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India’s Missing Cog

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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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IPL Auctions 2014: Ten Stick-Outs in the Lot

Its the new year 2014, and the IPL Auctions 2014 are dawning upon us already. With less than 30 days to go for the first phase of what is arguably the best domestic league in the world, teams are beginning to stir, waking from their long slumber. The list of retained players has already been announced, and if you so desire you can view them here. This auction plans to be much more interesting than the ones before, not only because it is the quarterly-arriving time where the entire teams are reformed, but also because of several new concepts introduced in this auction. The introduction of the “Right to Match” cards are amongst these interesting reforms, in addition to the retention limit going from 4 players to 5. I will do a thorough post that explains what the rights to match card does in another post, as I plan to do a lot of pre-auction posts anyways. In this particular post, I’m going to talk about 10 players who will definitely be on the buying lists of many franchises, and what will make them so valuable. Just so you know, the order they’re listed in has no statistical significance; its just the order I thought of them in. Here we go:

 

1. Cameron White (Australia)

The hard hitting Victorian has been known for inconsistency in the past, but in the on-going Big Bash League he has made himself heard, leading from the front with 201 runs at an average of 33.83, reinforced with a strike rate of 138.62. He also holds the reigns of captaincy for the Melbourne Stars, and is yet to lose a game this season. Such stats will definitely make White someone the IPL franchises will be looking for. For teams looking for new leaders and complete reform – namely the Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils – this experienced campaigner would be a good option.

Cameron White

2. Luke Wright (England)

While his fellow countrymen were being deep-fried Down Under in the Ashes, Luke Wright was having quiet a ball for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League. Opening the innings with White, he has amassed 275 runs at a strike rate of 151.93 and an average of 34.37, and is the highest scorer for the Stars this year. He is no fool with the ball either, and in fact had an economy rate of 6.5 during Chris Gayle’s memorable assault on the Pune Warriors India during IPL 2013. He is a flexible batsman, and can bat anywhere from opening down to number 6 or 7. I feel that all the teams would love to have him on their side, but with the ECB being touchy about IPL, availability might be an issue for Wright. Still, franchises like RCB and MI would gladly take the risk, as combinations like Gayle and Wright would be beyond deadly.

Luke Wright

Luke Wright

3. Pragyan Ojha (India)

Pragyan Ojha is arguably India’s best test spinner today, but unfortunately he has been overlooked in the limited overs formats, where India’s bowling has taken a severe berating off late. His peak of form in terms of IPL cricket was in the years 2009 and 10, where he played a crucial role in Deccan Chargers’ unexpected title win in 2009, and semifinal place in 2010. He also won the Purple cap in 2010. In 2013, he played an instrumental role in Mumbai’s victory, as he claimed 16 wickets with an economy rate of 7.28, including the crucial wicket of Albie Morkel in the final. It is likely that he will be up for fair auction, as MI chose not to retain him, and are more likely to use their right to match card on Mitchell Johnson. This means that all the franchises will be after him, including MI. The Royal Challengers Bangalore might be willing to invest a lot in him as well, owing to the fact that bowling has been a concern for them in the last few years and Ojha would be able to remedy that well.

Pragyan Ojha

Pragyan Ojha

4. Dwayne Smith (West Indies)

The West Indian all-rounder is known for packing quiet a punch, and I doubt that there will be anyone to doubt that theory. He was devastating from the moment he set foot in the Mumbai Indians camp in 2012, and is remembered for smashing a six and two boundaries off Ben Hilfenhaus’s last three deliveries in the 20th over to snatch MI an improbable victory against the Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2012. However, he struggled in the middle-order from then on. His promotion to opener saw hell break loose, as he absolutely mauled the opposition bowlers and played an instrumental role in Mumbai’s victory of IPL 2013, scoring 418 runs at a strike rate of 122.58. He – like Ojha – will most likely be up for fair auction, as Mumbai did not retain him either, and as I said before, are more likely to use their right to match card on Mitchell Johnson, who was in red-hot form for the Ashes. While his former franchise will undoubtedly do everything they can to snap him up again, teams like CSK and Sunrisers Hyderabad –  who are looking for in-form batsmen to open their batting – will have their eyes on him as well.

Dwayne Smith

5. Aaron Finch (Australia)

Aaron Finch was in utterly decimating form this Big Bash League season. With 262 runs at a strike rate of 148.02 and an average of 52.40, he currently tops the run charts, he has truly been an example of “leading form the front” as he also captained the Melbourne Renegades. Unfortunately, international duty made him unavailable for their last 2 games, and that was only a catalyst that sped up the downfall of the Renegades, as they finished 6th in the league. Nonetheless, his performance is still enough to catch the eyes of any selector. He also scored a whoop-de-do 156 of just 63 against England in August last year, a score which stands as the highest individual T20I score ever. Finch led the now-defunct Pune Warriors India in 2013, and his 456 runs at a strike rate of 135.71 was the most for any batsman from his team, and gave a silver lining to PWI’s otherwise miserable season. The fact that his franchise cannot use a right to match card on him (because they don’t exist anymore) will make him up for fair auction, meaning that he will be under heavy bidding from about every franchise. Teams like Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Daredevils, who are seeking batting reforms, will be particularly interested in him.

Aaron Finch

6. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India)

Just about a year ago, Bhuvneshwar Kumar made his international debut, and he steamed through batsmen like a hot knife through butter. It has been more than evident that he lacks pace, and has been expensive at the death because of that. However, he is able to swing the new ball both ways, and is capable of wrecking havoc to top-order batsmen, and has even quelled Chris Gayle on many occasions with typical outswingers that caught edges. Although his form has deteriorated slightly over the last couple of months, which led to his dropping from the Test side in favor of Shami Ahmed, he is undoubtedly one of the best of the new-ball bowlers India’s got today, and it’ll be very strange if no IPL franchise decides to go for him. Teams that are looking to reform their teams altogether – such as Delhi or Kings XI Punjab – or teams that have struggled with bowling in the past – such as the Royal Challengers Bangalore – will definitely put a lot of money in him.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

7. Ryan McLaren (South Africa)

This South-African all-rounder has been an integral part of South Africa’s limited overs side, and has guided them to multiple close wins. As a bowler, he has worked with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to good effect, and was a part of the 5-man pace attack that South Africa used to barrage the Indian visitors on their recent tour. As a batsman, he has not fired quiet as much, but has played quiet a few crucial knocks for RSA, as well as his IPL franchises. Most notable of these knocks was during Kings XI Punjab’s first game of the 2011 IPL, where he came in at 36-5, and made a crucial 43-ball 51, which saved his team many blushes, although they went on to lose the game. Considering also that the IPL may take place in South Africa, McLaren would be a handy player for any team to have on their side. After James Faulkner profited on their home pitch, Rajasthan might want to give McLaren a go as well, to add to their international flavor in their attack.

Ryan McLaren

8. James Neesham (New Zealand)

The New Zealand all-rounder made a large impact in the T20 world after his exploits for the Otago Volts in the CLT20 of 2013. Although his team just missed their semifinal berth, his highlights gave a silver lining for the Volts to remember. He made 92 in 54 balls across his 3 matches, and got out only once. He was able with the ball as well, taking 3 wickets across his 10 overs while keeping his economy rate to a mere 7.00. His best highlight of the league was probably during the super over between Otago Volts and the Highveld Lions, where he managed to defend his total of 13 runs despite giving 10 in the first 2 balls. Neesham’s abilities will be valued by about every team, but teams like RCB – who have been looking desperately looking for one of those all rounders who can be equally brilliant with both bat and ball – should be willing to shell out a large amount for him.

James Neesham

9. Jackson Bird (Australia)

Jackson Bird has been one of the key standout performers in the Big Bash league season this year. Amassing 13 wickets across 7 games with a miserly economy of 6.71 and a stunning average of 14.46, he has been an integral part of the unbeaten Melbourne Stars’ success so far. He currently stands second on the highest wicket takers table, with Cameron Gannon of Brisbane Heat ahead of him. Teaming up with Lasith Malinga, Bird has been Cameron White’s weapon of choice against opposing batsmen throughout this league. The teams that will probably go hardest for him are teams that have lacked the genuine spearhead bowler, such as Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, it would also be just as wonderful to see him in Mumbai Indians or Sunrisers Hyderabad, bowling in tangent with Malinga or Dale Steyn.

Jackson Bird

10. Corey Anderson (New Zealand)

Corey Anderson has been the sensation of the year 2014 so far. After his world-record 36-ball ton against a hapless West Indies attack got everyone to look at him, he’s begun to show some more of his real class. In India’s tour of New Zealand, he whipped up a barrage with the bat, which included a 17-ball 44 that was just a six short of beating the record for fastest ODI fifty as well. He’s no amateur with the ball either. His left arm fast is probably not the most economic source of bowling, with his economy ranging well around the 6-an-over-mark, but he’s picked up nearly 20 wickets in just 12 games, and has already collected a 5-wicket haul. This shows that Corey may well be the vintage T20 all-rounder who gets the top bid for this year’s auction. Although about every team will look to go for him, it will be nice to see him in RCB, since the batting-friendly Chinnaswami Stadium track would definitely be able to bring out the best of Corey.

Corey Anderson

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What your squad needs when going overseas

Playing overseas has been a problem for many teams. Leaving behind your home ground which you know so well to go to a completely new place is never easy. However, it must be done to ensure that fans all over the world can have the pleasure of enjoying International cricket at their home cities. So, saying you are to pick a team to tour another country, here are three things your team should have:

  1. Experienced Players: When going overseas, having experienced players in your side is always a good thing. Not only will they have had experience in the place you are playing, but also can provide some valuable insights for the rest of your team, and help them do better. It is advisable to have at least one experienced batsman and bowler, if not more. Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, and Greame Smith are some players today who can do this.
  2. Backups: Injuries can break down a team’s stability, particularly when playing overseas. This is why it is crucial for you to have a strong backup unit in your touring squad, particularly for wicket-keeping. In the case of an injury, this can save a lot that quickly bringing in replacement players might present. This can also be a great help if some players go out of form.
  3. Young Players: This is a little long term investment. Bringing in a young player or two is always good, as it is their generation who will be the next Indian team. Also, it will be a good learning experience for them to learn how the tracks of different countries are, and do so with the guidance of their seniors. However, these players must be picked very carefully, after observing their performances carefully in both domestic and franchise cricket. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is one such player who has done well this way.

Another very useful thing would be to allow your players to play franchise cricket in other countries, such as the Big Bash, IPL, and CLT20. This gives them experience in other countries, and under seniors from those specific countries. What better way to gain experience?

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