/6 where he has scored 5449 runs before the start of the Test here. His highest scores in these two positions are 176 and 258. He has led England in 31 Tests and from mid 2022 has formed a successful combination with former New Zealand batter Brendon McCullum winning 13 Tests quickly adapting to aggressive ways of wielding the willow. In the last Ashes series he was close to the spectacular making 405 runs in nine innings and thwarting Australia from winning the series. His knock of 70 on Friday indicated that he could prove to be a long thorn in India’s flesh in the five Test series.
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Tata Group, All Set To Make The Big Splash!

That the IPLTwenty20 is a veritable cash cow was proved once again with the Tata Group not batting an eyelid to retain the title sponsorship of the popular franchise-based league. Two years ago Tatas had replaced the Chinese company Vivo as the title sponsor at a cost of Rs 370 crore. In the latest piece of action though, the Tata Group has chosen to shell out Rs 2500 crore for a five-year season from 2024 to 2028. Just come to think of it, the real estate giant DLF — not able to get a team – got the title sponsorship at Rs 40 crore a season in 2008. In that context, the Rs 500 crore average for one season after 16 years, has to be put down as a mind-boggling sum. No wonder the BCCI Secretary Jay Shah and the IPL Chairman, Arun Singh Dhumal have expressed delight at the final sum of Rs 2500 crore, well in excess of the base price of Rs 1750 crore. The IPL has seen a number of title sponsors including DLF, Pepsi, Dream11, Vivo and then the Tata Group. The Tata Group has a massive connect with cricket, especially in the inter-office tournaments in Mumbai. It had given employment to hundreds of cricketers and the likes of Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Sourav Ganguly were on its payroll.  The Tata Group has been a late entrant into the IPL bandwagon; it bagged the Women’s Premier League last year and for the second year running the Tata Group is all set to make the big splash! 
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It All Began With Col CK Nayudu's 100-Minute 152 Against The MCC

The name of Col. C.K. Nayudu conjures up when cricketers in whites representing India and England gird up their loins for another Test skirmish. According to the famous ‘cricketwallah ‘ of Indian cricket, the late  Rajsingh Dungarpur, it was the lanky Nayudu’s ransacking knock of 152 for the Hindus against RC Chichester-Constable Marylebone Cricket Club at the  Bombay Gymkhana on December 1, 1926 that set into motion India’s recognition as a Test playing nation at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground (June 1932). Nayudu was a giant, admired by many and not so by a minuscule, did the palm tree hitting act for 100 mts. He smashed the MCC bowlers for 13 x 6s and 11 x 4. India’s Test story began here with this knock that impressed none other than Arthur Gilligan — he did not play the match against the Hindus — who recommended to the MCC that India is ready for Test cricket. Since India’s first Test, the nation has played 64 Tests at home, won 22, lost 14 and drawn 28. India won the last Test series 3-1 in 2021, but three years later England appeared prepared to repel India’s spin tricks, with the master plan being drawn by Head Coach Brendon McCullum and Captain Ben Stokes who will only bat and not bowl because of a left knee surgery he underwent last November. England has not won a series in India since 2012 when it beat the home team 2-1. So some tussle on the cards from January 25 at the Charminar City with Rohit Sharma at the helm.
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BCCI

Hardik Pandya Watch Out, India Getting Ready For The "SuryaShivam" Show!

Shivam Dube has struck the iron when it’s hot by knocking over the Afghanistan bowlers in the Twenty20 series outings in Mohali and Indore. It’s the time of the year when the locals in the northern plains and central India would devour the hot lip-snacking chole bhature, but those who thronged the stadium at Mohali and at the Holkar Stadium got a taste of the elegant and fluent left-hander’s stroke play and hitting. In the absence of the injury-stricken Hardik Pandya, the selectors in Ajit Agarkar, S Sharath, Shiv Sundar Das, Salil Ankola and Subroto Banerjee looked at Dube and the latter has not let them down. Dube is 30 plus and his style of going after the ball makes him a perfect fit for the 120-ball stuff of cricket. In his first 18 turnouts for the men in blue, he did not bat on seven occasions and was not out five times, but he had the talent which the selectors have recognised. Two unbeaten knocks of 60 and 63 against the fierce competitors from Kabul have almost confirmed his berth in the Indian team for the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 under the Manhattan and Caribbean skyline. His average is 45.83 after 20 matches at five positions in the batting order, but it is at No 4 now that he has staked a strong claim. Once Suryakumar Yadav returns to the fold, India can make the most of the “SuryaShivam” show! Why fret over Hardik Pandya?
Ishan dhruv

Ishan Kishan Out, Dhruv Jurel In!

Dhruv Jurel has played a dozen Ranji Trophy matches for Uttar Pradesh, two for India ‘A‘ recently in South Africa and one for Central Zone, and the BCCI’s national selection committee has told the cricket fraternity in India — in the circumstances caused by a petulant Ishan Kishan’s non-availability —  that the soon to be 24-year old from Agra is the best stumper after KS Bharat. Jurel is selected in the India team for the first two Tests against England to be played in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. He has scored 790 runs with 249 against Nagaland as his highest. After the ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa four years ago, the grapevine has been rife with his exceptional talent and it was not a surprise when Rajasthan Royals chose him for IPL 2023. The selectors are impressed with Jurel’s work as a ‘keeper, but his selection for the longer version of the game in the third season of his first-class career has still puzzled a lot of people. The serious injury to Rishabh Pant opened an opportunity for Bharat who has done duty in five Tests. Then Kishan got two chances against the West Indies last July before KL Rahul donned the big gloves in the two-Test series in South Africa, which may have got Kishan’s goat!  He created a vacuum by choosing to break from the ranks in South Africa, citing mental fatigue and at the first opportunity, the selectors, chose to come down hard on the erring cricketer’s attitude from Jharkhand. Has Kishan paid the price for erring?
Bazball

Will England's 'Bazball' Style Succeed In India?

The five-Test home series against England will begin at Uppal in Hyderabad on January 25. Ever since the former swashbuckling New Zealand batter Brendon McCullum took charge as Head Coach from Chris Silverwood, and Ben Stokes took over from Joe Root, the Three Lions team has been playing the game in an aggressive and entertaining brand that’s come to be known as ‘Bazball’ style. The pitches curated by the associations in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamshala are most likely to be on the slower allied with variable bounce,  but this sluggish nature of the pitch may not deter England from adhering to the ‘Bazball’ that sustained interest in the ‘Ashes’  series in the English Summer of 2023. The full Test series at home is part of the third cycle of the ICC World Test Championship and hence big points will be at stake for each Test match. In the previous four Test home series against Australia, India won 2-1 and qualified for the final. Anticipating slow pitches that will afford a turn from the first session of the first day, England has packed its side with four spinners and has scheduled a training camp in Abu Dhabi before arriving in Hyderabad only three days before the first Test. After outplaying South Africa in the Cape Town Test, India skipper Rohit Sharma hinted at the ball turning from day one of a Test match.  What has to be seen is whether England will stick to the ‘Bazball’ style right through the series and mount pressure on the smart spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
Rohit virat

BCCI

Kafkaesque Ways Of India Twenty20 Team Choices!

The selection of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma for the three-match Twenty20 series against Afghanistan is akin to Kafkaesque because these two much-celebrated batters have been overlooked by the selection committee since the ICC World Men’s Twenty20 semi-final against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 10, 2022. It appears now that the leading lights of this format are certainties for the Twenty20 World Cup to be held this June in the USA and Caribbean. India has played 25 internationals of the shortest version after the last World Cup in Australia, without these two, won 16, lost seven, and tied one match and the match against Afghanistan in the Asian Games final in Hangzhou was called off due to rain. Kohli has played 27 Twenty20 matches across five World Cups and Sharma 39 across eight World Cups. Sharma was part of the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup that India won under the helmsmanship of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Over the last 14 months, the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya have been close to the spectacular. This is apart from Suryakumar Yadav who has led the second brigade well; leading by example he has amassed 857 runs. When the selection for the World Cup arrives, will the above-mentioned get their due or be dumped? India’s Twenty20 team post the last World Cup semi-final when it was thrashed out of sight by England, has to advance and not look back.
Rohit sharma_007

BCCI

Rohit Sharma "In Form" At The Newlands Press Conference!

Rohit Sharma used the words “shut up”, strong language from the captain of a team which had stunned South Africa by seven wickets in a game of cricket that turned out to be the sensationally shortest in Test match history. Rohit was an angry man, and he blew his top firing salvos at people griping at pitches that often afford copious turn from the first day of a Test match in India. It’s all the same he meant, excessive sideways movement of the surface (abroad) or a big turn from day one in India. He pointed at big cracks on the pitch at Newlands, a pretty venue because of nature’s gift in the form of Table Mountain. Rohit was in the ‘mood’ even to point fingers at the authorities for their prejudice while evaluating pitches. To sum up, Rohit voiced his opinion most directly. The spicy pitch that was exploited by the Bumrahs, Sirajs and the South African speed merchants resulted in the conclusion of the Test in 642 balls. There have been timeless Tests of eight balls an over, but a conventional game at the highest level — allotted 450 overs (90 overs a day) — is supposed to end on the fifth day. But the Newlands pitch for the second Test was full of life and it presented a series-levelling win for India.  All in a jiffy!  South Africa’s head coach and selector, Shukri Conrad dubbed the Test as a slugfest.
practice

Newlands Has Delivered 4 Wins For South Africa, And 0 For India, So Far!

The dream of outsmarting South Africa in the two-Test rubber and winning a series for the first time in 31 years in South Africa — India played its first Test in the Kruggerand country in November 1992 — came down in a thud at the Super Sport Park in Centurion last week. The Rohit Sharma-led visitor came a cropper inside three days going down by an inning and 32 runs. KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and to an extent Shreyas Iyer (in the first inning) offered glimpses of the ability to foil a well-oiled bowling unit spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada; Rahul in fact constructed a classic century that lifted his reputation by a few notches. The short series of two Tests will be over by January 8 and Sharma will return home empty-handed because his team cannot win the series, but can only draw level. Newlands with its imposing Table-Top mountain has not once favoured India in six previous Tests and the odds look against it to cause an upset. This brings the million-dollar question of whether India’s bowling combination will have the strength to bundle out its rival for small totals.  They will go after Dean Elgar, who made 185 in the first Test and will lead the home team in his last appearance in International cricket. India’s best chance will be its new ball operators Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj. They have to do most of the damage; of course with substantial help from their batter teammates.
SaVs Ind

BCCI

Centurion Has Sounded The Alarm Bells For India At Cape Town!

From the high hopes of winning the first-ever Test series in South Africa to finding ways to level the series is a massive change in perception of the team that was beaten hollow in the first Test of the Freedom Series at the lovely Centurion venue. Even after 30 years of coming here Indian batters are groping in the dark, clueless as to what’s coming at them from a champion operator Kagiso Rabada with the new ball and tyros trying to make their mark in their first Test. Rohit Sharma did not find the elevation of a pull shot in the first hour of the first morning when the home team challenged his team to face its pace battery.  And in the second innings was hoodwinked off the surface, and became a sort of bunny to the slenderly built practitioner of fast bowling Rabada — drawing comparisons with the likes of Allan Donald and Dale Steyn. Sharma who has carved a niche for himself in white-ball formats doesn’t have anything to show for in Test appearances in these parts. Cape Town in a few days, will give him two more chances, but more importantly, the team has to redeem itself against a team that has the power to do an encore. South Africa is keen and eager to hold on to the undefeated record.  Its coach Shukri Conrad said it aloud at the press conference. 
Rohit Sharma team

Will Rohit Sharma Go With Two Specialist Spinners At Centurion?

The captaincy duty will come calling to Rohit Sharma as the Indian team celebrates Christmas and gets into the Test match mode straight away. India begins its ninth tour of South Africa with the opening Test match scheduled at the Centurion on Boxing Day, December 26. First and foremost, Sharma will have to take a call on the choice of the third seamer. Jasprit Bumrah will return to the Test ranks after a hiatus of 18 months and Mohammed Siraj will be his new ball operator partner. The million-dollar question is who will replace Mohammed Shami, ruled out of the series because of a serious ankle injury. The name that crops up is the tall and gangling Prasidh Krishna who too has come back after a lower back injury. And will Sharma pick both left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin? The scales could tilt in favour of the speedster Krishna. The other options are Shardul Thakur and rookie Mukesh Kumar. With 90 overs to be bowled in three sessions of two hours each in a day, the captain could be in a fix. Moreover, Sharma will have to deal with Bumrah’s spells judiciously as a flare-up could whittle down India’s pace strength. Bumrah is a wicket-taker and he will start anxiously because he has not played the multi-day Test for a long time. A breakthrough or two from him will go a long way in hurting the South African batting lineup. Powered By: IDFC FIRST BANK
Sanju samson

Sanju Worth A Samson!

When the groundswell began to drift against Sanju Samson that he was wasting his talent, he chose the wine countryside of Paarl to notch his first significant knock in coloured clothing for India. The big hitter from Kerala shunned reckless shots and emerged with a three-figure knock in the third and final one-day international against the Proteas and won the man of the match award. Endowed with the ability to lift the ball for straight sixes, Samson was given the No 5 spot in the first two matches. He did not get to bat in the first match at the ‘Bullring! In Johannesburg, and scored only 12 off 23 balls in the second ODI that India lost. But on Thursday (Dec 21) skipper KL Rahul sent him at No 3 and this move appears to have played in the trick to make him responsible. Samson flexed his muscles from the fifth over of the match and after debutant Rajat Patidar was dismissed.  He faced 114 balls, struck 6 x 4s and 3 x 6s to make 108 and left the scene of action only in the 46th over.  Samson was not part of the World Cup squad with the selection committee going with Rahul and Ishan Kishan. Captain of the Jaipur franchise, Rajasthan Royals, Samson was high in Rohit Sharma’s estimation some six months before the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia last year.  But it was Dinesh Karthik who took his place and Samson missed the bus. Samson has proved that he is worthy of a place in the national team. 
womens team

BCCI

A Whopping Rs 66 Lakh As Match Fee For Women Cricketers, All For A Month's Work!

These are good times for India’s women cricketers. Not just because of the packed international schedule against their counterparts from England and Australia, but also because of the monetary rewards that come with it. A large group of players who will play across formats (one Test each against England and Australia, three one-day internationals against Australia and six Twenty20 internationals together against England and Australia) will earn Rs 66 lakh! Thanks to Jay Shah, the BCCI Secretary who is in the vanguard of giving a fillip to women’s cricket, a pay parity for representing India across all formats was announced two months ago. The women players will receive Rs 15 lakh for a Test match, Rs 6 lakh for an ODI and Rs 3 lakh for a Twenty20 international. Two back-to-back Tests will amount to Rs 30 lakh, the three ODIs Rs 18 lakh and six Twenty20 internationals Rs 18 lakh. The women also get the same daily allowance as men. A few years ago the BCCI introduced the annual retainership cover and recently improved the monthly gratis for past cricketers who had played ODIs. The founding of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) last year turned out to be a big breakthrough that will fast-track the welfare of the distaff — game-wise, money-wise. In all a fantastic space to be in for the present generation and for the youngsters to take up the game as a recreation and thereafter as a career. But there is a lot more to be done at the grassroots and perhaps a revision of the annual retainers too!

TRENDS & VIEWS

Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.