Friday, December 29, 2017

Which has been India's best pace-bowling contingent?

India go into their upcoming series against South Africa with four seamers who have had a fair amount of success in Test cricket. Even their fifth option, Jasprit Bumrah, who has not played a Test, is already an established name in the shorter formats. This gives them a depth in fast bowling that few India squads have had. Shami, Umesh, Ishant and Bhuvneshwar were all part of the setup when India went on four tours in 2014, but they were only sporadically successful. Each has developed since then. The one question facing this attack is whether there is a clear leader of the pack.

Javagal Srinath spent most of his career waiting for a support cast to back up his fiery pace. Towards the end of it, he went to South Africa with his old partner Venkatesh Prasad and three young quicks who had all shown they could zip it around in ODIs. Ajit Agarkar had broken Dennis Lillee's record to become the fastest to 50 wickets in ODIs, while Zaheer had put the world on notice with his yorker to bowl Steve Waugh in the 2000 Champions Trophy. Unfortunately, none of the young quicks stepped up, and Srinath was again left waging a lone battle.

India had three dangerous quicks going into their 2010-11 series in South Africa, which was billed as the battle for the No.1 ICC ranking. Zaheer Khan had established himself as one of the best in the world, Ishant Sharma was in one of the best phases of his career, and Sreesanth had been impactful on tours. The downside was that beyond that, there were two newbies. So, when Zaheer was out injured for the first Test, Jaidev Unadkat had to make his international debut and looked insipid against South Africa's batting. With Zaheer back, India managed to win the second Test and level the series.

India went Down Under in 2003-04 with three talented left-armers. Two, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, had already generated excitement with consistent performances in ODIs - they had taken India to a World Cup final in South Africa - and flashes of brilliance in Tests. The third, Irfan Pathan, was untested but already being touted for big things. Ajit Agarkar provided the experience, having travelled to Australia before, while L Balaji was an unknown quantity. It was Agarkar who shone in the end, bowling India to a victory in Adelaide.

This attack will be remembered for delivering India a first series win in England for two decades, but on paper, it looked quite inexperienced. Zaheer Khan's career had, until then, been patchy, with injuries and dips in form keeping him from being a fixture in the Test side. Sreesanth had impressed in South Africa, but was just eight Tests old; RP Singh had never played a Test outside Asia; and Ranadeb Bose had not played any international cricket - he never did, as it turned out. What the attack did have, though, was pace and raw potential.

Monday, December 18, 2017

TN coach admits to being aware of Vijay injury

Tamil Nadu coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar has admitted to being aware of M Vijay's injury that kept him out of the Vijay Hazare Trophy fixture against Mumbai in Chennai on Thursday. The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) had subsequently left Vijay out of the squad for the remaining games after he had "failed to report" to the ground citing "shoulder pain".

The TNCA had also stated in a press release that the state body, selection committee and the team physio were unaware of Vijay's injury.

Kanitkar, however, acknowledged the possibility of a "communication gap", and said Vijay had informed him of his unavailability on the morning of the match. He also said the team wasn't caught unawares. "Vijay had told me on the morning of the match that he wouldn't be able to play," reports quoted Kanitkar as saying at the end of the Tamil Nadu-Madhya Pradesh match on Friday. "I think there was some communication gap with the association. I knew about it before coming to the ground. I also already knew who to replace him with. It wasn't a surprise because we were prepared for it.

"Even during the Ranji Trophy match against Tripura earlier this season, he opted out on the morning of the match with a neck sprain. But on that occasion he came to the ground to get it treated. I know Vijay has always played with commitment for the state."

A top TNCA official, however, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the association's decision to replace Vijay with young batsman Pradosh Ranjan Paul remained unchanged and that "the matter was closed." The TNCA official had said on Friday that Vijay had informed the Tamil Nadu coach at about 7.30am on the day of the match. The TNCA was upset by Vijay's last-minute withdrawal and had generally been unhappy with his "attitude" over a period of time.

Although the TNCA official had confirmed there wasn't any disciplinary action initiated against Vijay, he said that going forward national players wouldn't be allowed to pick and choose matches once they had confirmed their availability for a tournament. He further said the issue was likely to come up for discussion at an executive committee meeting of the TNCA.

Meanwhile, an injury-ridden Tamil Nadu side suffered another blow with captain Vijay Shankar ruled out of the Andhra game on Sunday. Offspinner Malolan Rangarajan has been added to the squad, which will now be captained by B Aparajith. Lead spinner R Ashwin, who picked up seven wickets from four games, is also set to miss the game. The official clarified Ashwin had sought permission of the TNCA in advance, and the association, in consultation with the selectors, granted his request.

Monday, December 11, 2017

England's over-reaction fuels the booze-cruise narrative

If there was one moment that summed up the hysteria currently surrounding the England squad, it came at the end of the warm-up game in Richardson Park when Moeen Ali was asked if "you and your team-mates will be able to stay away from pubs between now and Thursday".

You would think most reporters sent to cover such a game might know by now that Moeen is a practising Muslim and therefore appreciate that such a question might be considered pretty crass. As Moeen responded dryly: "I'm not much of a pub guy, to be honest."

But the moment did serve to highlight how the image of the England squad has long since separated from reality.

The reality of this England squad, containing as it does, such clean-cut young men as Alastair Cook, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood (another teetotaller) and Moeen (to name but four of many), is that they arrived in Australia with a single-minded determination to retain the Ashes. You're more likely to see them early in the morning running in the park than drinking in a bar late at night.

The image, however, is of a group of lads on a stag night for whom sessions in the field are a necessary evil in between sessions in the bar.

It's unfair and it's inaccurate. But it's the perception now. And once perceptions are set, they are harder to shift than red wine stains on cricket whites.

It's an image reinforced every time an England player behaves like a fool. Few people can seriously believe Jonny Bairstow or Ben Duckett committed serious indiscretions but, at a time of heightened sensitivity, their actions have provided ammunition for those who want to sustain the narrative that talks of a squad out of control or a team in an alcohol-fuelled crisis.

And it's an image reinforced every time anyone from either set-up is interviewed. The England management, knowing they can't be seen to minimise incidents that, deep down, most of them feel are trivial, inadvertently fan the flames when they talk of "unacceptable" behaviour or impose fines upon players for actions that, if they are honest, they saw every week of their own touring lives. Moeen, with the best of intentions, did the same on Sunday.

Duckett may well need to recalibrate his work-life balance but he is nothing worse than a good-natured halfwit who has been scapegoated by the ECB to show they mean business. A thousand former players - and at least one in the current team - are thinking 'There but for the grace of God...' A more senior, more valuable, player might well have been treated more leniently.

The Australia management, meanwhile, need only sigh and look serious. Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, played it magnificently over the weekend when, with the gravitas of a weapons inspector, he suggested the Duckett affair was "not funny", thereby passively giving credence to the theory that there is a serious problem at the heart of the England set-up.

Monday, December 4, 2017

England provide a glimmer of what might have been

Like the bit at the end of a gameshow where they wheel out a speedboat and say "Look what you could have won," England's cricket in the latter stages of the third day served only to show what might have been in this game.

To see England's eighth-wicket pair post the highest stand of the innings or see James Anderson and co pitching the new ball up and troubling batsmen, was to see how they should have played when the match was there to be shaped. Alanis Morissette would (wrongly) have called it ironic; England supporters might simply call it really bloody irritating. Even James Anderson admitted "there are some very frustrated players in that dressing room."

But maybe they're encouraged, too. For if we learned anything on the third day of this Test it was that England can compete. They are not up against the West Indies of the late 1970s or the Australia of the start of this century. They just have to play better.

That is not to demean Australia. In Steve Smith they have a batsman who may well be remembered as a great, while in David Warner and Nathan Lyon they have two other top-class cricketers. That seam attack deserves plenty of respect, too.

But if England are honest, they will reflect on their cricket in the first half of this game and admit they were not blown away as much as they let themselves down. Their bowling with the first new ball of the match and most of their batting was well below the required standard. As a consequence, they have allowed Australia a head-start that will surely prove decisive. To win after conceding a first-innings deficit of 215 - or win the series after going two down - would be close to miraculous.

Consider the dismissals of England's batsmen in their first innings here. Consider James Vince fencing at one he should, at that stage of his innings, have left 11 times out of 10. Consider Joe Root, drawn into a lavish drive and edging to the cordon, or Alastair Cook guiding one to slip off the face of his bat as if providing catching practice. These were soft, loose dismissals. And if three of the top four sell their wickets so cheaply, it is going to prove desperately tough to set a competitive total. "We didn't feel like we batted particularly well," Anderson said with feeling afterwards. "We should have got more runs."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kohli joint-fastest to 50 international tons

50 - Number of international hundreds for Virat Kohli. He became the eighth batsman overall and second Indian, after Sachin Tendulkar, to get there. Kohli got there in his 348th innings, in Kolkata on Monday, the joint-quickest along with Hashim Amla, who got there in February 2017.

2 - Number of third-innings centuries for Kohli in Tests. Both have come in successive third innings outings against Sri Lanka. The first was an unbeaten 103 in Galle earlier this year. Before these two knocks, Kohli averaged 27.12 in the third innings across 25 knocks, with four half-centuries. The last India captain to score a third-innings century before Kohli was Tendulkar, who did so against New Zealand in Mohali in 1999. The previous India player to score a third-innings century at Eden Gardens was Rahul Dravid, against Pakistan in 2005.

83 - Kohli's run tally across six Test innings at Eden Gardens before this century. He was out for single digits in four of those innings. In ODIs, he has a century and three fifties in six innings here.

119 - Balls taken by Kohli to score this century - his fastest of the 18 Test hundreds. The previous quickest was off 129 balls against New Zealand in Wellington in 2013-14. Kohli scored 68.87% of batsmen runs since he arrived to the crease - 104 out of 151 - at a strike rate of 87.39. While the other batsmen contributed 47 runs at strike rate of 31.92.

9 - Number of hundreds for Kohli across formats this year - three in Tests and six in ODIs - the most by him in any calendar year. He made eight hundreds, his previous best, in 2012 and 2014.

0 - No captain has made more international hundreds in a year than Kohli's nine this year. Ricky Ponting (2005 and 2006) and Graeme Smith (2006) also made nine hundreds. Kohli still has six internationals left this year to set a new record.

1 - Kohli is the first India captain to score a duck and a century in the same Test. He's the 18th captain overall to do so. Last India player to do so was Cheteshwar Pujara, also against Sri Lanka, in Colombo (SSC) in 2015. The last instance of an Indian doing this at home was Dravid, against England in Mohali in 2008.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lehmanns can make it work - Alec Stewart

Over the coming days, when Australia's selection panel sits down to finalise the squad for their opening Ashes encounter in Brisbane, at some point during the conversation, Darren Lehmann will have to excuse himself from the room. If the name of his son, Jake Lehmann, comes up - and it almost certainly will, even as an outside choice - then senior Lehmann will leave the other selectors to deliberate without him.

While this process will be the result of a formal Cricket Australia Board directive to avoid conflicts of interest, it seems Darren Lehmann actively prefers not to be involved. "I'd be that nervous anyway I probably wouldn't be coach, I'd probably go to the bar," he said when the subject arose last year. Should Jake put on another good showing in this week's Sheffield Shield, the old man might have to come up with a coping strategy by the time Australia and England step out at the Gabba on November 23.

One former Ashes combatant who knows a fair bit about the father-son, coach-player dynamic, albeit from the English perspective, is Alec Stewart. England's second-most capped Test cricketer, Stewart began his international career in 1989, at a time when his dad, Micky, was manager of the team. Fortunately, they already had a well-established method for making the relationship work.

"When I signed professionally at Surrey as a 17-year-old, he was manager of the Surrey side then," Alec told ESPNcricinfo. "We'd obviously spoken about it, when I left school he knew I wanted to try and play cricket. He was only ever going to sign me if he felt I was good enough - he almost took the surname or the relationship out of the question, he just looked at me as a cricketer.

"That's what we made very, very clear. When we were at home, he's obviously me dad but when we were at cricket - or work, because that's what it was - then I didn't have a dad who was the coach and he didn't have a son who was a player. I was a player and he was very much coach, or manager. I never called him or referred to him as 'dad' when I was at work. Once we got home, or at a family occasion, he's dad and still is. But when we're at work it's very much a player-coach relationship."

Whether with Surrey or England, Micky was always "gur" (short for manager) to Alec, just as he was to everyone else. Although, he adds: "I might have called him a few other names under me breath if he dropped me."

Monday, November 6, 2017

The incredible rise of Jasprit Bumrah

It was Mohammed Siraj's international debut and he had been plundered for 10 and 16 in his first two overs. Siraj was at the receiving end of a merciless Colin Munro on a flat deck in Rajkot. When he finished his second over, Jasprit Bumrah walked up to him and put his arm round his shoulders to console him.

Bumrah tried to comfort Siraj, telling him every bowler gets hit and that they learn by getting hit. Bumrah is not the senior-most bowler in the Indian team; it's Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bumrah still took the initiative to calm Siraj's nerves when he could have stayed back at his fielding position between overs. Bumrah himself is less than two years old in international cricket but he chose to take the responsibility upon himself, just the way he has as a bowler in the absence of more experienced quicks such as Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami.

On that day, it was primarily because of Bumrah that New Zealand did not race away to score over 200. He pulled the length back on the batting-friendly pitch when good-length balls and slower ones were being launched into the stands. In his second spell, he returned to stem the flow of boundaries in the death overs when Munro was "going berserk", in Bumrah's words, by giving away only 14 in his last two overs.

Bumrah has risen through the ranks at incredible pace and given the team management immense flexibility, allowing them to rely on him and Bhuvneshwar as their lead new-ball pair in both T20Is and ODIs while resting Shami and Umesh for the Test cricket. When he made his international debut in early 2016 in Australia, it was mainly his outlandish action and angle that deceived batsmen. Since then, players from around the world have had time to adjust to him - by now they have had 57 international matches to watch him in and try to pick up his weaknesses.

But Bumrah has been one step ahead. To add to the yorker he learnt from Mumbai Indians team-mate Lasith Malinga, he now possesses variations that include deceptive slower deliveries, in particular the offcutter. Within two years, he has emerged as the specialist death bowler India had desperately been seeking for many years.

"The kind of action he has, batsmen find it difficult to pick him, but he has also improved on a few things," Bhuvneshwar explained on the eve of the third T20I. "He has had a yorker, he has improved his slower deliveries too. When you bowl with such a bowler, you are confident that if you do well, he will also do well from the other end. If you aren't having a good day, at least he will bowl well. We feed off that confidence. The best part is before every match we talk to each other about the wicket and what strategy we can employ. That helps a lot."

Bumrah's package of skills was on display in Kanpur too, during the decisive third ODI when New Zealand were on track to chase down 338. Another flat track and Bhuneshwar was being taken to the cleaners. But Bumrah stepped up. He sent down some of his slower offcutters - removing Ross Taylor with one of them - and then defended 15 off the last over when dew made the ball difficult to control. Such was Virat Kohli's faith in him that Bumrah bowled four of the last 10 overs and he is relied upon to bowl his last two at the death in T20Is too. It reflects in how he has delivered more than one-third (34.37%) of the death overs bowled by Indian bowlers since his debut last year.

Being stingy as a bowler is one undebatable advantage but Bumrah has combined that with wickets. Only 10 months ago, England were chasing 146 in the Nagpur T20I and needed 41 from the last five overs, with Ben Stokes and Joe Root at the crease and seven wickets in hand. There was no Bhuvneshwar that day, but Bumrah had the wily old Ashish Nehra for company. Once Nehra dismissed Stokes, Bumrah bowled a combination of hit-the-deck back-of-a-length deliveries and slower balls that turned into four dot balls to Root and Jos Buttler in the 18th over.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sri Lanka suffer 12th straight defeat

Playing just his second ODI, Usman Khan destroyed Sri Lanka's top-order, striking four times in 11 balls and then completing a five-for off his 21st delivery. Since 2001, only two bowlers have completed a five-wicket haul in fewer balls. Chaminda Vaas did it in 16 balls against Bangladesh in Pietermeritzburg in the 2003 World Cup, which included a hat-trick from the first three balls of the innings, and Netherlands' Timm van der Gugten completed a five-for in 20 balls against Canada in 2013. Usman is only the second Pakistan bowler after Bilal Asif to take a five-wicket haul in his first two ODIs. Bilal also did it in his second match, in 2015.

All downhill after winning the toss

Sri Lanka, trailing 4-0, chose to bat first after they called right at the toss. That turned out to be the only good thing to happen to them all day. They lost two wickets in their first over, two in their third and were four down with only eight runs on the board. Only once have they lost their fourth wicket at a lower score. Three of their top five batsmen were out for ducks - Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dinesh Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella, and this was only their third such instance in ODIs.

The visitors couldn't really recover from that nightmarish start and were eventually all out for 103, in 26.2 overs. It was their shortest innings, and second-lowest score, after choosing to bat first. It was also the fewest overs Pakistan have taken to dismiss their opposition after losing the toss and having to bowl first.

Sri Lanka's innings was the ninth-shortest for any team after electing to bat first.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Five consecutive tons in the UAE for Babar Azam

Pakistan's young sensation Babar Azam raced to his seventh ODI century in just his 33rd innings, making him the quickest to the mark. He got there eight innings quicker than, who scored it in his 41st innings. Among Pakistan batsmen, the quickest was Zaheer Abbas in 42 innings.

The century in the second ODI was Azam's fifth successive one in the UAE. He's the first ever player to score five consecutive centuries in a country. He had hit three in three games against West Indies last year before this series. The previous record holder in this case was AB de Villiers with four tons in a row in India. Among Pakistan players, Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar had scored three successive tons in the UAE. Azam's five tons are now the second-most by any player in the UAE, trailing the seven scored by Anwar and Sachin Tendulkar.

Azam scored his first century on September 30, 2016 and has made seven since. All other Pakistan batsmen have a combined three hundreds in this period: one each for Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik and Fakhar Zaman. David Warner is the only other player to score seven centuries in this period.

One thing that has stood out in the last 13 months is his Azam's conversion rate of fifties into hundreds. In the 18 innings since the start of series against West Indies last year, Azam has failed to make a century only once after going past 50. That was against Australia at the WACA, when he was dismissed for 84. In 15 innings prior to this period, he had scored five fifties but couldn't convert any of those into hundreds. Out of 11 players who have scored three or more centuries in this period, no other player matches the fifties to hundreds conversion rate of Babar's 87.50%. Warner is next on the list with 77.78% - with seven hundreds from nine 50-plus scores.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sri Lanka's first-innings feast, second-innings famine

The Sri Lanka batsmen put in contrasting performances in both innings in their first ever day-night Test in Dubai. After putting up 482 runs in 159.2 overs in the first innings, they were bundled for just 96 in 26 overs in the second innings. This was only the sixth instance in Tests when a team was bowled out for under 100 after posting a 400-plus total in their first innings. Sri Lanka were involved in the previous instance as well, with scores of 400 and 82 against England in Cardiff in 2011. No other team has done this after 2000.

The difference in Sri Lanka's totals was 386 runs, which is their highest ever difference in totals of two innings in a Test. Their previous highest was 383 against Australia in Colombo (SSC) in 1992. It was also the first instance of any team having a difference of over 350 runs in their totals in a Test against Pakistan. Sri Lanka had a lead of 220 in the first innings. Their second-innings total of 96 is the lowest for any team after gaining a first-innings lead of over 100 runs. The previous lowest was South Africa's 99 against Australia in Durban in 1950 after having a lead of 236.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Raju Kothari how India tamed the Maxwell monster ?

India turn to Yuzvendra Chahal next and the legspinner ensures he keeps the ball away from Maxwell's reach. The battle begins with a loopy delivery, well wide of off stump, so wide that the batsman toe-ends it to long-off while playing with a horizontal bat. It ends with a stumping.

This in essence is India's plan against a player who, if he gives himself a chance, could take batting to a level unimaginable.

Maxwell has the daring to play a reverse-sweep first ball on a square turner against R Ashwin. And he has the skill to dismantle fast bowlers, playing shots they can't possibly budget for. In the 2015 World Cup, after Wahab Riaz had terrorised Shane Watson, Maxwell faced a short ball that was climbing on him and cramping him for room. He put it away to the point boundary with a shot he called "the back away, look away deliberate cut."

Yet, on this tour, where Maxwell is perhaps third in command of the batting line up after Steven Smith and David Warner, he has made only 58 runs over three innings. Bumrah has come on early in his innings two out of three times and Chahal has dismissed him three out of three times. This is no coincidence, as the table below shows.

Maxwell is a fearsome ball-striker, if he can get under it, so India do their best to stop that happening by bringing on a seamer with an unusual action. Bumrah is difficult to line up, and lining a bowler up early is the absolute basis of power-hitting.

Then comes the actual plan. Yorkers and bouncers, and he is adept at both. While training in Indore, Bumrah came off a short run-up and nailed a pair of boots placed in front of the stumps three straight times.

Though his search for the blockhole manifests as full-tosses on matchday, they don't cost India much. Australia are in danger of slipping to a below-par total on a surface that will become better for strokeplay under lights, and against a batting line-up both long and power-packed.

Maxwell feels that pressure. He knows he has to find release. And this is where Chahal comes in. The legspinner functions as bait. He targets the wide line outside off stump, because even if Maxwell is able to reach that far, he won't be able to time anything properly. That will add to his frustrations and eventually lead to a lapse in judgment.

In Chennai, he was caught dragging the ball to long-on. In Kolkata and Indore, he was stumped running down the pitch too early. None of them were especially unplayable deliveries. But they became wicket-taking because Maxwell almost always goes for the high-risk shot, giving himself no second line of defence.

Someone must have spotted that in the Indian camp. "Mahi (MS Dhoni) and [Virat] Kohli told me to bowl him a turning delivery and keep checking his feet," Chahal had said in Chennai. "So my idea was to bowl to him outside the off stump and if he hits it's fine but keep mixing it up.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pandya's six-hitting ability is special by Raju Kothari

Good length not good on flat Indian pitches 
Australia dismissed the first three Indian batsmen with reasonably full-length deliveries and the next two well-set batsmen with the short ball. While the good-length ball mostly serves the purpose of keeping batsmen quiet, it doesn't create wicket-taking chances. But if you bowl really full, you encourage an attacking response from the batsman, which could lead to mistakes.
Against Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, Coulter-Nile left a huge gap in the cover region. He had only a square point and a slightly wide mid-off. He pitched fuller, got the ball to shape away, and both batsmen fell to expansive drives. The ball to Manish Pandey was a half-volley, which he edged to the wicketkeeper. I often wonder why more new-ball bowlers don't pitch really full and wide once in a while when the batsman isn't fully set. While the mind may tell the batsman to be cautious, it also sees the ball that full and automatically reacts. This conflict can result in a mistake.
Once both Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav were set, and the new ball had stopped moving, bowling fuller wasn't a wicket-taking option anymore and so Marcus Stoinis used the short ball to good effect. Chepauk has fairly large square boundaries and challenging the Indian batsmen to take them on was a ploy worth trying. The noteworthy point was the line of the short-pitched deliveries: none were at the body and the batsmen had to drag them from outside off, which resulted in the lack of control in executing the pull.
No boundaries behind square until the 45th over
Bowling full or short wasn't the only plan the Australian quicks had. The were also disciplined enough to consistently bowl outside off. Until the 45th over of the innings, India did not score a boundary behind square on the leg side. There were no fine tickles or guiding shots because you can play these shots only to balls veering in towards leg stump.
Pandya's six-hitting ability special
There was nothing wrong with what Adam Zampa did when Hardik Pandya creamed him for three consecutive sixes. The legspinner bowled flatter and fuller in the hope of making it difficult for Pandya to get under the ball and get requisite elevation. But that's where Pandya stands out, for unlike most batsmen, he doesn't need to use his feet to gain momentum while going aerial down the ground. Anyone who can hit sixes against spin without using the feet will be an asset because the bowler doesn't have any inkling of the batsman's plan and can't adjust.
If Zampa knew Pandya wouldn't stop at just one six, he may have gone slower and wider on the following deliveries, but the lack of feet movement from Pandya kept the bowler guessing. The other thing that stands out in Pandya's hitting is his preference of targeting the straight boundary as much as possible.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Why aren't there any Indians in the World XI? asked by Raju Kothari

Back when I edited slightly complicated news stories, journalistic habit would kick in and present me with a question: What if someone landed from Mars and read this story? Would it adequately explain the scene on the ground? That question helped ensure context, cut out superfluous details, and ensured the edited story went out with its important bits in appropriate places.
In this age of instant news and live-blogging, the question has become a little irrelevant, but suddenly it popped up again when the ICC announced the World XI to take part in the three-match Independence Cup in Lahore this week. If someone landed from Mars and looked at the list - five South Africans, three Australians, two West Indians, one each from Bangladesh, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and a Zimbabwean coach - that Martian would have no idea that the game's biggest elephant is missing from the room.
Today the picture on the ground is this: cricket's biggest, richest and most powerful country is not present at a we-are-the-world kind of gathering in Lahore this week. "The nations that play cricket," said Bangladeshi batsman Tamim Iqbal, excited to be part of the World XI team, "are one big family. We have to come forward to help restore international cricket in Pakistan." Everyone except the family's wealthiest son, who today is found suddenly far removed.
World XI coach Andy Flower was asked why there was no Indian in his XI, and his answer generally spoke about the tightness of the Indian team's calendar and how it would have taken too much time to sort out the issues around getting an Indian or two over. However, it is not as if there is a shortage of Indian players available to be part of global attention-grabbing cricket this week. In two words: Yuvraj Singh.
As an Indian cricket fan for nearly 40 years and a journalist for more than half of those, my first reaction when the World XI was announced was, "How can India not be a part of this?" However, despite the Indian-cricket-shaped hole in the World XI, the world is doing fine; Lahore is abuzz. The loss is Indian cricket's, its stature in the world game is now that of a cash machine: necessary, functional, but that's about it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bangladesh bowlers off the mark while building pressure by Raju Kothari

It would be harsh to expect a bowling attack to replicate a strong performance - against a side ranked five places above them - from the previous game, so the Bangladesh side eking out seven wickets on the third day in Chittagong can still be rated as a decent performance. Mustafizur Rahman and Mehedy Hasan finished the day on three wickets each while Shakib Al Hasan turned up with a tidy performance.

Taijul Islam had his moment too, but all four frontline bowlers would still be expected to be more consistent with tighter lines, better lengths, better field plans and avoid the inclination towards finding the money shot from the batsmen too often, to pick wickets.

Shakib was neat in his 30 overs in the first innings this time, ensuring the right-handed batsmen played most of his deliveries. Ashton Agar got a really good one from Shakib that turned a long way and hit the stumps. When he tried a similar length for Warner, it didn't yield the same result as the more accomplished batsman seemed to pick the ball early.

Mehidy bowled 60 out of 67 balls around the wicket to Warner, keeping him quiet but there was probably too much hope on a delivery on the stumps keeping low and nailing him. That didn't happen as the batsman was far too aware and was seeing the ball till the last moment.

Taijul was also underused in this innings, perhaps because Mushfiqur Rahim felt that he was leaking runs far too quickly while the other two spinners were doing the opposite. To the left-handers, he was also trying hard to bowl the one that skids through or breaks through their defences. Against right-handers, there were a few times he strayed down the leg side and was too full at times.

Mustafizur bowled at a fair clip on the third day and was finding his groove at times, but again, the focus seemed to waver. By his own admission, he bowled four good balls in an over and two went "here and there".

Perhaps, the bowling attack was also taken aback by Warner's reticence to bat at a much slower pace; he was comfortable picking a lot of singles. Peter Handscomb, meanwhile, was allowed to play far too many times towards mid-on and midwicket. It did not always happen with success but the pace of the pitch or the lack of responsiveness didn't help the bowlers. At the end of the second day, Nasir Hossain had mentioned that the ball wasn't turning when it pitched in line with the stumps, and was only deviating off the rough.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Malan, Stokes edge up England's lead after Raju Kothari

In the nick of time, West Indies held a catch offered by Joe Root as the second Test continued to be an engrossing nip-and-tuck affair with England nudging their lead to 82 by lunch. Dawid Malan, who was fortunate to survive the session, and Ben Stokes were building a fifth-wicket stand as West Indies delayed taking the second new ball.

Root's was shaping as a match-defining innings when he was cramped for room by a short delivery from the impressive Shannon Gabriel and couldn't keep the ball down towards gully. It still needed two grabs from Shai Hope to complete the catch but, unlike his brother yesterday evening when Root had 10, it didn't go to ground.

The same can't be said of the chance offered by Malan on 32 a few moments later when he edged a drive at Jason Holder and Kieran Powell at first slip, distracted by Shane Dowrich diving across then bailing out, put it down. It was Powell who dropped Root early in his first innings.

England resumed on 171 for 3 and made steady progress for much of the first hour. Root went to his second fifty of the match with two boundaries in the opening over, both through the gap between second slip and gully although neither were chances. He was fluent off his pads whenever the bowlers strayed, but was again challenged by Gabriel before he struck in what became the final over of his spell.

Malan was forced to dig very deep, adding just 20 off 83 balls during the session. His first scoring shot of the day was a pleasant straight drive, but precious little else came to him easily. He narrowly evaded square leg with a flick off his hip and then the life came his way in Holder's opening over with a very loose drive outside off.

Holder made the old ball move and there was an appearance of the lesser-spotted Devendra Bishoo in the second hour of the morning. There was some turn for the legspinner but his length was inconsistent - perhaps that was the concern Holder had, but it was hardly a fair chance for Bishoo to wait so long for an extended bowl - and Stokes put him through the leg side three times.

Graeme Smith to coach Benoni Zalmi Raju Kothari

T20 Global League franchise Benoni Zalmi has appointed former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as its head coach. Zalmi team owner Javed Afridi made the announcement on Monday.

Smith, 36, last played a competitive game in May 2014, a T20 for Somerset two months after his final Test against Australia. It will be Smith's first stint as a coach in recognised cricket. Highveld Lions' Geoffrey Toyana, who was recently among the frontrunners to replace Russell Domingo as South Africa's coach, will be his assistant. Their first assignment together comes this weekend, when they will have to pick from a pool of over 400 players in the player draft.

Elsewhere, Durban Qalandars has put Paddy Upton in charge, with Aaqib Javed to oversee the bowlers. Also, Stellenbosch Monarchs has appointed Stephen Fleming head coach, with Eric Simons named his assistant.

Stellenbosch had suffered a setback last week when Brimstone Investment Corporation Limited, the investment company which had been unveiled as its owner by Cricket South Africa, said it will not proceed with the acquisition.

ESPNcricinfo understands Brimstone pulled out because it did not want to hold a majority stake. An insider said that Brimstone always wanted a minority stake and that has been their investment model, where the company supports an expert majority partner. The failure to pull together a consortium meant that Brimstone opted to move out and CSA did not stand in its way. Incidentally Brimstone was one of only two South African owners named for the eight teams in June. Faf du Plessis, South Africa's Test and T20 captain, was named the Stellenbosch franchise's marquee player by the South Africa board.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stoinis heads home to Western Australia Raju Kothari

Allrounder Marcus Stoinis will return to his home state of Western Australia for the 2017-18 season, after spending the past five summers playing with Victoria.

Stoinis had debuted for the Warriors in 2008-09 before moving to Melbourne in 2012, and his change of states led to consistent output at domestic level and international selection in the limited-overs formats.

Stoinis, who turns 28 this week, has been Victoria's second-leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield in the past three years, behind only Test batsman Peter Handscomb.

He will be joined in the Western Australia squad this summer by allrounder Matthew Spoors, who has been handed a rookie contract for the first time.

Gone from last year's squad are the retired batsman Adam Voges, along with Nathan Rimmington, Ryan Duffield, Josh Nicholas and Liam O'Connor.

"We're thrilled to have Marcus coming home to Western Australia, not only because he's an extremely talented player but he's a great character as well," coach Justin Langer said. "Young Matt Spoors is an exciting young talent. I love his dancing feet; a lot of kids these days have really slow footwork, but Matt's got really fast batting feet.

"Twelve players have been Australian representatives and that's a great tribute to the program we're running here at the WACA."

Western Australia squad Ashton Agar (Cricket Australia contract), Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, William Bosisto, Hilton Cartwright (CA), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Mitchell Marsh (CA), Shaun Marsh, David Moody, Joel Paris, Jhye Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jonathan Wells, Sam Whiteman. Rookies Alex Bevilaqua, Jake Carder, Kyle Gardiner, Clint Hinchcliffe, Matthew Kelly, Matthew Spoors.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hales sends reminder with blistering 218 Raju Kothari

Alex Hales delivered a compelling reminder of his international class with a brilliant double-century that put Nottinghamshire in total control of the Division Two match against Derbyshire at Derby. The England batsman plundered 38 fours and a six in a run-a-ball 218, which included a century between lunch and tea, and shared a sixth-wicket stand of 204 in 35 overs with skipper Chris Read.

Derbyshire's bowlers contributed 50 extras, including 24 no-balls and 10 wides, to Nottinghamshire's 508 for 9 declared which left the home side needing 288 to avoid an innings defeat. They started badly, losing Luis Reece to their former fast bowler Mark Footitt in the fourth over, and at the close were 45 for 1, still 243 behind.

Derbyshire might have thought it was going to be their day when Tony Palladino deflected a Steven Mullaney drive into the stumps to run out Samit Patel in the fourth over of the morning. When Mullaney sliced Tom Taylor to point, the game was still in the balance but Derbyshire's bowling lacked the consistency and discipline required to put Hales under pressure.

There were 12 fours in his first 50 and he stayed in overdrive for the rest of an innings, which put his team in a dominant position and allowed Read to let his bowlers loose at Derbyshire before stumps.

Riki Wessels made only 13 out of a fifth-wicket stand of 80 before he gloved a lifting delivery from Hardus Viljoen, who was straight-driven by Hales for his 20th four to reach his first Championship hundred of the season.

With Read scoring freely from the start, 181 runs came in the afternoon session with Hales sweeping a Luis Reece full toss for his 27th four to go to 150. His 200 came from only 201 balls and after Read was caught behind down the leg side for 75, Hales struck two more fours before swinging Wayne Madsen to deep midwicket where Viljoen took a good running catch.

There was still more punishment to come as Jake Ball opened his shoulders and smashed four sixes in 43 off 24 balls before Read pulled out leaving Derbyshire to negotiate 12 overs. It was always going to be a tricky period for the openers and Reece did not survive, edging a loose drive at Footitt to give Read his 967th dismissal for Nottinghamshire.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Raju Kothari likely to return for second Test, Herath doubtful

Dinesh Chandimal is expected to return to lead the Sri Lanka team in the second Test against India at the SSC next week, after recovering from a bout of pneumonia that kept him out of the first Test in Galle. Rangana Herath, who suffered an injury to his finger in the first Test, is being closely monitored, ahead of the match which starts from August 3.

"Dinesh should be fit, he actually played this (Sunday) morning and he has batted the last couple of days," Asanka Gurusinha, Sri Lanka's cricket manager and selector, said.

"We have to see how he is going to come up in the next couple of days because his finger is pretty sore," Gurusinha said of Herath's condition. "We will give him till the last minute to make sure that he is fit.

"The day before the Test we will see whether he can drift the ball, it will come down to that. If he can without pain he will play, otherwise we will have to look at different options. The finger is not swollen but it's sore and painful."

Danushka Gunathilaka, who made his Test debut in Galle, is likely to be left out once Chandimal returns, while Kusal Mendis is expected to return to the No. 3 slot. Mendis had batted at No. 4 in Galle, dropping one spot as the team played Gunathilaka.

"It's for just one game, we pushed Kusal to four. Danushka was in form and you can't bat him in the middle order," Gurusinha said. "We couldn't get him to open either because the openers were already there, that's why we got Kusal to four for this Test. When Chandimal comes back, he will go back to No. 3 straight away. He is our No. 3 and we are grooming him for that position definitely."

Sri Lanka also have another slot to fill after the injury to Asela Gunaratne, who has been ruled out of the series with a broken thumb.

"We have Dhananjaya (de Silva) in the squad and we have Danushka as well," Gurusinha said. "We haven't looked at whether this is the squad we are going to have for the second Test. We will have a chat later today and see whether we will need someone from outside or what combination we are going to play. It comes down to whether we are going to play six or seven batsmen, we will have to decide on that after looking at the wicket."

Sri Lanka will look to recover some ground after losing the first Test by 304 runs. Gurusinha pinned that defeat on the batsmen, who did not execute their plans well. The hosts managed scores of 291 in the first innings, in response to India's 600, and 245 in the second innings while chasing an improbable 550.

"Getting 600 runs it always affects which is a difficult thing, but our batsmen on that track I don't think they handled it well because it wasn't a track to get 291 in the first innings. That was a 400-run track," Gurusinha said.

"Even on the fourth day, it wasn't doing much, it wasn't difficult when you see the way everyone batted. When you are playing the No. 1 side, they are very patient they'll bowl a good line and length and wait. They tested our patience and they won. They were good in that and we took more risks. Batting overall, when you look at it, we didn't handle it well."

Gurusinha said the pace at which cricket is played today made it difficult to draw Test matches. "These days in Test cricket, the game has changed a lot because of T20. They are playing it at a very fast rate getting 300-350 in a day is nothing new in Test cricket. Sometimes if you try to bat long, you can go into a negative frame of mind. You need to play positively but positively is not hitting every ball, it is playing according to your plans. Our execution of plans was the main problem.

"Nobody scored a hundred from our side in the last two Tests, even against Zimbabwe. That's what we need. We need one of the top four batsmen to get 150 or 160 and a couple of others to get 70s and 80s. As soon as that happens it will give us a 400-plus total.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

'The bond within the team is outstanding' - Raju Kothari

On the eve of India's first Test series since an acrimonious coach swap, Virat Kohli spoke of a tight-knit team as the biggest success of his captaincy apart from the rise to No. 1. He spoke of the "outstanding bond" when asked what satisfied him most apart from the obvious winning feeling.

"Just to see the responsibility taken by such a young bunch of players; to go out there and make a difference for the team," Kohli said. "Even the substitutes that sit on the sidelines, their efforts, their energies, their concerns for the team when they are running in to provide to with the essentials… It's great to see them also almost feeling like they are part of the playing XI that's on the field.

"That's the kind of culture that has been created. It's taken a while. Whoever steps into the dressing room, immediately feel comfortable because of the way they are embraced and how people are taking responsibility to maintain that culture. The bond within the team is outstanding and that is something that makes me really proud that we are all really close to each other and really enjoy playing alongside each other. That for me stands out the most because that shows on the field. Even in the most difficult of situations all guys believe that we can do it together and we have been able to overturn situations more often than not just because of that belief and the trust that we have between the players. So, that for me is most special thing apart from cricket performances."

That is perhaps why Kohli sees not many weaknesses in his side. "Well I don't think there are any massive areas of concern for us," he said. "We've been looking to fine-tune smaller areas during the course of the games, which probably people might not be able to pick up. [Areas] that can lead us into a situation which is not ideal. We have given responsibility to the players to identify those areas and work on those areas themselves. We have been able to put ourselves in a position in games, 80-85% of the games, where there's only one winner left.

"That's the kind of sustained pressure that we've been able to build. But the key, as I said, is to go out there and repeat those things again and again. You can't expect things to happen by themselves. You need to work hard every ball that you play on the cricket field and that applies to batsmen and bowlers collectively. So, the smaller areas we keep identifying and keep working on them."

With the confidence running that high, there is an obvious danger of letting the guard drop against Sri Lanka, who have not had the best of time in Test cricket of late. "For us we are playing a game of cricket, it doesn't matter which opposition we are playing against," Kohli said. "For us it's all about identifying the players that they have, their strengths, their areas of weakness and focussing really on our performances and what we can do as a team. The moment you start focussing on the opposition and try to adjust your intensity according to who you are playing against, then that's a very dangerous thing to do because if you don't respect the game the game will sort you out and expose you.

"We totally respect the game, we totally how hard we need to work to win every Test match, every situation, every session and every ball is an event for us. So we are willing to put in the hard yards for that and something that everyone in the team respects. As I said it's something that is built as a culture and I am proud of it and the whole team is proud of it. We take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket for India and doing the hard yards that win the games."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Raju Kothari Eastbourne and other Elysiums

The Saffrons: sometimes a simple name is sufficient to prompt a confection of histories. It is over a century since the orange-yellow crocus noted for its dyeing and medicinal qualities was grown in the fields where Eastbourne's cricketers spend their summers. Yet the gentle beauty of the noun lingers and has now been coupled to a children's nursery, an apartment block and a hotel. "I'm watching cricket at Eastbourne on Sunday," I tell friends. "Oh, you're going to the Saffrons," they reply.

In Eastbourne's long 20th-century heyday there was a cricket week: two three-day county games and, as often as not, matches against the universities or the tourists. This was the ground on which AC MacLaren's personally selected amateur XI defeated Warwick Armstrong's seemingly invincible Australians in 1921, thereby giving Neville Cardus the only scoop of his career. There were important matches being played at The Oval and Leyton at the same time and Cardus' editor felt he should have been covering those. That opinion was strengthened when MacLaren's side was bowled out for 43 on the first day. By the second morning Cardus had sent his luggage to the railway station and was ready to leave; but he stayed instead and watched Aubrey Faulkner make 153. The Australians lost by 28 runs.

"At Eastbourne cricket is played to a background of croquet and bowls, old Colonels and straight-backed memsahibs going about their daily ritual, indifferent to the pock of bat on ball and the marauding seagulls," wrote Alan Ross, for whom India and Sussex were twin lodestars and who found his loves united in the batting of Duleepsinhji in the summer of 1932.

And one scarcely has to look to see deeper histories and other aristocracies at Eastbourne. Behind the trees at the Larkin's Field End is the Compton Croquet Club, one of many references in the environs to the estate that owns acres of prime land in the town. The land on which cricket, hockey and soccer are played is still owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Seniors at the club pass on the stories they were told of horse-drawn carriages that set off from the Duke's Compton estate and travelled down the tree-lined Old Orchard Road into town. When I first visited the ground in September 2015 almost the only noise one could hear in the late afternoon was the gentle cracks of mallets on croquet balls. The players were dressed in communion white and moved slowly around the lawns in the soft sunlight of early autumn.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Raju Kothari beyond the headlines

In the spring of 2006, an 18-year-old South African with a bruised heart arrived in Lewdown, a village in west Devon. Having failed to make the final squad for the Under-19 World Cup at the start of the year, and with no clear pathway into a South African provincial team, a season playing for Lewdown Cricket Club in Devon's D division was as good an opening as Kyle Abbott was likely to see, and the quaint village with rolling green hills would serve as a balm to the frustrations back home. "I think when he first came to the UK, he was a bit disillusioned by the lack of opportunities in South Africa," recalls Charlie Hughes, Lewdown's chairman at the time. "He'd got into the provisional squad for the U-19 World Cup, but didn't make the final cut. I think the coaches at his then club, due to the quota system, were pro the black players. From memory that's what Kyle used to say, anyway. But he obviously turned it all around. He did well here, which got him going over there." Abbott took 55 wickets for the Lewdown first XI that season at an average of 7.47. It was not the highest level of cricket, and it would take almost three years before he would make his first-class debut for KwaZulu-Natal, but it was a start. "By performing so well for us he got signed up by Clevedon Cricket Club the next season, and that gave him more opportunities," says Hughes. "They had a game against Somerset as a pre-season or charity match, which helped him get spotted. "While he was with us, we got him into Somerset seconds, where he had a few games. So it was a little stepping stone. Before you knew it he was playing for KwaZulu-Natal, then the Dolphins, and the rest is history. Very proud of him, we are too. I'd like to think he learnt a lot in his three seasons in England, especially on swing bowling."

The time in Lewdown was good not only for Abbott. Hughes says he raised the game of the cricketers around him, who were eager not to be outshone by the overseas player, and was an inspiration to the kids he coached at the club. Lewdown's two previous overseas players had been Australians, but since Abbott's stay they have made a habit of bringing in South Africans. "They seem to work quite well here," says Hughes. "They adapt quickly to the conditions. They're usually well behaved. Usually. But then you never know until they get here. And to be honest, one of the big things for us is the airfare. An Australian airfare is another £500 that the members would have to find." The Home Office tightened regulations this year, but Lewdown were still able to bring in the 18-year-old allrounder Dinecho Visser for the 2017 season after he was recommended by his countryman Johan Wessels, who was a big hit at the club over the past two years, with 1129 runs at an average of almost 90 in the Devon A Division in 2016. Now 25, Wessels is yet to find a place in a provincial team back home, despite his runs in England and for the University of Pretoria, which many would rate as stronger than the Northerns provincial side. Having a South African around has become a part of Lewdown's culture, but the presence of overseas players is not universally celebrated. "Not every club is overly keen," Hughes admits. "If we have a good one that semi-dominates a game, the clubs we play against sometimes complain. But they don't see the bigger picture all the time. Yes, sometimes the overseas player has scored a hundred when we've been 150 all out. However, every club has the opportunity to get an overseas, and we consider ourselves lucky to have chosen so well over the years, with the help of the agents."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Raju Kothari reapplies to be South Africa coach

Russell Domingo has confirmed he has reapplied and been interviewed to be South Africa's coach when his contract expires in August, at the end of the England tour. There had been suggestions that he would not seek an extension in the position after CSA said they were going to go through a full recruitment process for the role.

"I have forwarded my application form and I have gone through an interview," Domingo said in London, three days before South Africa's first Test against England at Lord's.

In Domingo's most recent previous media engagement, on June 11 when South Africa crashed out of the Champions Trophy, he had still not decided whether he would put his name forward for the job. Then, there were only five days left for interested parties to apply. Domingo confirmed he had submitted his details "before the closing date" on June 16 and was interested in taking South Africa forward.

Domingo outline a "whole host" of factors he considered before making himself available for reappointment. "No.1, family life, which is important. No.2, the performance of the team, which is obviously important. And then whether you feel you're the right guy to take the team forward, whether the team's showing signs of improvement in all formats," he said.

Under Domingo, who took over in mid-2013 when South Africa were on top of the Test rankings, South Africa initially maintained their status but then lost several senior players and a slump in form that saw them slip to No.7. Despite being under enormous pressure to let Domingo go, CSA stuck with him and extended his contract twice in that time. Domingo went on to oversee the Test side's resurrection to No.2.

In shorter formats, Domingo has been in charge through two 50-over tournaments and two T20 events and is the only coach under whom South Africa have won a World Cup knockout match - the 2015 quarter-final - but he has not been able to break their ICC trophy drought, something he would like to change. "There's a lot I'd like to achieve with this side - an ICC event is a big thing for us," he said. "We've also started the process of rebuilding our Test side. We're still not where we need to be, we've got our ranking back up but there's still a lot of work to be done."

South Africa remain a team in some kind of transition - as many teams do - and it has long been touted that a foreign coach could be the essential to take them to the next level. However, among the names reportedly mentioned as candidates only one, Phil Simmons, is not local. Instead it is believed that CSA is not looking beyond the country's borders with Lions' coach Geoffrey Toyana considered the frontrunner to succeed Domingo.

Toyana has won four trophies in five seasons with the Lions franchise and nurtured the likes of Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Temba Bavuma and Chris Morris. ESPNcricinfo has confirmed Toyana was interviewed. Domingo must be aware of the same but said he will not let perceptions affect how he goes about his job.

"I'll be honest with you, if that is it, then so be it. It's cool. It's out of my control. It's not something I go to bed thinking about or wake up in the morning thinking about," he said. "It's not something that generally affects me. I can't comment on what the particular feeling is towards how people are seeing the process. It's out of my control. It's not the way I see it, and the way I see it is that there's due process that needs to take place. They need to decide if I'm the right guy to take the team forward and so be it. That's how it is."

A clutch of senior players seem to have already decided that he is. In recent months, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers - all three leaders in their own right - have thrown support behind Domingo which could help his cause. "Player support is massively important. The most important support you need is from your players," Domingo said. "We work with these players day in, day out. I've loved my time working with them and, obviously, by the support they've shown they've enjoyed what we've offered the team. That is satisfying."

Domingo maintained that whatever happens he will finish his current term pleased with the job he has done. "It's a fantastic honour to work with this team. I've loved my time with it and hopefully I can continue. If not, it's in the best interests of the team. I've had a fantastic run and loved every single minute of it. It's not my decision -- it's up to the board."

CSA has appointed a five-man panel including two former national coaches, Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons, to recommend the new coach to the board when they next meet on July 21. A final decision will be announced after the England series, which ends on August 8.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ganguly in Shukla-led panel to study Lodha implementation Raju Kothari

IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla will head a BCCI-appointed seven-member committee that will identify the "few critical points" in the implementation of the Lodha Committee's recommendations.

Sourav Ganguly, president of Cricket Association of Bengal, is the only cricketer in the panel. Amitabh Choudhary, the board's acting secretary, has been appointed the convener of the committee that also has vice-president TC Mathew and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, Nabha Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Meghalaya Cricket Association and co-convener of North East Cricket Development Committee and Jay Shah, the joint-secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association.

With the Supreme Court hearing set for July 14, the committee has been asked to convene a meeting soon and submit a written report by July 10. The board's general body will then convene a Special General Meeting to deliberate on the proposals and approve them.

The major recommendations that the committee will be dealing with are 'one-state, one-vote', an age cap of 70-years for officials, a cooling-off period of three years after every three-year term, and identifying a fix on number of selectors for the senior national team.

Choudhary said after the BCCI's SGM on Monday that the committee "will go into each and every action point necessitated by the principal judgment." The committee's proposals will then be presented to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, tasked with running the board until fresh elections under the Lodha guidelines are held. The CoA will "thereafter decide the course of action." No CoA representative, however, is part of this new BCCI committee.

While the move to establish such a committee could delay the implementation of the Lodha recommendations, Choudhary said it was done with a view to "examine how best and quickly to implement" them. The committee is expected to commence work in two days.

Monday, June 19, 2017

'We leave with our heads held high' - Raju Kothari

In the end, Virat Kohli fronted up with a smile on his face. He had lost a match that India entered as favourites. India had a superior record over Pakistan at ICC events, including a win when the sides last met in the final of a global event, the World T20 in 2007. But it all came tumbling down in the final as Pakistan's bowlers unraveled the Indian batting unit like a pod of green peas.

India were that bad. Batting, bowling, fielding and intensity - they fell short in each of these facets of their game they had worked hard to improve in every subsequent match this tournament. Kohli was honest in defeat, gave credit to Pakistan for being the better team, but pointed that India should be proud to finish as the runner-up.

"We can be very proud of that as a unit, and we leave here with our heads held high because we understand the kind of expectations and pressures we face as a team," Kohli said. "Credit to everyone for standing up and showing that resilience and reaching the finals, and today we were outplayed in all departments.

"They had to earn their win. They made us make those mistakes because of the way they were bowling and the way they applied the pressure in the field, as well. And we have no hesitations or shame to admit that we could not play our best game today."

Kohli did not hesitate to bowl first, perhaps because of India's comfort factor in chases. He has done so Bangladesh in the semi-finals too. When it was their turn to bat, Mohammad Amir turned the match by removing Rohit Sharma and Kohli in his first two overs. Kohli admitted failure to stitch a partnership didn't help matters.

"Early wickets are never good, especially in a chase," he said. "Then we kept losing wickets. One big partnership would have been the key to set it up nicely. It is always a bad feeling when you get out or the batting doesn't work collectively. Not that we are not playing at our best, we tried our level best, but we just couldn't make things happen today. But personally, yes, it does feel bad."

There were a couple of bright sparks, though: Bhuvneshwar Kumar walking virtually unscathed through the ring of fire and Hardik Pandya finally living up to the potential his captain had been speaking about throughout the campaign.

Pandya was hungry to bowl throughout the Pakistan innings and was the second-most economical Indian bowler behind Bhuvneshwar. Bowling with intensity and hard lengths, Pandya bowled some tight middle overs. He showed the same attitude with the bat.

India were down and out at 72 for 6 in 17 overs. Unaffected, Pandya smashed a 32-ball half-century to give India a glimmer of hope. "When Hardik started hitting, everyone started getting the feeling that we could take the game deep," Kohli said. "That was a pleasant moment. If we can take the game deep, then we can probably get closer to the total. But again, a mix-up or an error at that stage, so these things happen on the field, you understand that as cricketers."

That mix-up was Pandya being run out after Ravindra Jadeja turned his back on him. Pandya bared his frustrations out in public, exchanging words with Jadeja and then grunting loudly all the way back to the dressing room. Kohli was clear Pandya did not need to be apologetic about letting his emotions get the better of him.

"He felt he was in the zone today and he could have done something really special, and that's why the disappointment came out. You're so committed, you're so motivated that when things don't happen, and without even it being a mistake, it can get frustrating. You don't understand why it has happening."

Earlier in the morning, Pakistan had plugged away as soon as their opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali raised a robust 128-run partnership, which could only be broken through a run out. Kohli said it was Zaman who hurt India the most by his "high risk" strokeplay.

"When guys like Zaman get going, he plays unorthodox shots, they're really difficult to stop," he said. "Eighty percent of his shots were high risk and they were all coming off. Sometimes you have to sit and say, the guy is good enough on the day to tackle anything. You can only do so much.

"We certainly tried to make them hit in areas that we felt it would be uncomfortable, but we just didn't have anything going our way in that partnership. Yes, they opened it up a little bit, but they kept going positive, which was something that could have upset the lines and lengths of the bowlers."

The one area Kohli felt they could have done better was with the extras. India conceded 25 on Sunday, which he felt was a bit too much. "That's something that we certainly need to take care of in the future. Obviously the same bowlers are going to play, the same guys are going to be back. The more consistent you get in learning from games like this, it's better for the team in the future. So yeah, that's an area we certainly need to look at.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Raju Kothari, Kumble likely to remain coach for WI tour

The BCCI is likely to retain Anil Kumble as coach for India's tour of the West Indies immediately after the ongoing Champions Trophy. Kumble will be given the contract extension if the cricket advisory committee (CAC) fails to pick India's next coach before then.

The decision was taken by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), after consulting BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary and chief executive officer Rahul Johri on Monday.

"In case there is a delay in taking a decision (by the CAC) we will request Anil Kumble to cover the West Indies tour also," Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, told ESPNcricinfo. Rai said the BCCI would check whether Kumble was "happy" to continue until the West Indies tour, which starts on June 23. India are scheduled to travel to the Caribbean from London on June 22, for five ODIs and one T20 international.

Kumble was appointed India coach in June last year and was given a one-year contract, which ends after the Champions Trophy. Last month, the BCCI decided to invite fresh applications for the position after being made aware of the players' reported unhappiness with Kumble's man-management skills.

Kumble was on the shortlist of six candidates and remained the first choice of the CAC, which comprises Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Though the BCCI was in favour of appointing the new coach on a two-year contract until the 2019 World Cup, the CAC said that it did not want to take a hasty decision. The CAC's first option, as previously reported, was to try and patch up differences between the India captain Virat Kohli and Kumble.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

South Africa seek unfamiliar end to familiar script Raju Kothari

Here they go again. South Africa. In search of a major trophy. It's a script so well known, it must be close to being a classic. And South Africa still hope to be able to write a different ending.

The prelude has been much the same as in competitions past: South Africa have enjoyed a solid build-up, so much so that they are considered one of the teams to beat, and have a constellation of star players in their squad. On the way to the event, they've won series against two of the opposition they will meet in the pool stage - India and Sri Lanka - and, as the only non sub-continent team in the group, have come to terms with the amount of spin they will have to deal with.

So what will it take this time? Chances are that the answer is as simple as a little bit of luck, the one thing that has eluded South Africa over the years. It's not something they can train or plan for, only something they can hope finally finds it's way to them.

Several South African seniors - AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel - have spoken of the 2019 World Cup as their swansong. So desperate are they to win that trophy that they may forgive themselves if this event becomes little more than a practice round.

But they have a strong incentive not to regard the Champions Trophy so casually. Coach Russell Domingo's contract expires at the end of this tour and although he is free to reapply for his job, has given no indication of his future plans. This may be his last chance to have success at a limited-overs' competition and if that is the case, the squad, who have been vocal in their support of him, will want to send him off on a high.

Champions Trophy history
1998 - Champions 2000 - Semi-finalists 2002 - Semi-finalists 2004 - First round 2006 - Semi-finalists 2009 - First round 2013 - Semi-finalists

Form guide
Before their trip to the UK, where South Africa lost the three-match rubber against England, they had won their last seven bilateral ODI series. Among those was a first-ever 5-0 whitewash over Australia, a clean sweep over Sri Lanka and victories in what were effectively finals in India, New Zealand and against England at home. In that time, South Africa equalled their longest winning streak of 12 matches, which was last achieved in 2005, and rose to No.1 on the ODI rankings to arrive at the Champions Trophy as among the favourites.

With four of the world's top-10 ODI batsmen (de Villiers sits at No. 1) and the world's top-two ODI bowlers in Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir, the quality of individuals in South Africa's squad is a standout strength. In Amla, Quinton de Kock, de Villiers, du Plessis, David Miller and Duminy, South Africa have players who can combine a well-paced innings with power-hitting and totals over 350 are not unfamiliar to them. In the bowling department, Tahir is the world's top-ranked limited-overs' spinner while Rabada is ODI cricket's newest No. 1, having overtaken Tahir on the rankings after the England series.

A mix of seam and spin talent, and experience and youth, give South Africa no less than eight bowling options. Among those is everything from a left-arm paceman - Wayne Parnell - to a death-bowling specialist in Andile Phehlukwayo and two specialist spinners.

In an attempt to give themselves as many options as possible, South Africa have packed their side with allrounders but getting the right balance in the XI may prove tricky. Chris Morris, Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius and Phehlukwayo are all bowling allrounders capable of hitting the ball a fair distance but South Africa are likely to only have room for two of the four in most XIs and they don't seem too sure which two.

South Africa have yet to decide on a new-ball pair - though Rabada and Morkel would seem an obvious choice - which has left them uncertain about the balance of the side. Add to that de Villiers' problems with managing his over rate and that the best captain, Faf du Plessis, does not lead the side in this format, and South Africa can sometimes seem comical in the field. But only sometimes.

Key stats
South Africa have lost half of the matches in the Champions Trophy in which they have batted second - six out of 12. Only Bangladesh have a worse record chasing. By contrast, South Africa have the best win-loss ratio when batting first, wining five out of eight games.
Wayne Parnell has taken 11 of the 19 Champions Trophy wickets that South Africa's current squad have all together. Apart from Parnell, Duminy and Morris (who each have four wickets) and Morne Morkel are the only four bowlers with Champions Trophy experience.
None of the batsmen in the current South African squad have scored a Champions Trophy hundred.
South Africa have lost all three matches they have played against India in Champions Trophy history - twice in the semi-finals and once in the round-robin stage.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Raju Kothari, Rohit, Ashwin, Shami return for Champions Trophy

Mohammed Shami last played ODI cricket in an attempt to win an ICC Trophy and now he returns with the same goal ahead of him. The 26-year old was India's best bowler in the 2015 World Cup but since then chronic leg injuries had put a halt to his 50-over career. Fully fit now, having played the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Bengal and the IPL for Delhi Daredevils, he was among five fast bowlers picked in a 15-man squad to play the Champions Trophy in England. Raju Kothari Case.

A similarly important player, Rohit Sharma reclaimed his spot as first-choice opener. He had spent five months nursing a thigh injury, which had "scared him" until he had met with doctors and received clarification. He came back to competitive cricket in March and has played all 11 matches for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

The national selectors, who met in Delhi on Monday, were content with two spinners in the squad. R Ashwin, who is currently recovering from a sports hernia, and Ravindra Jadeja can perhaps expect part-time assistance from Yuvraj Singh, who kept his spot after his ODI career was given a re-start in the series against England in January.

India have made it a point, under new coach Anil Kumble, to test their injured players in domestic cricket before picking them for internationals. But Ashwin was chosen without having to go through those rigours because he was resting as opposed to injured. It is understood that the BCCI had asked his IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiant to give him time off and they had agreed.

MS Dhoni was the only wicketkeeper in the squad. MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, rated him as a gun batsman in crunch situations and said he could not remember even a single day in the last 10 to 12 years when Dhoni was bad behind the stumps. Still, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik were placed on standby along with batsman Suresh Raina, left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and fast bowler Shardul Thakur. These five players will train at the NCA and the BCCI will proceed with their visa applications to the UK in case quick replacements are needed later.

KL Rahul, who had grown into one of India's most valuable players across formats last year, was not among the touring party. He had hurt his shoulder during the Test series against Australia and had conceded that recovering in time for the Champions Trophy was "unlikely". In his absence, the selectors have gone with Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane. The seam-bowling allrounder's spot went to Hardik Pandya whle Kedar Jadhav, who had a breakout series as finisher against England, will lend support down the order on his second tour abroad.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In Love With Mr. Billionaire Raju Kothari in Dubai

Caroline Marshall, a sweet, innocent and cute girl, who hates rich and guys since her father threw her mother away to marry another woman for money.
 Living with a step-mother, a step-sister and a cruel father, her life was worse than hell.
Raju Kothari, a ruthless businessman, a multi-billionaire and the CEO of Raju Kothari Dubai corporation, has everything a person dreams of. From money to women to anything.
  He is egoistic,  merciless and arrogant. Owners of different companies fear from him whereas women threw themselves to him. What will he do when a girl will throw money on his face for scratching his car?
  What will happen when Caroline meets a guy who is rich, and too much proud of his money? or that is what she thinks.  What will she do when she realises she is falling deeper and deeper for that guy? Will she confess her feelings for him? Will she be able to forget her dreadful past, and give him a chance?
 Join Caroline in this journey of falling in love with Mr. Billionaire Raju Kothari.