Faster cars and fiercer competition are the great expectations of the new regulations in Formula One, yet the championship outlook hasn't altered much ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton remains the hot favorite to win another title for Mercedes.
Hamilton won 10 GP events last season and was close to claiming his fourth drivers' title but was narrowly beaten by his teammate Nico Rosberg, who secured Mercedes a third consecutive championship and then retired.
While Hamilton talked about wanting more drivers competing for the title, and even tipped Ferrari to be quickest this weekend, he's already lining up a victory he thinks would be unprecedented.
"I don't believe (any) team has won back-to-back through rule regulation changes," Hamilton said Thursday during the first official news conference ahead of Sunday's race. "So that's our goal as a team. We're here to win. We're here to do what no-one else has done.
"I have every belief in my team that we can do that."
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel won four consecutive season titles from 2010-13 while he was racing for Red Bull, so he knows what it's like to be in Hamilton's position. He has no doubt who is favorite this season, regardless of the rule changes that dictated wider tires, greater aerodynamics, bigger fuel loads and increased downforce and which are expected to make the heavier cars faster.
"Obviously Mercedes has been in a very, very strong form the last three years and even with changes to the rules and regulations, if the team is strong then they will build a strong car the year after, no matter what they do," Vettel said. "It is very clear who is the favorite.
"For all of us sitting here we are obviously trying our best to catch up. As the season goes on obviously, I'm sure the cars will have big progression."
Ferrari had good results in the eight days of pre-season testing, and Hamilton predicted Vettel and former champion Kimi Raikkonen would have the fastest cars in the first practice sessions Friday and Saturday.
"I see Ferrari being the quickest at the moment — and I think they'll definitely be the favorites," said Hamilton, who was joined at Mercedes this season by former Williams driver Valterri Bottas. "It's interesting to see, Sebastian is usually a lot more hype. I can tell he's trying to keep a lid on it. But their pace was obviously great in testing."
Hamilton said he couldn't judge the pace of the Red Bulls in testing, saying they were "quite far behind" and he didn't see many upgrades to the cars.
"I'm assuming they're bringing something new," he said, "which I'm excited to see."
Daniel Ricciardo finished as the highest-ranked of the non-Mercedes drivers last season, winning the Malaysian GP and placing third in the season standings. He concedes Hamilton will start favorite, but is hoping for a shakeup at the top.
"I think for everyone it's like when Red Bull were dominating a few years ago — everyone wanted to see someone else win," Ricciardo said. "It's natural that people like change.
"For us drivers, not being in Mercedes, we want to see change as well. Even for the fact to have more cars fighting for the win makes it more exciting."
Hamilton wanted more frequent changes to the regulations, to keep the cars getting faster and the competition "spicier."
That's something on which all the leading drivers could agree.
If Hamilton "wins a race against four of us as opposed to maybe just his teammate I think that reward is bigger as well," said Ricciardo, who is aiming to be the first Australian to win the Australian GP since it became part of the world championship in 1985.
"If you can win against more ... that feeling of self-accomplishment is greater. Ferrari showed good pace in testing. If they can take a few points away as well it kind of opens up the championship over the long time." But when the test pitch was uncovered on Wednesday it was well-grassed and seemed less likely to favor spinners early on. Pitches at Seddon Park tend to become slower as matches progress.
Meanwhile, South Africa is still assessing the fitness of wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock who has a finger injury. Uncapped Heinrich Klaasen is on standby if de Kock is ruled unfit.
South Africa leads the three-match series 1-0 after winning the second test at Wellington.
As the preparations for the Indian Premier League (IPL) gathers momentum and the world gears up for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the question is whether the focus should be on how to balance the wheel versus where the next year's World Cup should be held.
There is little doubt that there are as many World Cups in cricket as there are Twenty20 leagues currently underway in the game. Even as the discussion rakes up once more about who - the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or Cricket Australia (CA) - will host next year's ICC Twenty20 World Cup, there is a need for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to address the current situation where too few teams have their plans etched out following the pandemic break.
England is said to be still in a dismal situation despite the fact that the West Indies have successfully completed their your and Pakistan are playing the first Test. Their limited-overs series with Australia is in the dock as the Australian cricketers are contemplating how to play in England and then fly to the UAE for the IPL.
The hurdles for the IPL abound in the fact that players and teams are expected to arrive a month in advance to the scheduled September schedule to meet the Coronavirus pandemic measures but also, for franchisees to have the opportunity to work with their teams and devise a conditioning camp to get them out of the rust/rest period and towards winning ways.
South Africa are battling internal wranglings as they are fighting broader issues of corruption and uncertainty of scheduling. It is throwing their fragile, recently laid down game plan in turmoil, and given the player turnover, they will be concerned, despite the innovative 3T cricket distraction, for their jitters to calm down with an international series.
The pandemic break and the rescheduling after has meant that more than one team besides South Africa are looking at an immediate bleak future.
Australia are going all out to keep their date with the schedule of India's tour. But not many teams have India and thereby, a lucrative proposition in the offing. Calls for England to reciprocate the tour for the West Indies grows as players have been asked to undergo a pay cut despite the tour of England.
At a time when it is important that the ICC take cognizance of this FTP that is in immediate need of handling, it seems inane that after wasting more than three months in the offing while Cricket Australia refused to host the world cup this year, that they would waste more time finalizing whether CA and the BCCI would swap hosting rights for a year that is still far away when there are too many immediate concerns that need the attention of the governing body in consultation with its permanent board members on the collective issue regarding the state of the game.
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With the Indian Premier League (IPL) about to start soon, all the fans of Mahendra Singh Dhoni would finally be able to watch him play. These fans have been expecting the ‘Thala’ to play international cricket and make a comeback in Team India.
However, cricketer-turned commentator, Aakash Chopra believes that Dhoni would not be bothered about team India selection as he has risen above that. Aakash feels that 39-year-old MSD’s only focus would be to get Chennai into the finals.
"For Dhoni, it really doesn’t matter whether he is selected or not. I believe as a cricketer and as a batsman, he would just look to score runs and guide his team to victory. The maturity he has achieved won’t let me worry him about the selection and his only focus would be to win the games for Chennai Super Kings (CSK),” Aakash said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
Saying that CSK is more or less built around MSD, therefore the success of Ranchi boy would also be reflected in his team’s success, Chopra tried to broaden the spectrum of Dhoni’s impact.
"CSK’s success depends upon MSD a lot. If he is in god form, chances are that CSK would do well because then he would be involved a lot in the game,” Chopra added.
Dhoni will score runs even after not playing competitive cricket for a long time - Chopra
Further the Delhi born commentator also said that Dhoni, even after not being part of any competitive match from July last year, would score good runs.
"Just take a thorough look at his career and you would realize that he gives very little to no damn about anything going on in the surroundings that might affect him. So I believe that even when he has not played cricket for quite some time, he is going to score runs and succeed this season,” 42-year-old Chopra concluded.
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While Indo-Pak relations have been sour politically over the years, it is in sports and among sportsmen, especially cricketers that we have some amount of camaraderie. However, it seems that Pak cricketers accusing BCCI of postponing the T20 World Cup didn’t go down well with former India cricketer Madan Lal.
Reacting to the comments of former Pak cricketers, Madan Lal, member of BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) said that the cricketers from our neighboring country are jealous of us.
“Most of the Pak cricketers hardly think before opening their mouth. Claiming that India used muscle and money to postpone the World Cup is utter nonsense. Basically they are jealous of our success,” Madan Lal was quoted as saying on Sports Tak.
“The reason why the World Cup was postponed was the coronavirus. It was the joint decision of Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council because a league and a world cup are totally different things. You would always want a crowd and sponsors to make the World Cup successful. So in that aspect postponing it was a rather smart decision,” Lal added.
IPL was always going to happen - Madan Lal
The 69-year-old former World Cup winner also defended BCCI saying that the plan for IPL was already made and it has been very well executed by the board.
“There was no question of IPL not happening, it was always going to take place. The window of September-October was pre-decided. So basically the board had already planned the IPL accordingly,” Lal said.
The Indian veteran spinner Amit Mishra is one of the best performers in the IPL. Playing for Delhi Capitals, the 37-year-old leg-spinner has never failed to meet the expectations of his fans and teammates. He is even holding the record of most hat-tricks in the history of the tournament. But as far as international cricket is concerned, he hasn’t donned the Indian jersey for the last three years. Mishra made his last appearance for the Men in Blue in the 2017 T20I series against England.
However, the veteran spinner didn’t lose all his hopes to play for his country yet again. During his recent interview, when Mishra was asked if he is still hoping to make a comeback in the national squad, he replied that he is always ready to play for the Indian team.
“Of course, I do! That is why I am still playing. I am not someone who will keep playing just for IPL. I should always be ready and prepared when a call from the Indian team comes. That is the belief I always have,” Mishra told cricket.com.
Self-motivation is very important – Amit Mishra
Furthermore, Mishra also spoke about his future plans. He admitted that the thought of retirement has crossed his mind but the leggie feels that he still has some cricket left in him.
“Age should not be a criterion to judge your performance. One should always see whether a player is fit or not.”
“I have always tried to stay away from negative thoughts. Self-motivation is very important. We all are surrounded by pessimism when we don't see much success. If we try to work harder, negativity generally goes away,” Mishra added
There is obviously a lot of anticipation over the conduct of the long-awaited IPL. The popular cash-rich tournament is normally held in the March-May window but because of reasons that have been well documented there was a great deal of suspense over whether it would be held at all. Now of course the suspense is over, the IPL will be held in the UAE from September 19 to November 10 and the long wait has already whetted the appetite of cricket fans. And summing up the euphoria is King’s XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia who is confident that the 13th edition of the event is set to be ``the best ever.’’ But he is also concerned about the safety of the players and all others involved. ``Even if there is one Covid-19 case the IPL could be doomed’’ he said after the owners’ meeting on Wednesday.
Wadia has a point. For one thing, the coronavirus threat is still looming large the world over, and as there are over 6000 active cases in the UAE the conduct of the IPL has not received unanimous approval. Secondly, the IPL is a mega event attracting worldwide attention and if it is to be affected in any way by Covid-19 it will not just be a question of eyebrows being raised and questions asked. The BCCI has sent an exhaustive 16-page SOP to teams for the smooth conduct of the tournament. It requires players, support staff team officials and owners to be part of the bio-secure environment. Wadia himself has not decided on traveling to the UAE for the tournament but emphasized that safety cannot be compromised. ``We have to adjust and acclimatize to the biosecure environment. Extraneous circumstances require ordinary people to do extraordinary things’’ he added.
Indeed, with eight teams and 60 games spread over 53 days, the organizers cannot afford any slip-up especially with local officials talking in terms of allowing a limited number of spectators at the three venues. One remembers all too well the incident involving Jofra Archer last month in England. He took a detour to go home – a basic human urge - but in these fraught times his move almost put entire England – West Indies series in jeopardy as he had breached medical and security protocols. The officials have to ensure that while cricket prospers on the field the larger picture of everyone’s welfare is not ignored. The virus remains a threat and the hunger for profit should not override health concerns for everyone associated with the conduct of the IPL.
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