Big Three vs. GenNext – The Battle Intensifies

Partab Ramchand Updated: 16 October, 2019, 3:38 PM IST


The Big Three vs The GenNext. The battle rages on as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer try to maintain their hold at the top of the ATP rankings and the Grand Slam events while the leaders of the GenNext of players, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Daniil Medvedev of Russai, Dominic Thiem of Austria and Alexander Zverev of Germany try their best to overtake them in the rankings.

As the season draws to a close it is clear that the Big Three will continue to hold on to the first three places in the ATP rankings and while the Grand Slams are over there was a significant happening in the Shanghai Masters last week that did not go unnoticed. The defeat of Federer at the hands of Zverev and Tsitipas’ victory over Djokovic – both in the quarterfinals – meant that the GenNext had taken a further step towards overhauling the Big Three in the rankings next year. Whether they will end their Grand Slam domination – The Big Three have won the last 12 Grand Slam titles - is a moot point but scoring another point in favour of the GenNext was the fact that Medvedev won the title defeating Zverev in the final after getting the better of Tsitsipas in the penultimate round.

The one major tournament left in the season is the ATP Tour finals to be held in London next month and that should be able to give tennis followers a clearer idea of how the season could unfold in 2020. For the record Zverev won the ATP Tour finals last year and continued to make reasonably good progress in 2019 being currently ranked No 6.

After the Big Three the next four ranked players in order are Medvedev, Thiem, Zverev and Tsitsipas. And while on points secured The Big Three are away ahead – especially Djokovic and Nadal – there is not much to separate the four leaders of the GenNext of players. That in itself is going to be a delicious sub-plot of the 2020 season as they endevour to leapfrog over one another in their bid to break into the top three.

But of course the main plot will centre round the battle between the two generations. Thiem is a clay court specialist – he has finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open both this year and 2018 - but the other three have excelled on other surfaces too. And even if their performance in Grand Slams is indifferent with only Medvedev making it to the title round at the US Open this year their overall record could stand them in good stead. All in all interesting happenings around the ATP Tour are on the cards in 2020.

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News Cricket

Day one it was probably the toss that turned out to be very important - Virat Kohli

AP Updated: 24 February, 2020, 10:23 AM IST


Boult and Southee know how to make the best of New Zealand conditions and they were able to do so when Williamson won an influential toss on Friday and opted to make first use of the ball. India's powerful batting lineup struggled on a greenish pitch, it was bowled out for 165 and New Zealand took a grip on the match that it didn't release.

Williamson made 89 as New Zealand scored 348 in its first innings, building a commanding lead. It looked likely to be in an even stronger position when it passed India's total with only two wickets down but needed late order contributions from Colin de Grandhomme (43), Kyle Jamieson (44) and Boult (38) to achieve a substantial total.

New Zealand then took a major step towards victory when it removed Prithvi Shaw (14), Mayank Agarwal (58), Cheteshwar Pujara (11) and captain Virat Kohli (19) before stumps on Sunday, with Boult claiming three of those wickets,

Conditions in the second innings differed from the first. On the first day, the ball seemed a little on a moist pitch and swung a little in heavily overcast condition.

By Monday the pitch had dried, hardened and the New Zealand bowlers used to bounce and angle to worry the India batsmen.

Boult took the first wicket of the day, bowling around the wicket and from wide on the crease to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane (29), who played inside the line and edged to wicketkeeper B.J. Watling.

Southee dismissed Hanuma Vihari, who didn't add to his overnight score of 15. In a brilliantly-laid trap, Southee enticed Vihari with two outswingers before bowling an inswinger which ducked back past the inside edge.

Ravi Ashwin also fell to Southee, trapped lbw by a fuller, straighter ball which might have been a missing leg. Ashwin walked and didn't consider reviewing the decision.

Ishant Sharma made 12, hitting a boundary which took India into the lead and meant New Zealand had to bat again. He also received an lbw decision with equanimity, falling to de Grandhomme.

Southee and Boult combined to dismiss Rishabh Pant — Boult taking a good catch from Southee's bowling — and Southee completed his five-wicket bag with the dismissal of Jasprit Bumrah for 0.

"Day one it was probably the toss that turned out to be very important," Kohli said. "But as a batting unit we take a lot of pride in being competitive and we were just not competitive enough."

News Cricket

It was an outstanding effort over the space of four days - Kane Williamson

AP Updated: 24 February, 2020, 10:22 AM IST


New Zealand have beaten top-ranked India by 10 wickets in the series-opening match, posting its 100th win in tests and inflicting India's first loss in eight matches in the ICC Test Championship.

India started play Monday at 144-4, 39 runs behind New Zealand after trailing by 183 on the first innings and was dismissed for 191, a lead of only eight runs. Trent Boult took 4-39 and Tim Southee snared 5-61, his 10th five-wicket haul in tests.

Southee completed match figures of 9-110, making a strong statement after his omission from the third test against Australia in January. New Zealand knocked off the winning runs in just eight balls before lunch, finishing 9-0 with Tom Latham on 7 and Tom Blundell on 2.

The win marked a massive turnaround for New Zealand after its humbling 3-0 series loss in Australia in December and January. Back on home soil, New Zealand showed some of the form that lifted it to No. 2 in the world test rankings prior to the Australian series.

"It was an outstanding effort over the space of four days," New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said. "We know how strong this Indian team is all around the world.

"The efforts that went into that first innings, to put the ball in the right areas for long periods of time (were crucial), and I think with the bat to get what was a very competitive total on a surface that I thought was a very good one, that offered right throughout the match."

Opinion Cricket

ICC Test Championship: Why is Cheteshwar Pujara important for Team India?

CT Contributor Updated: 24 February, 2020, 10:20 AM IST


Cheteshwar Pujara has been a pivotal force for the Indian cricket team and h importance in the Test side is huge. The 32-year-old may have endured a difficult first Test against New Zealand in the first Test of the two-match series, however, he will be aiming to make amends in the second Test.

India are currently topping the ICC World Test Championship with 360 points picked up from the three-Test series. They had won all the seven Tests played until the Test match against the Kiwis now.

India suffered their maiden loss which handed New Zealand 60 points. If the side is to do well and increase its tally, the second Test must be won and level the series.

Post this series, India are set to face Australia away in a four-Test series in 2020-21. That will be followed by a five-Test series against England at home. Therefore, things will be pivotal. India cannot leave it to a decider against England and rather seal the top two berths prior to that. With Australia and England expected to fight for the Championship, India will aim to have things under control.

Pujara has played a substantial role for India and his presence in the upcoming 10 Test matches will be highly influential. He was India’s top performer in the 2018-19 Test series win in Australia after having scored in excess of 500 runs. India’s major issues have been scoring significantly in SENA nations and against New Zealand that was visible.

Pujara himself didn’t manage to get runs and looked ruffled up against the Kiwi pacers. His poor shot-making in the second innings saw him waste his hard work. Prior to that, he had consumed substantial time alongside Mayank Agarwal but failed to come out of his ultra-defensive approach.

Pujara has 5,762 runs from 76 Test matches at 48.83. However, the number drops significantly in away performances. He has amassed 2,291 runs in 35 Tests at 38.81. With someone like a Pujara, it is crucial to come in and consume deliveries and see off the struggling phase. His time and tenacity help someone like a Virat Kohli to come in and not get exposed to the new ball. Going forward, the right-handed batsman has to carry the side and show his mettle. He needs to score runs aplenty to help India draw plenty of character and steel.

His presence has been strong for the side of late and that value he brings cannot be written off. If India are to win, they need runs and partnerships. For that, nobody is better than someone like a Pujara, who has been a consistent force. If he manages to break free from the shackles and put up a defining show, then India can well challenge for the Championship.

Feature Cricket

Negative factors too behind India’s No. 1 ranking

Partab Ramchand Updated: 24 February, 2020, 10:17 AM IST


I have often looked at the ICC Test rankings and wondered how India are perched at No 1. Obviously there is a method and a system behind the rankings and India have been at the top for a considerable time much longer than the previous phase when they were the No 1 from 2009 to 2011. But the fact remains that India have lost in South Africa, in England and in New Zealand these past few years while winning a series in Australia for the first time. Winning a series in Sri Lanka and West Indies is no big deal while at home, of course, India are unbeatable. Overall then there is always an element of doubt on whether India are deserving of the No 1 spot and such doubts gain further impetus following the ten-wicket defeat at Wellington on Monday.

One cannot overlook the fact that there is a negative factor in India’s favor. Other teams too have been inconsistent in their overall performances in recent years and that makes India’s showing in the final context still the best. For example, New Zealand lost badly in Australia, England shared the Ashes series at home but were beaten black and blue `Down Under’. Australia were beaten in South Africa who then were routed in India. South Africa also went down to a shock defeat at home to Sri Lanka besides losing to England. Australia have lost in India and Pakistan and England have fared no better in these two countries. Pakistan have been no match in New Zealand.

The point to note is that virtually every team is a poor traveler even while having an admirable record at home and that works out in India’s favor with their formidable record in their own backyard. Sure there has been the odd upset result like when Sri Lanka shocked South Africa and New Zealand stunned Pakistan in the UAE. So it can be seen that every team has a rather inconsistent record. There is no invincible team around like the West Indies of the 80s and early 90s and Australia in the first decade of the new millennium.

That said India’s capitulation at Wellington was something that hardly anyone could have envisaged even if the visitors have now won only one of their last 19 Tests in New Zealand. Already there are memories of the nightmarish series in 2002-03 when India lost both Tests in three days. On that occasion to the first Test was lost by ten wickets. Given India’s indifferent record in New Zealand, it would take something extraordinary for the visitors to stage a comeback.

News Cricket

Having them 39 runs behind and four down is a good position – Trent Boult

AP Updated: 23 February, 2020, 4:02 PM IST


New Zealand edged closer to an unexpected victory over top-ranked India in the ICC Test Championship when it drove home the advantage of 183-run first-innings lead on the third day of the first test.

India has won its first seven matches in the championship but its unbeaten record hangs in the balance after it ended the day at 144-4, still 39 runs behind New Zealand with only six-second innings wickets in hand.

Ajinkya Rahane was 25 and Hanuma Vihari 15 at stumps which were drawn unusually late at 7.30 pm local time Sunday with long shadows draped across the Basin Reserve. But the strength of India's batting was in the pavilion as it attempts to overcome a substantial first-innings deficit.

New Zealand gained the upper hand when it replied with 348 to India's first innings of 165. It began the day only 51 runs ahead at 216-5 but solidified its position when its last three wickets produced 123 runs.

Colin de Grandhomme (43) and Kyle Jamieson (44) put on 71 for the eighth wicket, then Trent Boult smashed 38 at No. 11 to substantially increase New Zealand's lead.

Boult then contributed with the ball, finishing with 3-27 as he dismissed Prithvi Shaw (14), Cheteshwar Pujar (11) and captain Virat Kohli (19) to strengthen New Zealand's position.

"Having them 39 runs behind and four down is a good position," Boult said. "I think all in all a good day and some good cricket played.

"I managed to get a few runs to extend the lead a little bit and it was nice to contribute a bit with the ball. It's turning into a very good wicket and if we can remain very aggressive with the ball, look to be as intimidating as we can and take a couple more wickets then who knows what's possible."

India struggled throughout the day Sunday to cope with unaccustomed conditions. Heavy overnight rain made the playing field damp at the start of the day and the Indian players froze in a cold southerly breeze.

When the sun came out and the day warmed, the pitch hardened and altered in character and the Indian players struggled to cope with the constant changes the conditions demanded.

Opener Mayank Argawal posted his fourth half-century in tests in an effort to anchor the India innings but he was out for 58 and while others batted for long periods, they did little to reduce the deficit.

Cheteshwar Pujara faced 81 balls for 11 runs and even Kohli labored for 43 deliveries for his 19 before he was caught by wicketkeeper B.J. Watling off Boult.

Earlier, Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson put on 71 for the eighth wicket and Boult hit 38 from 24 balls as New Zealand's tail wagged to expand its first-innings lead.

New Zealand resumed Sunday at 216-5, just 51 runs ahead and lost wicketkeeper B.J. Watling (14) to the first ball of the day. Tim Southee (6) was out soon after as New Zealand, at 225-7, risked falling short of the lead it wanted after bowling out India for 165.

De Grandhomme made 43 and Jamieson 44 to swing the match back in New Zealand's favor. Jamieson continued a dream debut after taking 4-39 in India's first innings.

Boult blasted 38 from 24 balls at No. 11 to swell New Zealand's lead and increase the pressure on India when it came to batting.

"I think we talk in the lower order and anything we can contribute is always handy," Boult said. “We do take pride in adding to the total and that was nice to do so today.”

News Cricket

Pakistan to give Darren Sammy honorary citizenship

AP Updated: 23 February, 2020, 4:01 PM IST


Pakistan is making former West Indies captain Darren Sammy an honorary citizen for his role in restoring international cricket to the country.

Pakistan will also give Sammy its highest civilian award - Nishan-e-Pakistan - the Pakistan Cricket Board tweeted Saturday.

Sammy will be honored by Pakistan President Arif Alvi in a ceremony on March 23, a national holiday known as Pakistan Day.

Sammy is seen as having played a major role as a foreign player in helping the PCB bring international cricket back to Pakistan, following an attack by gunmen on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009.

Sammy has been leading Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League since the domestic Twenty20 tournament began in 2016.

Peshawar won the second edition of the PSL in Lahore in 2017. It was the first time that the PCB had organized a PSL game in Pakistan after the first edition and all the second edition — except the final — were played in the United Arab Emirates.

Sammy is currently leading Peshawar in the fifth edition of the PSL. The tournament is being played in its entirety for the first time in Pakistan.

News Cricket

Ishant Sharma doesn’t get the respect he deserves - Scott Styris

Garima Kotroo Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:59 PM IST


The former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris has praised the Indian pacer Ishant Sharma for his heroics against the Kiwis. The 31-year-old experienced bowler, who sustained an ankle injury during a Ranji Trophy game last month, kept India in the competition by taking five crucial wickets against the hosts.

While lauding the efforts of Ishant Sharma for his side, Styris said that he is a terrific performer who has the ability to bowl consistently. He also stated that the lanky pacer doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

“He perhaps doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Those are phenomenal numbers. He is a terrific performer. His ability to consistently bowl in one area is great. He is right in the face of the batsmen and you can see the rewards are slowly coming.”

Earlier, Ishant was not feeling good during the game.

“I am not happy because I have not slept for two days and I was struggling a lot today (with my body). The way I would have liked to bowl, it did not happen. They asked me to play and I played. Anything, for the team.”

Opinion Cricket

Why Donald Trump and Why Motera?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:57 PM IST


The hullabaloo over the state visit of American President Donald Trump has found uncommon quarters. The question is not so much about hosting the President of the United States as much as it is about the location and occasion.

One of the important state visits is awaited over the weekend. As part of that honor, Trump has been invited by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the newly built, 100,000 capacity Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

While it is obvious that Modi who hails from Gujarat would want to promote his own state and that too with a huge Gujarati diaspora settled in the USA, what makes this somewhat baffling is why an American President would be invited to inaugurate a renovated cricket stadium when cricket is not a popular sport and their team largely features Indian ex-pats.

While it would seem that Modi's show of popularity in Houston was only touted in India and not even mentioned by Trump amongst the many foreign dignitaries he met in later public conferences, Modi wants to show size matters.

While Trump claims millions of people showing up has been promised by Modi, the stadium has been adapted to host 100,000 spectators. Even the stadium renovation was rushed in time for Trump's visit.

It would appear that the cricket stadium's unveiling of a first look is being used for purposes other than cricket and that too by political heads of state who do not really follow the game anyway.

Even the remote idea that Trump's presence at a cricket stadium will raise the profile of the sport abroad is a far-fetched idea if ever there was one.

It would have been better and more pertinent had Modi invited illustrious cricketers and made a big show about the revamped stadium in his state rather than invited a dignitary who does not even plausibly know much about the game's existence let alone understand the game or the location.

Feature Cricket

IPL 2020: 5 Mumbai Indians batsmen to watch out for

Garima Kotroo Updated: 23 February, 2020, 3:53 PM IST


Mumbai Indians will kick-start the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League as defending champions. Rohit Sharma-led team successfully lifted the prestigious IPL title fourth time in the nerve-wracking finale of IPL 2019 against Chennai Super Kings. In the 13th edition also, they are looking forward to maintaining their dominance in the league. MI have a pretty good set of batsmen who can add strength to the squad for the next season. Let’s take a look at five brilliant batsmen who can win matches for Mumbai Indian in IPL 2020:

Rohit Sharma

When it comes to the Indian Premier League, Rohit Sharma is not just a name, he is a brand for Mumbai Indians supporters across the globe. With his power-hitting skills and brilliant leadership qualities, Mumbai outfit has managed to lift the prestigious IPL trophy four times (in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019). Rohit is one of those rare cricketers who has contributed a lot to the success of IPL. The Hitman is the most important cog in MI’s wheel who guided his side to the fifth IPL finale that too against the arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Rohit has scored 4898 runs in 188 IPL games at an average of 31.60 and a strike rate of 130.82 so far.

Hardik Pandya

In the upcoming edition of IPL, all eyes will be on the top all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who is going to make a comeback on the field after a long gap. Pandya had a dream run for Mumbai in IPL 2019 as he played exceptionally well with the bat and ball. His role was instrumental in Mumbai Indians' title win in the grand finale last year. If we take Pandya’s batting performance into account, he smashed 402 runs in 16 games last year. On the other hand, in the bowling department, he picked up 14 wickets at an economy rate of 9.17. The 26-year-old stylish cricketer is now sweating hard to replicate his last year’s form in the upcoming edition after painful back surgery.

Quinton de Kock

South African batsman Quinton de Kock, who opened the batting line-up with Rohit Sharma in the 12th edition of IPL, had a sensational stint with the four-time winners so far. He accumulated 529 runs at an average of 35.26 and a strike rate of 131.28 last year. Not only this, he was equally good behind the stumps. The dashing cricketer has been in a red-hot form for his national side in the last couple of years. He was rewarded with the captain’s armband in the limited-overs formats after Faf du Plessis stepped down as Proteas skipper. There is no doubt that Quinton will surely be the one to watch out for the Mumbai Indians.

Chris Lynn

Mumbai Indians bought some good players in the auction process and Chris Lynn was one of them. Interestingly, the Australian batsman was the biggest acquisition for MI in the process. He was released by the Kolkata Knight Riders during the trade window and was subsequently snapped by the Mumbai outfit for Rs. 2 crores. In 41 games, Lynn has scored 1280 runs in one of the best T20 leagues across the globe. The 29-year-old right-hander, who has a strike rate of 140.65 and an average of 33.68, has the ability to play big shots in different conditions.

Suryakumar Yadav

Suryakumar Yadav has been sensational for Mumbai Indians since he joined them in 2018. The right-hander, who was used to play for Kolkata Knight Riders, was given the responsibility to open the batting line-up for Mumbai India in 2018. Despite being new to the role, Yadav did exceptionally well, scoring 512 runs in 14 games that season. Suryakumar can switch gears easily and could even play patiently whenever the situation demands.

News Cricket

Sleep-deprived Ishant Sharma was forced to play by Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:32 PM IST


Having picked up three wickets in the first innings of New Zealand, it was expected that Ishant Sharma would be happy at the end of the day. However, Ishant has said that he was not feeling good at all and that it was only for the team that he agreed to be in the playing eleven.

“I am not happy because I have not slept for two days and I was struggling a lot today (with my body). The way I would have liked to bowl, it did not happen. They asked me to play and I played. Anything, for the team,” Ishant Sharma, who has the experience of playing 96 Tests under his hat, was quoted as saying by India TV.

The pacer was content by his bowling display but he was not happy with the amount of sleep that his body has received since his arrival in New Zealand.

“Not that I wasn’t happy with my bowling. I wasn’t happy with my body as I could only sleep for 40 minutes last night and day before the Test match, I slept for three hours,” said Ishant on his battle with the ‘jet lag’.

Ishant was rushed to New Zealand after recovering from a ligament.

News Cricket

Ajinkya Rahane registers unwanted record for the first time in his career

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:13 PM IST


Ajinkya Rahane, for the first time, has achieved a dubious feat, of getting involved in run-out for the in his Test career. In the morning session of day two, Rahane was involved in a horrible mix-up with young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant.

Prior to this, India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane wasn't involved in a single run-out in his Test career.

Rahane blocked a ball and stormed towards the non-strikers' end for a single. In reply, Pant went ahead but halted mid-way seeing the fielder, Ajaz Patel running towards the strikers' end quickly. Eventually, the 22-year-old decided to sacrifice his wicket as a result of the confusion in the middle and departed for 19.

From 132 for 5, India were then bundled out for a paltry 165. It was also the first instance after the Jamaica Test versus West Indies in August 2019 that India were bowled out in an innings.

As a result of the mix-up, Rahane got involved in his first-ever run-out in his Test career. While Rahane top-scored with 46, Pant’s miserable run of form continued, as he got out for 19. If India want to remain in the two-match Test series opener, they need to strike regularly.

Feature Cricket

Five batsmen to watch out for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2020

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:07 PM IST


Delhi Capitals did pretty well in the last edition of the Indian Premier League. After changing their name, they made it to the knockout stage for the first time in the last few years. Under their skipper, Shreyas Iyer, Capitals are looking forward to land their first IPL trophy in the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at five batsmen, who can lead their team to IPL glory.

Marcus Stoinis

He was the best batsman in the last edition of the Big Bash League and was rewarded with the best player award for his heroics. In BBL, Stoinis scored 705 runs at a strike rate of 136.63 and an average of 54.23. In IPL though, Stoinis has not been able to leave his mark so far. He has had a decent outing though, having scored 473 runs from 29 matches. But apart from his one performance, where he took 4/15 against Mumbai Indians, playing for Kings XI Punjab, the Western Australia player has not lived up to the hype. However, his track record in the shortest format is worth applauding. With 2430 runs and 62 wickets in 114 T20 matches, Stoinis has proved to be a genuine all-rounder.

Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Lack of form, injuries and whatnot. It hasn’t been a good year for Pant so far. But as soon as the IPL arises, Rishabh Pant is like 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man’. He can turn the tide in his favor. He is one batsman who has been mastering the league like no one else. Over the past four seasons, Pant has scored 1736 runs in 54 matches with a phenomenal strike rate of 162.69 and a decent average of 36.16. Although at the international level, Pant has not been able to replicate his IPL form and that has been a reason of worry for the national team. But we are talking about IPL and over here, he rules the roost. He has an array of shots in his kitty that are destructive, to say the least.

Shreyas Iyer

Captain charismatic comes at number three on the list. Mostly because he hasn’t made as much of an impact as Pant in the IPL. But boy he is in some form in the International circuit! In his last 10 matches, the Mumbaikar has scored 421 runs at a whopping average of 60.142. Not only that, but he was also India’s leading run-scorer in the recently concluded ODI series in New Zealand. In the Indian Premier League, Iyer has done quite well. In 62 matches, Iyer has scored 1681 runs at an average of 30.56 and a somewhat modest strike rate of 126.96. But since May last year, Iyer has performed exceedingly well. In 2019-20, Iyer scored 334 runs in 15 innings at an average of 33.4 and a strike rate that dwells between 135 and 140.

Jason Roy

Along with Stoinis, another foreigner, who has performed well and has made himself a playing XI permanent is- Jason Roy. Since the 2019 World Cup itself, Roy has been in supreme touch. Although, he did not go through a good patch in Mzansi Premier League and missed the New Zealand T20I series. Since his return to the national side against South Africa, earlier this month, Roy has performed well for the Three Lions, both in the ODIs and in the T20Is. Roy has scored 5977 runs in 232 innings in his T20 career and has played all around the world.

Prithvi Shaw

Prithvi Shaw scored runs in the Ranji Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In the domestic T20, Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Shaw made 240 runs from five matches at a strike rate of 170 and. He also played quite well even for the India A team, before getting a call for the national side’s 50 over travails in New Zealand. Although he failed to convert the starts he got in New Zealand, but Shaw can never be kept out of a match especially in a T20 game on Indian pitches. He has played a few superb Knocks in IPL. Overall, Shaw has scored 598 runs in 25 matches at a prolific strike rate of 141.03.

Opinion Cricket

What’s ailing Virat Kohli in New Zealand?

Renin Wilben Albert Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:04 PM IST


Eight matches, 182 runs at an average of 22.75 with a best of 51. These are not numbers you generally associate with the run-machine named Virat Kohli. But, these are the actual stats of the Indian captain on the tour of New Zealand, updated till his dismissal in the first innings of the Wellington Test. To be more precise, Kohli’s numbers in New Zealand read 45, 11, 38, 11 in the four T20Is he played, 51, 15 and 9 in the three ODIs as India were whitewashed, and 2 in the first innings of the Wellington. Kohli has now gone without a hundred in 19 international innings, his worst batting run since February-October 2014, when he went century-less for 25 innings.

It is not that Kohli was in poor form before heading on the plane to New Zealand. In fact, he had notched up 78 and 89 at Rajkot and Bengaluru respectively as India got the better of Australia 2-1 in the ODIs at home. His last international hundred though came against Bangladesh during the historic Day-Night Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. What is it then that’s going wrong with the Indian captain in New Zealand?

Mental fatigue or law of averages?

Before the start of the Wellington Test, Kohli revealed during an interaction with the media that he wants to play all formats of the game for the next three years, after which he will make a decision on his future plans. At the same time, he also admitted that the constant flow of matches and incessant traveling is taking a toll on him. Remember India arrived in New Zealand just a few hours after their victory over Australia at Bengaluru. And, there won’t be a big gap between South Africa’s three ODI-tour of India and the IPL.

Perhaps, the tight cricketing schedule has affected Kohli’s powers of concentration in New Zealand, a place where the slightest mistake can cost the batsman his wicket considering the challenging conditions. It is not as if Kohli has looked out of form. In fact, he has got himself in a number of times but has found ways to get himself out. Then, there is also the small matter of luck and law of averages. Since the horrific 2014 tour of England, Kohli has had an unbelievably consistent run across formats. Somewhere down the line, to prove that Kohli is only human after all, there was bound to be a lull period.

Tied down by smart Kiwi bowlers

While the above-mentioned points hold very much true, credit must also be given to New Zealand bowlers for doing their homework very adeptly against Kohli. The Kiwis knew that if Kohli does well, India would invariably succeed especially in the shorter formats. And, his failure in the ODIs coinciding with India being whitewashed 0-3 reiterated how heavily the team still depends on their skipper to deliver in the 50-over format.

The New Zealand bowlers did very well not to give Kohli much room to free his arms. Once he gets into his groove, it is very difficult to stop Kohli. But, the Kiwi bowlers ensured the Indian captain was back in the hut before that phase. If one analysis the 31-year-old’s dismissals in the three ODIs, Ish Sodhi, breached Kohli’s defense at Hamilton, preying on the Indian captain’s weakness against leg-spin bowling. In the second ODI at Auckland, Tim Southee tested Kohli with tight lines, and eventually broke through. At Mount Maunganui, Kohli did not look in any sort of rhythm.

Kohli’s dismissal in the first innings of the Wellington Test, fishing outside the off-stump, was a failed attempt at trying to break free and had shades of England 2014. Of course, neither Kohli nor India should not be worried about the captain’s mini-slump. However, the Indian skipper still has time to make a difference. Unlike the ODIs, Kohli knows Tests are relevant and will be keen to set the wrongs right.

Feature Cricket

Ranji Trophy undergoes a metamorphosis

Partab Ramchand Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:02 PM IST


Following the ongoing Ranji Trophy quarterfinals one cannot escape the metamorphosis that has taken place in India’s premier domestic cricket tournament. The quarterfinalists are Gujarat, Bengal, Karnataka, Saurashtra, Andhra, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Goa. A few years ago this sort of line-up could not have been envisaged. There is only one heavyweight remaining in Karnataka which has won the trophy eight times. The teams eliminated at the league stage include Mumbai (41 times champion), Delhi (8 times champions), Baroda (5 times champion), Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Railways and Rajasthan who have won the trophy twice each, Vidarbha who have won the title the last two years and winners of the trophy once in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Even after conceding the fact that the Ranji Trophy is now an open field and the days of the heavyweight teams dominating could well be a thing of the past the kind of scenario that has been seen in this year’s competition is quite extraordinary.

This is not just reflected in the teams making the last eight but also in the stats of the season. For example, the highest run-getter is Rahul Dalal of Arunachal Pradesh with a tally of 1340 at an average of 95.71 with four hundreds and five half-centuries and a highest score of 267 not out. The three who follow Dalal in the list are from Mizoram, Meghalaya and Puducherry. All with over 900 runs each. Batsmen from Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Goa and Nagaland find a place in the top ten with only one player from a heavyweight team – Sarfaraz Khan of Mumbai – breaking the monopoly. When it comes to the highest scores notched up in this year’s championship five of the top ten are from Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Goa with Taruwar Kohli of Mizoram leading the way with 307 not out.

It’s the same story when it comes to bowling. Going into the quarterfinals Sanjay Yadav of Meghalaya is the leading wicket-taker with 55 wickets from nine matches at an average of 12.65. Again in the top ten bowlers from Services, Puducherry, Tripura and Sikkim dominate. Sanjay Yadav has notched up the season’s best innings figures of nine for 52. While Karnataka’s K Gowtham has the best match figures of 14 for 170, Imliwati Lemtur of Nagaland and Sanjay Yadav are close behind with a match haul of 13 wickets.

One does not know whether any of these players will come even close to donning an India cap but then at the start of the new millennium could anyone have expected a player from Jharkhand to emerge as a true legend of Indian cricket? In any case, it is heartening to know that players from literally every nook and corner of the country are performing admirably and helping their team’s cause. One hopes that some of them are rewarded with representation at a higher level or land an IPL contract.

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Umar Akmal was in touch with bookies before the Pakistan Super League

Abhishek Singh Updated: 22 February, 2020, 4:00 PM IST


Pakistani batsman Umar Akmal, who was suspended by the anti-corruption unit of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for breaching the code of conduct, has admitted that he was in touch with a bookie and he failed to report to the PCB.

Reports surfaced in a Pakistani news channel, Geo News that he accepted charges leveled against him, once damning evidence was provided by the anti-corruption unit of the PCB. On Thursday night, the board had intercepted a call that Umar Akmal had made to the bookies.

Senior sports journalist Abdul Majid Bhatti said that the cricketing body possessed the records of an intercepted phone call between Akmal and the bookies. The anti-corruption cell of the PCB was monitoring the suspicious calls for four full days before finally deciding to take the matter to the chairman, Ehsan Mani, just a night before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

The anti-corruption unit has also confiscated the cell phone of Umar Akmal. Earlier, PCB had banned Umar Akmal from taking part in any cricket-related activity before the investigation against him is completed.

Meanwhile, Quetta Gladiators have named Anwar Ali as his replacement.