South Africa were reminiscing the last tough tour of India even as they headed into the first Test in Vizag. It came as no shock, therefore, that South Africa seemed to play like visitors, sedate and still coming to terms late into the second day. While India’s openers stories is a much needed breath of fresh air, the bugle sounds caution for the future.
There was as much speculation about Rohit Sharma’s place in the team and his new role as India’s Test opener as there was about Rishabh Pant’s viability as India’s wicketkeeper in the near future. To that end, India found at least one answer, albeit for the moment.
Rohit Sharma’s near double century and Mayank Agarwal’s maiden double century ensured India ground South Africa, reminding them of how hard this tour of the Indian dust bowl was going to be. For some of South Africa’s bowlers, such as spinner Senuran Muthusamy, it was a tough initiation. For others, it was a timely reminder of the last tour that went India’s way, arguably with some dubious pitches to contend with.
Despite South Africa’s studious mind set, India still had to exploit the advantage of winning the toss.
To the openers’ credit, the duo not only put on a mammoth opening wicket partnership, but also, blunted the South Africa’s hope of making amends for the last tour. Although it is still early days on the tour, the first two days have fielded a monumental task already for the weary, sweaty visitors, having spent considerable time under the sun and in extremely humid weather.
While Rohit Sharma has made good on the opportunity fallen upon him fortuitously after KL Rahul’s underwhelming recent performances. Yet despite the terrific effort that has yielded a huge, early advantage for the hosts, this is only the beginning of Rohit’s stint as an opener.
While playing at home may have its advantages, India will still be wise to keep an eye on grooming a youngster for the opening role on more aggressive, fiery foreign pitches when India tour. It is still the long term perspective if India are to lay the platform for continued world dominance in the Test arena.
While Rohit Sharma could indeed carve a longer Test career with this unexpected, bonus opportunity, the litmus test awaits beyond the Indian sub-continent. While Mayank Agarwal is slightly older than Rohit in the role of the opener and this first performance off the blocks have been phenomenal as it has dominated the proceedings, India would still want to pay close attention to the bench strength, given the pivotal role that the opener’s presents.
India welcomed US President Donald Trump and his family with great pomp and show on Monday. Trump arrived at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on his first official visit to India to strengthen the ties between both the two countries. Soon after the American President touched down the airport, Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined him for a 22-km long roadshow to newly-refurbished Motera Stadium.
The two leaders then addressed the gathering of over 1,25,000 at the Stadium in a grand event of Namaste Trump. In his speech to the Indian citizens at Motera Stadium, Trump talk about much-hyped topics of the country - Cricket and Bollywood.
He gave a cheer to the two batting greats of the Indian team, Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar. “All over the planet people take great joy in watching Bollywood films, bhangra, and classic films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Sholay. You cheer on great cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli.”
He also went on to say, “India and the US are committed to fighting terrorists and their ideology; that is why my government is working with Pakistan to crack down on terror groups. The US will always be a faithful and loyal friend of India. Thank you for the spectacular welcome."
Trump is currently on a two-day visit to India with his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Former Pakistani all-rounder, Shahid Afridi has said that cricket relations between India and Pakistan are getting hampered because of only one person, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Afridi believes that Modi is pursuing some hidden agenda, full of hatred and vengeance for Pakistan.
“Till Modi is in power, I don’t think we will get any response from India. We have all, including Indians, understood the way Modi thinks. His thinking is inclined towards negativity. Our relationships are getting damaged just because of one person. People from either side of the border want to travel to each other’s country. I don’t understand what Modi wants to do and what his agenda really is,” Afridi said in an interview with Cricket Pakistan.
He is also of the opinion that organizing PSL in Pakistan would bring a lot of hope for young Pakistani players. He is also hopeful that other teams like Australia, South Africa, England, and New Zealand would soon be touring Pakistan.
Team India last played Pakistan in a bilateral series way back in 2012. Pakistan toured India for a two-match T20I series back then. India last played a game in Pakistan in 2008 during the Asia Cup and its been ages since these two sides played a Test match.
After a lot of drama and anticipation, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League, is finally set to get underway from March 29 with a much-awaited opening battle between the top two franchises of last year. The defending champions Mumbai Indians will lock horns against the IPL 2019 runners up Chennai Super Kings at the iconic Wankhede Stadium.
Meanwhile, the official broadcaster of IPL 2020, Star Sports recently launched a new ad campaign ahead of the next edition. In the commercial, the broadcasters tried to take a dig at the big stars of the cash-rich league like MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli. The video left the fans splits and went viral in no time.
The official Twitter handle of IPL also shared the promotional video with fans and followers and wrote, “The stage is set and the banter is on. Ahead of the #VIVOIPL 2020, keep the banter coming and get set for March 29, jab #KhelBolega on @StarSportsIndia and Hotstar! The @Vivo_India IPL Carnival begins soon”.
In the video, an old man can be seen asking if MS Dhoni will be able to play for CSK and when will Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore lift their maiden IPL trophy.
India have been served their first dish and it was not tasty. Far from it. After being on a high, having played against some iffy opponents at best, India were brought back to earth after New Zealand walked away with an emphatic ten-wicket win. Some might say, this is the way India always starts a tour, losing the first Test. While that might have been the case in the past, India cannot afford too many missteps, particularly with grand ambitions of longevity in world dominance.
To that end, the loss to New Zealand in the first Test has been a reality check and a reminder that the road to the World Test Championship final at Lord’s in June 2021 might not necessarily be a cakewalk for India. While the itinerary has been questioned with India having won some easy points against West Indies and Bangladesh, they could not be blamed for the dismal showing put up by South Africa when they did show up. Furthermore, although India began the last year on the resounding note of having beaten Australia in Australia in seven decades, Australia’s resurgence since the return of the disgraced duo of Steve Smith and David Warner has added spring in their step.
It could be said that after the mixed bag of the Twenty20 series and the one-day internationals prior to the commencement of the Test part of the tour, there were telling signs that India were not sharp on their game as they were expected to be. Still, weather and conditions might be factored in though it would not fully explain why India would hand over New Zealand such a comprehensive, confidence-boosting win. Some might say that Virat Kohli was attempting to soften the blow or taking on a more complacent garb in being effusive in praise of his counter, the New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson. If there is any truth to the matter, the Indian captain would have now sized up, and not very quickly, that New Zealand, despite their reputation for being mild-mannered off the field and gentlemanly on it, are no pushovers.
They will fight for every edge and this victory coming on the back of pulling back some of the early euphorias from the visitors will give them much impetus going into the next one. For India’s part and particularly Virat Kohli whose batting needs to sing overseas, this defeat is going to give them a lot to think about and also, if brave enough, give them an opportunity to experiment a little, away from the rigid plans that haven’t worked entirely on this tour. The only question is: who is going to be the scapegoat? And will it be Rishabh Pant is not such an unlikely scenario in what has become the bane of the young twenty-one-year-old?
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was ruled out of the series against New Zealand, has recovered ahead of the three-match ODI series versus South Africa. The 34-year-old left-hander recently announced his comeback on Instagram. Dhawan came up with a picture of himself in which he can be seen riding a horse.
Taking to his official Instagram handle, Dhawan wrote in the caption,"Kitne bowler they? #Gabbar is back."
Dhawan is currently undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru and is gearing up to make a comeback in the Indian team.
He injured his shoulder while fielding against Australia in the three-match ODI series at home. As a result, Dhawan was left out from the Indian squad against New Zealand. In the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, talented batsman KL Rahul was given the responsibility to fill his boots in the T20I series against the Black Caps. Not so surprisingly, Rahul made the most of the given opportunity and performed exceptionally for his side.
Virat Kohli’s troops are currently playing a two-match Test series against Kiwis.
India went down against New Zealand in the first Test of the two-match series in Wellington. The Kiwis outplayed the visitors in all three departments of the game.
After India faced a disappointing defeat against the Kiwis in the Test opener, the former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris has said that India should include Shubman Gill in the second Test in Christchurch. While calling him a ‘special talent’, Styris also stated that Gill could be the mainstay along with skipper Virat Kohli for the next 10 years.
“I am currently, as I have been for a year or two, flying the flag for Shubman Gill. I think he is a special talent who India are leaving out unnecessarily. I think he could be the mainstay along with Kohli for the next 10 years for this batting line-up for India. I am not sure if he feels the same way, I would get him into the side.”
However, Styris also admitted that India might find it difficult to decide which position Gill should come out and bat.
“India and Australia usually bring their new players at no. 6 positions. So India have that option. They can say, ‘Look Prithvi, we know you are young, we’ll come back to you in another condition’, maybe put Vihari up the top or put Shubman Gill at 6. Or of course, they can put him straight into the top of the order because that’s where he usually bats.”
India will play the second Test against Kiwis at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch from February 29.
English batsman Jason Roy has accused Wahab Riaz of ball-tampering in a Pakistan Super League match between Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium in Karachi.
The incident took place during the first innings of the match when Gladiators were batting. Jason asked Wahab whether he had changed the condition of the ball in order to gain reverse swing. After this, the duo clashed as the pacer seemed visibly angry at the accusations leveled against him. The Gladiators’ skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed had to intervene and take control of the situation.
“Roy asked Wahab whether he had made the ball properly to gain reverse swing. The Pakistani pacer reacted angrily and argued before Sarfaraz intervened to diffuse the situation,” a source was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
Sarfaraz, the mediator insisted that the heated exchange of words between the players should not be blown out of proportion as it is part and parcel of the game.
“Look these things happen in cricket when there is intense competition between the players,” the former Pakistan skipper said.
Interestingly, the Karachi Kings skipper Imad Wasim had reportedly named Wahab Riaz as one of the three players to have tampered the ball previously in the PSL.
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli believes that he is in good touch with the bat and that it’s not just reflecting in his scores.
"I am absolutely fine. I am batting really well. I feel that sometimes scores don't reflect the way you are batting and that's what can happen when you don't execute what you want to well," Kohli told media persons after India lost the first Test by 10 wickets.
New Zealand has been a rare overseas tour in recent times when Kohli could not live up to his high standards, scoring only one half-century so far in nine innings across three formats. His sequence of scores read 45, 11, 38, 11 (T20s); 51, 15, 9 (ODIs) and 2 and 19 (1st Test).
"Look when you play so much cricket and you play for so long, obviously you will have 3-4 innings that don't go your way. If you try and make too much out of it, it'll keep piling on," the skipper has his priorities clear.
The 31-year-old captain feels that it’s not about scoring runs, rather winning matches is all that matters.
"It's never been about my performance on tour or about how many runs I score. It's all about if the team wins, even a 40 is good. If the team loses, then even a 100 is irrelevant for me, and I'm going to stay in that mindset," he stated.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli has said that he couldn’t care less if people wanted to make a mountain out of a single defeat that India suffered in the opening match against New Zealand at Basin Reserve, Wellington.
"We know we haven't played well, but if people want to make a big deal out of it, make a mountain out of it, we can't help it as we don't think like that," Virat said at the post-match media interaction.
This was India's first defeat in the World Test Championship, coming after two inept batting efforts.
"Some people might want it to be the end of the world but it's not. For us, it's a game of cricket we lost and we move on and keep our heads high," Kohli added.
The Indian captain further went on to say that the team doesn’t pay attention to the home away chatter, also known as the “outsider” issue. He further added that the team believes in itself and would make a strong comeback in the next game.
"That's why we have been able to play this kind of cricket. If we would have paid attention to the outside chatter, we would again be at No. 7 or 8 in the rankings. We don't really bother about what people are saying on the outside," the skipper said.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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