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New Dawn After Night: A Kolkata Knight Riders Post Auction & Pre-Season Review

Gautam Gambhir has led KKR to two titles in his 6 years as captain — can he do it again? (image from espncricinfo.com)

The Kolkata Knight Riders finished 2016 on a respectable note. They didn’t quite display the dominance that they displayed in either of their winning campaigns, but still exited with a very respectable 4th place, after losing the First Eliminator to the eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad.

There was no nagging flaw that kept KKR the whole time — their batting was robust, with the ever-consistent Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, and their bowling was in the able hands of Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, and Shakib Al Hassan. Andre Russell was a triple threat, with power-packed performances in all three departments. They were also heavily bolstered by Yusuf Pathan’s rich vein of form, as his 361 runs at 145.56 provided some valuable middle order solidity.

The only concern KKR would have had would be the instability of their overseas player combination. While Narine, Shakib and Russell kept their places with little worry, the fourth slot kept cycling between a batsman (Chris Lynn, Colin Munro), or a bowler (Morne Morkel, John Hastings, Brad Hogg). They never quite settled on a combination, and this situation was only further complicated when Andre Russell suffered an injury the twilight stages of KKR’s campaign.

Their intent to completely refurbish their overseas stocks became pretty evident as they released 6 overseas players – a joint highest with the Rising Pune Supergiants. Especially with Andre Russell’s ban meaning that he will not be a part of this edition of the tournament, they would have keenly hoped to pick up a strong overseas contingent at this auction:

KKR Auction Results - Image property of IPLgeek.com

It is fairly evident that, as expected, KKR went big for overseas players. Apart from the players they purchased, they were also the second highest bidders for Tymal Mills, who ended up with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Yet, it would be ignorant to say that they didn’t get a decent chunk of what they needed.

Trent Boult will likely serve as the first-choice, and KKR will hope that he can provide a solid partner for Umesh Yadav, who has bowled some ripping spells for India in the test arena. This will also be Boult’s best shot at making a mark on the IPL — at SRH his opportunities were limited, and competition was always breathing down his neck. However, as mentioned, he will likely be the first-choice seamer for KKR this season, meaning that he will get more opportunities, as well as added responsibility.

Chris Woakes (who was a real bargain compared to his countryman Ben Stokes) will likely play the most important role of all for KKR: Andre Russell’s replacement. While his T20I numbers haven’t been the best, Woakes’ all-round shows have been of great value to England’s ODI squad, and he will be expected to play a similar role of frontline seamer cum low order hitter for KKR.

Chris Woakes (image from espncricinfo.com)

Chris Woakes will have the monumental task of filling Andre Russell’s shoes. (image from espncricinfo.com)

The rest of their picks serve as pretty solid backups: Rovman Powell was good for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the 2016 Caribbean Premier League, and his all-round abilities will come in handy if Woakes fails to perform. Nathan Coulter-Nile offers a backup seam option for Trent Boult, as well as a few runs lower down the order. Darren Bravo’s abilities will come in handy if Chris Lynn fails to fire, and Rishi Dhawan and Ishank Jaggi provide good Indian options as well.

Now, take a look at my playing XI dynamic:

KKR Playing XI Dynamic - Image Property of IPLgeek.com.

Note: This dynamic represents possible scenarios of my own deduction, and have no direct affiliation with the actual plans of the KKR team management.

As shown, their likely combination is to rely on their fairly consistent Indian batting, while clumping their overseas stocks in their bowling. This produces a combination fairly similar to that which won them the 2014 IPL, with the two bowlers and two all-rounders. Should the need arise to solidify their batting, however, they have Brisbane Heat’s superstar Chris Lynn on the ropes, along with West Indies’ Darren Bravo.

After his Big Bash heroics, Chris Lynn probably deserves another shot for KKR. Apart from a stellar show on debut, Lynn hasn’t really been able to make himself indispensable for the Knights, and the relative stability of their top order makes breaking in a difficult task. Yet, he is their first choice overseas batsman, and if their Indian bowling contingent steps up, there’s a chance they may be willing to give him a go ahead of one of their overseas bowling all-rounders. With Umesh and Kuldeep Yadav

Apart from his brilliance with the ball, Sunil Narine has also developed a panache for scoring quick runs lower down the order. In fact, he even opened the innings with Aaron Finch for the Melbourne Renegades during his BBL stint. Apart from his responsibility as KKR’s sole overseas spinner, if he can provide some runs lower down the order, it would give the Knights a valuable extra dimension of depth to their batting lineup.

If Umesh Yadav‘s test form is anything to go by, he will have a wonderful IPL 10. Bowling beautiful lines with his natural gift of express pace and swing, he played a crucial role in inciting Australia’s collapse in their second innings of the recently concluded 4th Test. If he can form a potent pace trio with Boult and Woakes in the 2017 season, it will be a season to remember for KKR fans.

The “other Yadav” Kuldeep Yadav also had a breakthrough in the recently concluded Border-Gavasker series vs. Australia, as he scythed through a defiant Australian batting lineup to claim a four-wicket haul on debut. He was in and out of the KKR setup last year, but with the release of Brad Hogg, he will be the sole chinaman bowler in the team. He will be in hot competition with Piyush Chawla however, so he will need to put on a strong show to remain in contention throughout.

The Kolkata Knight Riders will start their IPL 10 campaign as they square off against the Gujarat Lions on April 7th.

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IPL Auctions 2017: A Player For Your Team

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Ben Stokes can most could have an extraordinary impact on many franchise — but who will buy him? (Image from espncricinfo.com)

We are now just hours away from the eagerly anticipated IPL Auctions for 2017. This auction is the 3rd “remedial” (as I like to call it) auction, where teams aren’t looking as much to build a new side (on average), but are rather looking to secure the few players they need to strengthen their weaknesses from the previous season. With some of England’s finest limited overs players making their debut in the IPL Auctions, it will bring an extra dimension of interest.

This article will focus on one player who could impact each franchise the most. This does not mean that player is the only player who could make an impact, nor that this is the only player the franchise can buy; just the one who could impact them the most. Hence, if you want to know which player could certainly turn around (or boost) your team’s fortunes, read on:

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Johnny Bairstow

Came Close: Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson

While David Warner was second only to Virat Kohli last season, the SRH middle order struggled to register runs, and this flaw came dangerously close to choking them in the Final, before Ben Cutting did his part. Not only does Bairstow bring strength to that middle order, but also brings a brand of aggression that was not seen enough in the Sunrisers lineup barring Warner. In addition, his ability as a wicket-keeper allows SRH to be flexible with Naman Ojha and the rest of their Indian batting contingent. He narrowly edges out Ben Stokes and Corey Anderson because the Sunrisers’ bowling is already above and beyond, and because of the presence of technically similar all-rounders in Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Tymal Mills

Came Close: Trent Boult, Ben Stokes

RCB’s bowling has always been an issue, and is even more in light of Mitchell Starc’s recent departure from the side. While RCB do posses other bowling reserves – such as Tabraiz Shamsi, Adam Milne and Samuel Badree – injuries have not been kind to them, and hence having the insurance of a frontline seamer will be invaluable for the Challengers. Mills also worked with RCB’s head coach Daniel Vettori whilst playing for the Brisbane Heat earlier this year, strengthening his appeal to the side. He narrowly edges ahead of Boult on stats and base price. Stokes is also a strong contender, but the presence of Shane Watson and RCB’s plethora of Indian batting talent edges him out.

Gujarat Lions: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan

Gujarat’s only major problem in a table-topping debut season was the fact that their bowling attack struggled to defend totals – they won only the solitary game against the Delhi Daredevils batting first (by 1 run). This is a problem further exacerbated by the injury to Dwayne Bravo, which puts question marks on his participation during the season. Stokes could directly remedy the problem with Bravo, and contribute to the Lions’ smothering, all-out aggressive batting approach. While their Indian bowling contingent is something they will most certainly have to look into, Stokes’ bowling can also aid

Kolkata Knight Riders: Patrick Cummins

Came Close: Chris Woakes, Irfan Pathan

KKR essentially let go of what is essentially their entire overseas pace contingent ahead of the auction, perhaps looking to pick up one or two quicks in this auction to replace them. Now, with Andre Russell banned over doping charges, the Knight Riders will need to take that into account as well while rebuilding. Pat Cummins functions as a perfect platform for that. While his 2 crore base price is slightly high, his ability to throw down absolute thunderbolts, coupled with some skillful hitting at the back end of the innings, makes him the ideal starting pick for the Knight Riders. While there are other bowlers and bowling all-rounders in the pool, Cummins’ relative bowling strength to others with a similar batting capability sets him apart.

Mumbai Indians: Mohammed Shahzad

Came Close: Jason Roy, Johnny Bairstow

Mumbai have had trouble with opening combinations since the days of Sachin Tendulkar, and 2016 was no different. Like the Lions, they too struggled to defend totals, not due to poor bowling, but due to a batting lineup that didn’t seize enough initiative up front, like they did in their victorious 2015 campaign. In fact, one could go as far as to say that the injury to Lendil Simmons hurt them more than the injury to Lasith Malinga. Mohammed Shahzad could help solve this problem. His fearless hitting at the top could set a base for Rohit Sharma, and later the finishers in Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler, to give MI some truly unassailable totals. The fact that he offers another wicket-keeping option edges him slightly ahead of his closest competition.

Delhi Daredevils: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Angelo Matthews, Corey Anderson

Delhi Daredevils’ campaign was a truly remarkable one, built on a strong backbone of India’s youth, supported eagerly by upcoming stars from all over the world. Constant (and sometimes unnecessary) tinkering is one of the possible reasons as to why they did not make a semifinal spot. Ben Stokes can settle the squad, and hopefully form a solid base around whom the Daredevils can construct the rest of their side. Matthews and Anderson would be great for this too, but current form favors Stokes. In addition, Delhi’s auction purse is second only to KXIP, meaning that they will have an edge should the bidding get heated.

Rising Pune Supergiants: Mohammed Nabi

Came Close: Corey Anderson, Ben Stokes

Rising Pune Supergiants have a strong top, but lacked depth in their batting. In addition, Pune unfortunately failed to fully utilize their spin resources, shown as Adam Zampa did not play until the back-end of the tournament, and R Ashwin was criminally under-bowled. However, Nabi would be able to remedy both problems at once, adding a few runs lower down the order and be a valuable spin resource. This would allow the Supergiants to exploit the spin of their home pitch, and by doing so build a side similar to the KKR side that won the 2012 IPL. Stokes and Anderson are equally competant, but Nabi’s spin – and the presence of Mitchell Marsh – mean they take second place.

Kings XI Punjab: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Corey Anderson, Angelo Matthews

Punjab’s poor performance in 2016 was mainly attributed to the fact that they lacked an “X-factor” player; someone who delivers sensational performances that single-handedly bring victory, inspiring their teammates in the process. This was reflected as they released only 4 players – 3 overseas players and one costly Indian player. This shows that KXIP have very specific players in mind, and are willing to spend heavily on them. It would not be a radical leap of faith to assume that Stokes is most certainly one of those specific players. While the other two will also likely be on KXIP’s list, Stokes is most definitely a forerunner.

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IPL Auction 2017: 7 Bargain Picks

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After a scintillating Big Bash, Ben McDermott makes it to the IPL Auctions. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

The coveted player list for the 2017 IPL Auctions is finally out. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have been waiting for since forever. This finally allows me to fill theories with solid data.

To celebrate this, here are 10 potential bargain pics for the 2017 Auction:

#7: Martin Guptil (NZ)

Base Price: Rs. 50 Lakh

Once again Martin Guptill enters the auction with a base price that – compared to many other of his calibre – is laughably low. After going unsold last year (to the shock of the cricketing community), he had a short stint with the Mumbai Indians as a replacement for Lendil Simmons. Despite the relative stability of most teams’ overseas combinations, Guptill could be an invaluable investment to the bench strength – at the very least – of any franchise, for a very low cost.

#6: David Wiese (RSA)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

A mainstay of South Africa’s T20I side for some time now – until his signing of the Kolpak deal which effectively ended his international career – David Wiese is loaded with T20 potential. He has represented numerous T20 sides across the globe, and had a great stint with RCB in 2015, grabbing 16 wickets in 14 games. Although form – and age – haven’t been on his side, Wiese’s T20 repertoire at that price would be an excellent deal at that price.

#5: RP Singh (IND)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

RP Singh has not been in India’s international setup for nearly 6 years now, and has even had a lean run in the IPL, with only two IPL stints in the last 4 years. Regardless, RP Singh possesses a strong reputation in IPL cricket, and for 30 lakh he serves as a useful backup seamer, particularly for teams with few Indian seamers.

#4: Mitchell Santner (NZ)

Base Price: Rs. 50 Lakh

Arguably one of the best spinners out there on the international front, Mitchell Santner will have fond memories of bowling in India — his 4/11 which helped New Zealand engineer a 47-run victory against their hosts in the 2016 T20 World Cup still lives in the memories of the cricketing community. While it is difficult for overseas specialist bowlers (or batsman) to get buyers at a stage where sides are already relatively settled Santner’s excellence – at a relatively low price – is something franchises to keep their eyes open for.

#3: Tom Cooper (Netherlands/AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

Tom Cooper is essentially a T20 specialist, with a great deal of experience under his belt. He has made some memorable knocks – including a whirlwind 15-ball 45 in the Netherlands’ memorable chase against Ireland in the 2014 T20 World Cup Qualifier. He is a very experienced campaigner in the Big Bash League, serving as a powerful hitter for the Melbourne Renegades. His part-time off-spin is more than tidy, and can keep runs down when needed. At 30 lakh, he could bring some extra bench strength (if nothing else) to any team.

#2: Ben McDermott (AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 10 Lakh

Ben McDermott had a wonderful Big Bash league. His skillful stroke-play combined with a panache for power-hitting managed to even keep the legendary Kumar Sangakkara out of the Hobart Hurricanes XI. He also scored a blazing 114 of 52 to help Hobart chase down a monumental 222 set by Aaron Finch’s Melbourne Renegades. At 10 lakh, he would be a small investment with great potential for any franchise.

#1: D’Arcy Short (AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 10 Lakh

D’Arcy Short turned eyes as he lit up the Hurricanes’ first game of the 2016 Big Bash with a 29-ball 61. Although the rest of his season was relatively unimpressive, Short’s aggressive batting style lends itself well to T20 cricket in general, even more in the IPL. His left arm chinaman spin is also effective in stealing a few wickets here and here. At 10 lakh, he is also an incredible bargain.

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5 Players Who Can Make It Happen this IPL

Shane Watson could be RCB’s formula to success (image from sports.ndtv.com).

The T20 World Cup is nearing its end, meaning that the IPL is just around the corner. Now, I have spent a fair bit of time preparing for a set of pre-season/post auction reviews I plan to do in the near future, and as I have perused the player lists, I have found some players who can definitely cause ripples in this season for their respective franchises, and possibly even bring them the trophy (i.e. “Make it Happen):

Note: I have attempted to be as diverse as possible in terms of franchises without discounting player worth.

#5: Samuel Badree (RCB)

Badree has been one of WI’s standout bowlers this WT20. Although his 7 wickets in 5 games are impressive on their own, his economy rate of 5.68 is what really stands out. Considering that he played 2 of those 5 games on the run-rich track of Mumbai. His ability to bowl those tight overs upfront with the new ball will be invaluable for RCB, especially in light of Mitchell Starc’s uncertainty due to injury.

#4: Ashish Nehra (SRH)

In the last few months, Ashish Nehra has scripted quite a turnaround in his T20 career. He had a mighty fine T20 World Cup, taking a wicket in each of his 5 games while conceding under 30 runs. Even more impressive is that he has accomplished this feat across 5 different grounds, which is a great indicator that he isn’t just someone who is constantly reaping the rewards of a pitch he knows well. In addition, it will be a chance for him to step up and lead a relatively young Sunrisers bowling lineup, and fill the void left by the departure of Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma.

#3: Kevin Pietersen (RPS)

Last time Kevin Pietersen played an IPL, he had to lead the Delhi Daredevils, and struggle with a contingent of out of form players who were not quite settled with their roles in the team. Now, however, he is playing under MS Dhoni, arguably the Otto von Bismarck of cricket (in terms of genius, that is, not inciting wars with countries). He is also in a batting lineup that consists of men like Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis, who are known to be good at anchor roles. Hence, this season, KP will truly be liberated and free to do what he does best: attack the bowlers from ball one.

#2: Quinton de Kock (DD)

QDK has really enjoyed his time in India during the T20 World Cup. He registered scores of 52, 45. 47, and 9 in four games to put up a performance so strong it effectively shunned AB de Villiers from his traditional T20I opening slot, giving the Proteas one star in an otherwise dark night of a tournament. He will also be partnering with the illustrious Shreyas Iyer at the top of the order, which will finally give Zaheer Khan’s Daredevils hope of batting stability that they have sought so desparately since the era of Sehwag, Mahela and Warner.

#1: Shane Watson (RCB)

Shane Watson is probably the most accomplished all-rounder to don the RCB jersey since the legendary Jacques Kallis himself. For the franchise that has struggled so much with side balance in the last several years, there are so many options he opens up. He covers the role of a seasoned fast-bowler, allowing RCB to invest one of their overseas slots in a Samuel Badree, who could tantalize batsmen on the newly laid slower Chinnaswami track. His flexibility in the batting order allows RCB to give their young batting contingent a chance to find the positions and roles that suit them best. Lastly, his years of experience and success in both international and IPL cricket will allow him to bring something to the table for both the batsmen and the bowlers, and will also be someone Virat Kohli can turn to for a word of wisdom. In addition, Watto delivered consistently with both bat and ball for Australia in the T20 World Cup, and although some team lapses meant that trophy will still remain elusive to the otherwise trophy-rich Australian team, Watto sure did exit International Cricket in style.

 

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World Cup Journal #3: Fall of the Minnows and the Rise of Pakistan

Shahid Afridi needs to come to the party. (Image from icccricketwc.com)

 

In the last couple of weeks of World Cup cricket, we’ve been perplexed by the bizarre, and blown away by the blitzkrieg of some players stamping their dominance on others (and no, none of them was Hitler). However, in this week, things have been a little more, to use the word, normal. All in all, the results of the various matches have been good for the safe better, and tough for the radical. Everything has been fairly predictable, with good teams beating minnows fairly comfortably.

Now I’m not saying that we’ve not seen exciting cricket; quite the contrary. We’ve seen some excellent cricket, with just as much muscle and excitement as ever. In fact, 3 of the top 5 totals in all World Cups were made in the last 10 days, one of which was in the top 10 for all time ODI scores (Australia’s 417-6 vs. Afghanistan). Rather, what I’m saying is that the results of the matches haven’t been anything of a surprise. For example, South Africa scored a match-winning 411-4 vs. Ireland on Tuesday. Of course, most people would have been willing to bet that South Africa would indeed make a mammoth score and beat Ireland, but none of them would sit there and say “this is boring.” Similarly, what I’m trying to say is that there has been an air of predictability to the results here, but they have certainly not been boring.

Another point I wanted to highlight was the rise of Pakistan. Now, Pakistan got off to a horrid start, losing their military-tension clash vs. India, and then dropping like dominoes in the face of a stoic West Indies bowling lineup. They were terrible defeats, both statistically and morally. Even in their clash against Zimbabwe, their batting lineup slugged along, and it took an all-round show from Wahab Riaz to get them over the line. Then, however, against the UAE their showing was much more convincing, with Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail leading from the front with the bat to take Pakistan to 339, followed by a spirited bowling show to keep UAE down to 210. However, they saved their best for the best, as Sarfraz Ahmed backed up his sublime run-a-ball 49 at the top with 6 catches behind the stumps, and coupled with the 3 left arm seamers’ 9 wickets between them to pull off a stunner that left the Protea side (wait for it) stunned.

 

I think that while Pakistan have shown clear signs of weakness, particularly in their batting lineup, they may be peaking at the right time, and may just pull it off. My personal view is that their biggest concern would be Shahid Afridi’s mediocre form. The all-rounder truly led from the front in the last tournament, and marshalled his troops sublimely to make it to the semifinals. He hasn’t been in top form this year, but I believe that if he can come to the party, Pakistan have a great chance of making it big.

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Between Two Cups: A 4-Year Journey

 

Yuvraj Singh was Man of the Series in the last World Cup, but 4 years have led to India not selecting him for the squad this year. Image from galleryhip.com

Yuvraj Singh was Man of the Series in the last World Cup, but 4 years have led to India not selecting him for the squad this year.
Image from galleryhip.com

In 2011, during the World Cup, I was in 7th Grade. I had very little homework, and a lot of fun. Sreesanth was still playing cricket, CSK was hardly a controversial franchise, and guys like Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan were all still in the Indian side.

It’s been four years. Four long years. Four years since Dhoni thumped Nuwan Kulasekara for the six that won India their first World Cup since 1983. Now, at the dawn of the 2015 World Cup, it feels like a whole age has passed. There’s been so much change in the world that it’s almost hard to believe that the 2011 World Cup wasn’t played during World War II. I’m in 11th grade, and my workload is the cricket equivalent of facing Sunil Narine in Eden Gardens right after a rainstorm: squishy, fatiguing, and all in all agonizing. Sreesanth, along with a whole army of other players involved in spot-fixing, is now out of commision. Even Kevin Pietersen, one of England’s “immortal players” in my opinion, is no longer playing international cricket. Sachin Tendulkar retired. Phil Hughes passed away. Dhoni retired from Test cricket. And of course, this website now celebrates it’s four-year anniversary this coming Friday.

This World Cup features teams that people – if brought from 2011 on a time machine – would be very surprised at. Where’s Sehwag? When did Afghanistan get so good? Who the heck is Glenn Maxwell? It just goes to show that it’s been a dynamic four years. Teams have suckled the sweet nectar of success, and tasted the bitterness medicine of defeat. Some teams have risen resurgent from the ashes, like New Zealand; but for other teams – like India and Sri Lanka – the sun just seems to be setting a little. Regardless, we must remind ourselves that as in history, this is just but a phase in the ever-dynamic world of cricket, and everyone will experience both the roses and their thorns. This World Cup (or any World Cup for that matter) is nothing more than a test to show us who’s enjoying the high tide now, and who isn’t. Nonetheless, it will be a fun contest to watch.

 

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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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What Happened to India?

Along with the rest of the Indian lineup, Cheteshwar Pujara had a below-par time in England. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

Along with the rest of the Indian lineup, Cheteshwar Pujara had a below-par time in England. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

July 21st, 2014: Indian won in Lord’s for the first time in 28 years. It was a day to rejoice, and Indian fan and cricketer alike were all happy. However, the cloud of jubilation proved to be but a mask of what would come next. The English batsmen began the third test with an attack of renewed vigour to register a massive total of 569 before James Anderson and Moeen Ali cleaned up the dazed Indian lineup to register a mighty 266 run victory; their first since beating Australia in the Ashes during the summer of 2013. The Indian side never quite looked the same again, as they were routed for 152 and 161 within 3 days during the 4th test, registering one of the meekest surrenders in cricket history. At the start of the 4th test, Independence Day luck failed India as they collapsed yet again to register only 148. Now down 2-1 in the series (with 1 draw), it is hard to see how this young Indian side, which had looked so authoritative back in Lord’s, managed to bring themselves down to such a lowly fate.

 

The biggest problem in the last 2 tests was undoubtedly the Indian batting lineup’s failure to click. Virat Kohli in particular has failed to give India those strong partnerships and 100-ball innings you see from guys like Kumar Sangakkara. Even Ajinkya Rahane – who looked set to be India’s Mr. Dependable in the making after his mature Lord’s century – stuttered and spluttered in the last few innings. Only a few “rescue operations” (literally) innings from MS Dhoni and R Ashwin saved the Indians from sub-100 scores in the last few innings.

 

This may lead you to the conclusion that it is easy to blame the losses entirely on India’s batting, but don’t cast your judgement just yet. We must also take into accord England’s bowling. After the Lord’s test, England took a bit of a gamble bringing in 4 specialist fast-bowlers and leaving only 1 part-time spinner. However, it paid off dramatically well. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were the key figures, as they demolished the Indian batting as clinically as German U-Boats sunk Allied shipment during WWII. Don’t forget Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes though. While they may not have done the damage done by the Broad-Anderson duo, they definitely made an impact, silencing a few batsmen and allowing the pressure to creep on them. Now the bottom line question arises: why couldn’t India do the same? Why couldn’t India’s bowlers dive bomb the British batsmen as efficiently as their English counterparts had done to theirs?

 

There are quite a few reasons for this. The first is poor selection. Where England played 4 full-time seamers, India played just 3, of whom 1 was debuting and 1 was not known for his pace (in the 3rd test). Hence while they were not terrible, they did not do as much as Anderson and Broad had. Their problem was that their selection did not have the pace needed to repeat what Ishant Sharma did back in Lord’s. Varun Aaron had more success in the 4th test, as he picked up 3 wickets, including a lovely inswinger to knock over Moeen Ali. He was probably bowling slower than he would during a T20 to preserve his fragile fitness, but was still fast enough to trouble the English batsmen. This is where it might have been handy to use someone like Umesh Yadav (not selected for the tour) or Mohammed Shami ahead of Stuart Binny or Pankaj Singh, as those guys are probably the fastest bowlers we have in India today and might have had a strong impact.

 

The second issue is inexperience. India’s complete revamp of the side in the past 3 years has stripped them drastically of hardened international experience. In fact, Ishant Sharma is the only Indian pacer who’s played the tour to debut before 2013. In England, on the other hand, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are hardened veterans, and Woakes and Jordan have a good level of experience with English tracks, even if not much at the international level. Therefore the English side was able to outplay the Indians on experience alone (the inexperienced Indian lineup did not help). Even though guys like Mohammed Shami possessed the pace to dent England, their lack of experience barred the way. Persisting with Zaheer Khan might help. Even though he is injury prone and possesses only flashes of the potent that made him such a lethal bowler a few years ago, he would help smooth the transition into the new generation for India’s quicks.

 

This tour has been a bittersweet one for India (maybe more bitter than sweet though). They lost two crushing defeats, true, but it’s not everyday that you win a test at Lord’s. I personally feel it will be a tour of comprehension for India. It is time for them to find some way to either bring an experience equilibrium to the squad, or get their youngsters accustomed to foreign conditions (through domestic leagues in different countries). Even if India lose the series, I feel it will be a good wake-up call for them, and will hopefully spark some degree of reform and change, so we have a better, classier Indian side too watch in the near future.

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Cricket On The Scorecard – A Visualising Experience

Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports there is. Both for the polished analyst as well as that guy who lives for exciting moments, cricket has plenty to offer. While the best experience undoubtedly comes from watching from the stadium itself, television has evolved so much that now watching from your HD TV with surround speakers and a box of pizza with ice cream for dessert provides an experience just as enthralling. However, this experience is often a tad harder to get for us cricket fans who live in countries where cricket is not quite the hot sport. Stadium watching is completely out of the question (unless you have a lot of money and passion), and getting high quality streams is sometimes very tedious. I know that starsports streams a majority of the big matches, but probably because I live in Korea, this starsports gives me this message of death instead of cricket more often than not:cons of cricket in koreaRacism….pfft (just kidding).

The only other streams available to me are ones that have such low quality and so much buffering that I usually just prefer to go watch IPL highlights.

To add to all of this, ICC clearly didn’t plan the timing of the matches to suit to the Korean time zone, so I often found myself rolled up in my bed, laptop on low volume, watching Yuvraj Singh pulverising Australia, or the West Indies outplaying Bangladesh at 2 AM. It is nonetheless fun, but it does cut in with my sleep, and sleep is good.

After watching this guy at 1 AM, I'm surprised I didn't get nightmares. Image credits: @AltCricket

After watching this guy at 1 AM, I’m surprised I didn’t get nightmares.
Image credits: @AltCricket

 

So in the end, my most reliable form of cricket viewing has been my cricket apps on my iPod. My favourite one used to be Yahoo Cricket’s app, which I found was neat and gave me all the info I needed. However, for some reason it lost its sense of time, and began to show scores with a delay. That’s when I switched to the espncricinfo app, which after updates, has proven to be one of the best apps I’ve ever used.

Now, I use these apps not just for the score, but for the commentary. The commentary is what helps you relive the match, and imagine what may have happened. They say good authors allow you to “live their books”. While the commentary provided on cricinfo may not be a literary work of art, but it helps me visualise nonetheless. While I may not be able to actually watch the match, I can still live the gameplay in my head. For example, if the commentary says Wriddhiman Saha is pulling Sunil Narine for sixes, I try and envision how that may work. Sometimes I may see him sitting on one knee and pulling him, or taking a step back to pull a shorter one. While the commentary does sometimes provide details that specify which one it actually is, the process of imagining it itself is quite incredible. This way, you can create your own image of cricket inside your head, which I feel is something every cricketist needs to be able to do.

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Chennai Super Kings: Season Preview

As before, watch my podcast for my general thoughts on the team, as it looks on paper:

The Chennai Super Kings have undoubtedly been the most successful team in the IPL so far. They are the only team to qualify for every single semifinal since the inaugural edition, and are also the only team to win the league twice. They come into the tournament with a side similar to the one they had in 2013, but with more changes than one is used to when it comes to CSK. Firstly, we see that former clutch players like Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel and Subramaniam Badrinath have been discarded. Also, we see several new faces, such as New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, Australia’s John Hastings, and West Indies’ duo of Dwayne Smith and Samuel Badree. Overall, the CSK squad looks very well balanced, as it always has. The only niggle they will have will be the question of who will be the spearhead fast bowler. Although Ben Hilfenhaus is indeed an option, he hasn’t played international cricket in well over a year now, and bringing him in will mean leaving out either Faf du Plessis or Samuel Badree, two of CSK’s clutch players this tournament. Therefore, it is likely that CSK will give someone along the lines of Ashish Nehra, Ishwar Pandey, or Mohit Sharma that responsibility, although it is a risky move. However, their spin attack is impeccable, with Badree combining with an in-form Ravi Ashwin, and Ravi Jadeja.

Author’s XI (Based on more recent times):

Brendon McCullum

Faf du Plessis

Suresh Raina

Dwayne Bravo

MS Dhoni

Mithun Manhas

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ishwar Pandey

Samuel Badree

Mohit Sharma

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