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World Cup Journal #1: Expect the Unexpected

 

Paul Stirling on his way o leading Ireland to an incredible win. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

Paul Stirling on his way to leading Ireland to an incredible win. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

This 2015 World Cup has been chugging along quite merrily. Of course, we’ve all had our fair share of nail biting, shivering, praying, and (for some), TV smashing, but more than that, the general ambience that the Cricket World Cup is here is very pleasant.

What has made this World Cup stand out to me so much ahead of the 4 World Cups (T20 included) that I’ve followed intensely before this is the equality we’ve had in terms of competition. Barring the white flag encounters of England vs. New Zealand and Pakistan vs. West Indies, we’ve always had some degree of a fight in pretty much every game, even those Mammoth vs. Minnow competitions that we usually like to consider as walkovers. We saw this even in the in the warm-ups, as Scotland were all but successful in their chase of 313 against the West Indies, and Zimbabwe pulled the carpet from under Sri Lanka to register a surprising upset. In the league stage, we saw Scotland make the resurgent and roaring New Zealand side sweat in their chase of a paltry 142, a spirited Afghanistan just failing to pull through after putting Sri Lanka in a precarious situation at 178-6 in 41.2 overs chasing 233, and a belligerent Paul Stirling leading Ireland to a massive victory over the West Indies. In essence, this World Cup hasn’t just been about the Giants steaming through a bunch of minnows to face each other in the playoffs; rather, it’s been about everyone playing their best cricket (at least most of the time), and making us cricket fans expect the unexpected.

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India’s Missing Cog

Image from static.ibnlive.in.com

Imagine you’re a high schooler, like me. You’re going to write your SAT tomorrow, but you’re pretty darn well prepared. Just to savour the victory ahead of time, you decide to try out a practice test. However, you finish the test with a score of 1200 (which is a 22nd percentile, and enough to make your parents mad at you). Has that ever happened to you? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening to the Indian cricketing team right now. They’ve been in Australia for just about 2 months now, and they’ve still not tasted victory. With the World Cup just weeks away (which is by the way being played in Australia and New Zealand), no doubt both Indian fan and player alike would be feeling the heat.
The defending champs have shown on more than one occasion on this tour that they are fighters, but regrettably they have no win to show for their efforts. They’ve has some stars, such as the mature, peerless Ajinkya Rahane and the resurgent, vengeful Virat Kohli, but all in all their performance as a team has been average.
What is wrong with them you may ask? Well I personally feel that their issue is not batting quality (although that has been rather on-and-off as well), but their bowling. To be more specific, their fast bowling. Their quicks simply have not been able to step up, and therefore have not been able to make the dents that people like Mitchell Starc and Steven Finn have been making. Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have been fast but too wayward, gifting too many runs to the opposition but not keeping up the pressure. Mohammed Shami has had relatively more success, but has still not quite been able to hold on his discipline when bowling long spells. Ishant Sharma was also good on some occasions, but again, he just didn’t have the “oomph” factor that men like Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris had. Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, once India’s go-to fast bowler, made a very lackadaisical comeback from injury, barely troubling Australia’s batsmen. Now, if there’s something Indian need more than ever, especially with the World Cup looming over, it’s a top grade fast bowler. Not just a guy who can hit the 150’s, but a guy who you can rely on to hit the new ball hard and draw early blood, and then come back in the death and land the final kill. There are going to be plenty of these types of players coming into the World Cup, such as Dale Steyn, Mitchell Starc and Lasith Malinga. If India want to be able to hold on to their trophy, they will need such a bowler. It’s probably too late to call up a new face, so for now India will have to trust Shami, Umesh, Ishant and Bhuvi, and just hope for the best. However, in the long run, it is imperative that India look for a pacer who they can rely on.
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Game over for Ishant?

Is Ishant Sharma out of chances?

Is Ishant Sharma out of chances?

44 needed in 18 balls. Adam Voges and James Faulkner at the crease. Most people would agree that India would have easily taken the game home from here. However, they also thought RCB would have defended 43 in 12 in that game vs CSK in IPL 2012. However, the circumstances are a bit different here. For one, MSD had far more trustworthy bowling options than poor Daniel Vettori did, and secondly, James Faulkner is not as renowned as a batsman as Albie Morkel is. So when Ishant Sharma walked in to bowl the 48th with figures of 7-1-33-1, no one protested much. After all, Ishant had responded to his captain’s need back in the Champions Trophy Final during the summer and defended much less against much more dangerous batsmen. However, what came was enough to give some a heart-attack, and made others look like this:

Why when even I popped open my Yahoo Cricket app on my iPod this morning and saw Australia won, I naturally went to investigate more and I saw James Faulkner with a score of 64 in 29. I was upset that we had lost, but not as much as I was befuddled as to how James Faulkner’s batting could have been the instrumental to it. Even more when I found that he had taken Ishant Sharma for 30 runs in an over to pull it off. However, a quick look at some highlights showed me that Ishant had really walked right into Faulkner’s trap. Or rather, fixed it up before falling into it. From the highlights I saw, it could not have been more evident that Faulkner was playing the typical “desperate tailender” game. He was simply slogging at everything, and a yorker, or a delivery that was a tad wider and slower would have done him in. However, like I said, Ishant fixed up the trap before he fell into it. He gave Faulkner a series of pitched-up deliveries, which to the Ozzies was like Gold Dust. Faulkner smashed 4 of them for six in addition one double and a boundary. A real “whoops” moment for poor Ishant.

Alright, end flashback. Back to the here and now. Now that brings us onto what I really wanted to discuss in this post. Is it time up for Ishant Sharma? Of course, one can argue that it was just one of his “bad days”. However, we must also consider that Ishant has an economy of 7.87 this series, with only 2 wickets and a pitiful average of  94.5. Not what you’d expect of the most experienced seamer in the XI. Now the reason he is so disappointing as contrasted to the other two seamers – Vinay Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar – is that they each have a plus and minus. Bhuvi is expensive at death, but is tidy at the front and even though he has only 1 wicket this series, he is the only Indian bowler to keep his economy below 6 in all three games. Vinay has been terribly expensive (he is not known for economical bowling) but did what he did for RCB: picked up wickets. Even if his death bowling hasn’t been as good as it was during IPL 2013, he was the only Indian bowler to pick a wicket in every one of the 3 games. Ishant has been on neither side. Many have jokingly said that his poor shows are “tribute” to Ajit Agarkar, who recently retired from first-class cricket. On the up side, India have plenty of reserves. Jaydev Unadkat – who had a good tour of Zimbabwe and a brilliant IPL, along with Amit Mishra – who used the slow track of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium to his advantage to outfox batsmen in IPL 2013, and was also India’s best bowler in Zimbabwe. So in the likely event of Ishant getting dropped, India will not miss him too much. As for Ishant himself, hopefully he will use this as a wake-up call and look to work on his lines and lengths so he can hope to make a comeback soon.

 

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India pull off unbeaten Champions Trophy win

After enduring through consistent showers and shortened playing time, the fans who grouped at Birmingham finally got the result of the final of this last ever Champions Trophy, and it was India who pulled out victorious. Chasing 130 for victory in the 20 over game, on a challenging track, the Englishmen were rocked as they lost their top four inside 10 overs, with the required rate climbing. Then Ravi Bopara – who had shined with the ball and in the field – bugged India once again as he put together a strong 64-run stand with Eoin Morgan. The two of them managed to simplify the equation to 28 needed of 18. Then Ishant Sharma – who’s arrival to the bowling crease that over had been greeted with heavy criticism – went from Zero to Hero in 2 balls as he removed both Bopara and Morgan in just 2 balls. That was the end of England’s chances of getting the cup. Looking at the rainy conditions, English skipper Alastair Cook gave his seamers the first ball. The Englishmen were very disciplined, and never really let India run away with it. Only Shikhar Dhawan (31), Virat Kohli (43) and Ravindra Jadeja (33*) made double digits. It was a marvelous tournament for the Men in Blue, as they were unbeaten throughout; including the Warm-Up games. This is quiet a contrasting result to the one expected by most people, looking at India’s squad – particularly the fast-bowling attack. Still, MSD’s men proved their critics wrong yet again, and shone bright to clench another cup. An example of just how dominating they were was shown as both the leading run scorer and wicket taker were both Indian (Dhawan and Jadeja respectively). This seems to show that India have finally struck a balanced side, and hopefully can carry this form onto their various other tournaments.

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The formats of cricket – a comparison

Cricket. The best international sport in the world in my opinion. With the 6 stumps, the 2 batsmen, and the 10 fielders, and the bowler, cricket is just an amazing game. Like any other game, it has formats. Cricket has three formats: Tests, ODIs, and T20s. Test cricket is “classic” cricket, played in white clothes, over a span of five days. It is the slowest of the formats, and takes a cricketing mind to watch patiently. ODI cricket is a little more on the exciting side. With 50 overs an innings, it is still very long, but not as long as Tests. Lastly, T20 cricket is the most quickly paced and exciting format of the game. It is only 20 overs long, meaning it is short, and hence not as boring. Now, let’s look at them from the perspective of the players.

Playing Test cricket for your country is a tremendous honor. Why, you may ask? Well, tests, as the name implies, are “tests”. They are the place where your skills will be put to the test. Test cricket demands more of the players than any format, both physically and technically. For one, the captain and coaches have to plan for five days, and not just one. They have to interpret how the pitch might behave for five days, and then come to a conclusion on selecting players and other stuff. Also, it really demands a lot of you, which ever position you play. Full-time bowlers are expected to bowl at least 35 overs a game, batsmen are expected to be like rocks; resolute, and determined to stay. To help them, strike rate is not important. They can take 200 balls to score 35 runs and nobody will care too much. Consequently, they are expected to score lots of runs. You are expected to get your team total to at least 360. Even fielders are tested heavily. For example, you can stand somewhere for like half the day and nothing will come your way, but when it does, you will be expected to pull out your best fielding. This is why fast-bowlers in particular find Tests very stressing, and also why quicks like Brett Lee and Shaun Tait forfeited this format and preferred to focus on the shorter formats.

ODI Cricket is kind of like the “neutral” format. This format is neither as slow and heavy as tests, nor as quick as T20s. You can score at a reasonable strike rate or about 80, and bowling spells are limited to 10 overs a bowler. A team total of 260 is a great total to have. It is not as terribly long as test cricket, but can go on from about 3 in the evening all the way till midnight. Still, it is the format where the majority of players play, as then neither have to be too durable, nor have to be too quickly paced. Even though teams that play it generally go at 4.5 an over on average, they can go at 8 an over sometimes, like the South Africa vs Australia match, where both teams scored 400+ runs in the whole 100 overs played.

T20 Cricket is the most unpredictable format of them all. You can need 5 of 30 balls with 5 wickets in hand and still lose the game, or score 25 in the last over to clinch a win. T20 is, in my opinion, the most fun of them all. It is 40 overs of run-scoring-wicket-falling-nail-biting-brain-twisting cricket. Your team can go from 124-0 in 13 overs to 150 all out in 19.4 overs, or go from 9-4 in 4 all the way to 197-7 in 20. It is the format that needs the most inventive thinking, and unorthodox tactics. In test cricket, you can bowl 6 full-tosses on middle stump, and even if the batsman hits 5 for six, if he gets out on the 6th, you’re safe. In T20 cricket, however, if you give 30 runs, whether or not you get a wicket, you will generally be taken off the attack. This is also the format where strike rate and economy matter the most. There’s a reason most senior batsmen don’t play T20s. After adapting to a required strike rate somewhere around a lukewarm 75-80, if you are expected to score at 200 when the circumstances call for it, it’s not easy. This is why most countries prefer to use T20s as a kind of testing site for young talents. Also, full-fledged all-rounders have more value in T20s than in any other format. That’s because you don’t have the option of using batsmen as part-time bowlers (if you ask MSD to bowl in T20s, the batsmen will take him for runs). So if you can bowl 4 overs at about 6.5, and hit at least 30 per game at a strike rate of around 120, you’re in. Despite all of what I have said, T20s are not very demanding physically. You need to bowl 4 overs as a bowler, and staying at the crease for about 10 overs will make you a very valuable batsman.

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India vs Australia: Some thoughts

The India vs Australia tour is something that will really be of importance for the Indian players. After suffering a 2-1 drubbing in the hands of the Englishmen in their test series, this will be a chance to redeem some of their lost glory. However, looking at the past will have no relief for the hosts. Last time the Indians met the Ozzies they were whitewashed 5-0. Of course, this time things will be much more different. No Ricky Ponting, Mo Micheal Hussey, No Rahul Dravid, No VVS Laxman, and no Gautam Gambhir. So India will have to rely heavily on Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar to keep the wheels moving. For the Ozzies, Micheal Clarke and David Warner will be the main guys to look out for. Clarke, however, is suffering from a hamstring, and it is possible that he may not play. In that case, Australia will rely a lot on Eddie Cowan and Usman Khawaja to keep the batting steady. In the field of bowling, India might miss Ishant Sharma, who is going to Melbourne to get his ankle looked out. Australia might have a troublesome task matching up to Praghyan Ojha, but considering that they have the left-handed Warner upfront, that night not be such a threat. The Ozzies might be tempted to go with four seamers in Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus. Starc and Johnson in particular should be able to produce some good swing, which when used properly might trouble India. If Johnson can bat at number 7, then going with Nathan Lyon as a spinner should be a good option. The Indian side, on the other hand, is recruiting several youngsters. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shakhar Dhawan, and Murali Vijy are three such youngsters. If they can play the seam bowlers out well, then I think that India shouldn’t have such a big problem, as Lyon is no Greame Swann. Bhuvi has shown incredible talent, and hopefully uses this opportunity to become one of India’s full-time seamers. Dhawan has also been brilliant, and hopefully can show some shine with the bat. Also, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli will be pivotal in India’s batting.

Potential Squads:

IND: Shikhar Dhawan, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha

AUS: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja, Micheal Clarke (c), Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus

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IPL Auctions 2013- The highs and lows

 

 

Well, the auctions for this year are over. It was amazing, though. So here’s the promised post-auction summary. I hope you enjoy it :).

The 2013 auctions were far more exciting than the 2012 one. A total of 37 players were brought by the franchises, for a total of $11.89 million. Like all the auctions so far, this one had many surprises. For one, Mumbai brought Glenn Maxwell for a million dollars, making him the only millionaire, and also the most expensive player in the auctions yesterday. The extraordinary part about this, is that less than a year ago, Maxwell had barely 9 lines on his wikipedia page. Let’s hope he performs, and doesn’t end up like how Jaddu ended up last year. Another surprise was Kane Richardson. The South Australian fast bowler was fiercely contested for by Chennai and Pune, and the latter emerged victorious, buying him for a tremendous sum of $700,000. This made him the third most expensive player in this auction. Ajantha Mendis, who was the leading wicket-taker in the ICC World Cup T20 last year, was the second most, also picked by Pune, at $725,000. The most expensive Indian player was Abhishek Nayar, who was sold to Pune at $675,000. Some other surprise buys were Chris Morris, the Highveld Lions all-rounder, who was sold to CSK at $625,000, Sri Lankan all-rounder Sachithra Senanayaka, who was picked up by KKR at $625,000, and the Sydney Sixers all-rounder Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was sold to Mumbai at $450,000. However, one of the biggest surprises was the fact that Doug Bollinger was unsold. The Australian quick was released by Chennai earlier, but wasn’t brought back. CSK shouldn’t miss him too much though, as they have replaced him with Dirk Nannes. Some other faces to look out for will be Ravi Rampaul, who got his first ever IPL contract worth $290,000 from Bangalore, Kushal Perera, who was picked up by Rajasthan for $20,000, and Ricky Ponting, who has been given his second IPL contract, this time with the Mumbai Indians, who forked over $400,000 for him.  Another interesting fact is that RP Singh now becomes the first ever Indian player to have represented 4 different IPL franchises (the first player ever was Owais Shah), as RCB picked him up for a bargain price of $400,000. RCB brought the most players (7), while Pune spent the most money ($2.5 million). Pune have also brought back Micheal Clarke, at his base price of $400,000. So that was the IPL Auctions 2013. If you want, you can see a full page on who brought who here. Goodbye 🙂

 

Glenn Maxwell: Our Million-Dollar Baby

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CLT20 so far

So far, the Champions League has been rather rocky. With rain washing out every fourth game, and half the teams knocked out before playing 4 games, and the highest score being 188, things haven’t been as good as expected. The Sydney Sixers have been dominant so far, as the only team to win all their games so far. However, from the IPL side, things haven’t been as smooth. The Delhi Daredevils have been the Indian fans’ only source of motivation, as they have all but qualified for the semis. All the other big teams have flopped. CSK got two consolation wins, and KKR exited in style with a 99-run win against the Titans, but Mumbai have really been a flop show. Despite coming in with a beefed up side with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Smith, Mitchell Johnson, and Kieron Pollard, you would have expected them to put up a better fight. Only Dinesh Karthik was consistent with the bat, and Malinga’s fiver versus CSK was MI’s only good show with the ball. In CSK’s case, Dwayne Bravo’s injury really hurt them, and they were struggling with the out-of-form Albie Morkel and Ravindra Jadeja. For KKR, excluding their performance versus the Titans, they simply weren’t able to be threatening enough, like I said in my previous post. Delhi, have tasted success. Their ploy of playing 4 seamers has really paid off, and their new captain Mahela Jaywardene has really been impressive in his decisions. Their batting was a bit off-color against the Scorchers, but Sehwag showed maturity as he carried his side to the brink of victory. Another team I wanted to discuss about is the Titans. They had like the strongest side, but both the Morkels and Faf du Plessis, went to play for their IPL sides. And AB de Villiers was out with an injury. So they weren’t left with much. Despite that they are still almost in the semis, but if they had a full strength side, things would have been completely different. So today’s games are Delhi versus the Titans at 8:30, winner gets an assured spot in the semis, and Aukland versus the Scorchers at 4:30. For them to qualify, Aukland have to win big, and hope that either Delhi or the Titans do the same. So see you then! 😀

Sehwag played well against the Scorchers. Can he do so again?
cricket @ iplgeek

Azher Mahmood holds the cards for the Aces.

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KKR crash out of CLT20

After a rainwashed game against the Perth Scorchers, the IPL champions KKR crashed out of the CLT20 for 2012. After losing their first two game to the Delhi Daredevils and the Aukland Aces respectively, the Knights needed a win to stay in contention. Unfortunately nature played a cruel trick and KKR were denied their two points. Sensing rain, Gautam Gambhir won the toss and decided to bowl first. KKR did a very good job to pin down the Scorchers; Nobody gave away much, including Yusuf Pathan, who ran through 4 overs and finished with 0-29. The Scorchers’ resistance came in the form of Simon Katich, who struck a good 32-ball 43. He was assisted by an uncomfortable-looking Shaun Marsh, who struggled for his 40-ball innings of 38. Early on Brett Lee had induced pressure as he snapped up Herschelle Gibbs in the very first over, leaving the Scorchers at 3-1. Then Marsh and Katich put on 70 runs before Kallis trapped Marsh in front. Katich remained unbeaten, and was joined by Mitchell Marsh who played 10 balls for his 5, before the rain interrupted, leaving the Scorchers at 91-2, in 14 overs. A very sad end to KKR’s campaign. The differences between KKR’s IPL show and their CLT20 show was that their batting was decent, lead by Gautam Gambhir from the front, and bowling was exceptionally good. So even if they could get to about 130, they could defend it. Now, their bowling has not been as threatening, and despite their batting lineup, which boasts of big names such as Brendon McCullum, Gambhir, and Jacques Kallis, they have been woefully out of form. And Yusuf Pathan’s batting form has dipped, and at the price of his place in India’s T20I squad. And unless they get some form, KKR won’t be going anywhere. So that’s all for tonight, see you next time 🙂  cricket @ iplgeek

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Gaylestorm cleans up Australia

Cricket is a cruel sport. Just how cruel was first exhibited when India, despite winning 4 of their 5 games, failed to qualify for the semis. Another example was just exhibited yesterday, when Chris Gayle’s brutal assault knocked over the Australians by a massive 74 runs. And for the Ozzies, who had been unbeaten until their 5th game against Pakistan, had come into the semifinals riding on the back of the in-form Shane Watson. Still, in the crunch game, it’s the team effort that counts. And that’s what the Windies cooked up today. Along with Gayle’s ballistic 41-ball 75, Marlon Samuels (26 in 20) and Dwayne Bravo (37 in 31) kept the Ozzies under the thumb. The real carnage came in the form of a 65-run stand between Gayle and Kieron Pollard. This stand came in 4.1 overs, and was the final push that the Windies needed. First Mitchell Starc was blasted for 17, but the worst was reserved for Xavier Doherty, who was blasted for 25 in that last over, 18 of which came from  gigantic and consecutive sixes from Pollard. Pollard eventually perished in the last ball of the innings, but the damage had been done. 205-4. This was the final total. To chase this the Ozzies needed something special from their openers. Unfortunately, the Windies had done their homework, and Samuel Badree knocked over both Watson and David Warner. Micheal Hussey, who had been the Ozzies’ go-to man, failed for the first time as he was caught and bowled of Samuels for just 18. No resistance came from the Victs Cameron White, David Hussey and Matthew Wade. It was George Bailey, who played a brilliant 63, in just 29 balls. This included a 68-run stand between Bailey and Pat Cummins. After Bailey’s fall in the 14th over, it was all over. The tail was nullified Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine, and Australia were bowled out for 131, in 16.4 overs. There was also a big controversy on twitter, after a certain tweet made by David Warner. However, he has apologized, so all’s well ends well (except for the Ozzie’s bid for the cup). So, lot’s of sad endings huh! So here’s another one. Goodbye Australia, better luck next time! And now, let’s brace ourselves for the grand finale of the ICC World Cup 2012, which is tomorrow at 7:00. Adios! Catch you then!Gayle does a Gangnam style!

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