The Ashes have sprouted a few unusual discussions, not least of them being the issue surrounding concussion assessment by team doctors. While James Anderson’s injury has paved the way for Jofra Archer’s monumental rise, his game plan falls right in the alley of the current hot topic in the wake of new concussion rules. But it has, also, provided a few loopholes.
There was concern after the manner in which Steve Smith returned to the field after being hit by an Archer delivery in the second Test at Lord’s and also, of the fact that a delayed onset concussion ruled him out of the remaining Test as well as the third Test at Headingley, Leeds.
Smith has been Australia’s messiah in the series thus far, turning the game on its head in the first Test in Birmingham and then ensuring that Australia stayed within touching distance in the second Test, scoring ninety-two runs in the first innings to add to his back-to-back centuries in the first Test, this despite going off the field after being hit and coming back to bat.
The fact that Smith has been ruled out of the third Test has raised some alarm about whether Smith was pushed in the Lord’s Test too soon by the Australian team doctor only for further assessment to reveal that Smith was suffering the after-effects of the blow to the back of his neck. In the doctor’s defense, the reactions were late, much after Smith’s innings in a not-so-unfamiliar scenario involving concussion injuries.
It seems astonishing that what has been a ‘hidden’ but commonly prevalent truth about high impact-heavy contact sports such as American football and rugby should suddenly become a front and center issue with regard to cricket. The most prominent of cricket-related deaths being Phil Hughes, it seems that the issue involving concussion and helmet evolutions have been late in coming. While there is still some way to go before cricketers adapt to helmet modifications – Smith was reportedly uncomfortable and therefore, not using the helmets with the additional neck support, another inadvertent controversy became an endless subject in the days leading up to the Headingley Test and in the course of it.
While some have suggested that neutral doctors be appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and they would eliminate the issue of possible pressure from the team management to push a player back into the game in time of need, it would seem that Australia have come to the defense of their own team doctor, claiming that the doctor had followed all the protocol before deciding that Smith could indeed continue to bat. When it was confirmed that Smith was continuing to experience concussion-related symptons, he has been held back from playing the third Test.
Besides, as in the case of Marcus Labuschagne, who became the inadvertent first concussion substitute in the game, there is little that can hold back a player where despite being felled to the ground as he was in the second Test at Lord’s by Archer, he was dismissive of the fuss by the team physio and the opposition’s concern and eager to get on with the game in an exaggerated case of bravado.
Taking a call like this is going to be the job of a rather brave doctor who can back his decision outside of the team compulsions and despite the possible backlash that follows in the event of an adverse result to the match under consideration. The question is whether boards are willing to back their doctors as Australia has and also, whether the ICC can competently provide their own contingent of doctors who can get the same assessment done without any team pulling out the bias card in the event of a player pull out.
It could be argued that in the week that South Africa lost comprehensively to England in Port Elizabeth to lose the home Test series, the announcement of Quinton de Kock as South Africa’s one-day internationals captain has virtually sealed Faf du Plessis’ fate and future career as South Africa’s Test captain and player.
One of the things Faf asked for upon his return with the rest of the South African cricket team from the tour of India was clarity. He cannot argue now that his future has been made apparent to him, although perhaps not how he would have imagined.
Faf had spoken of scars after the three-Test whitewash in India and until two weeks prior to the four-Test series against England at home, Faf was groping in the dark with South Africa beset by on-field doldrums and the off-field fiasco of governance and administrative issues. Arguably heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England in July was du Plessis’ difficult hour of truth, knowing he was leading a team that was under the weather by a fair margin. True to word, South Africa not only struggled but also, sent alarm bells ringing about the state of affairs back home.
Although South Africa enjoyed some resurgence in the Boxing Day Test and the New Year’s Test, the disastrous affair in the rain-affected St. Georges Park match would have brought home the point once more that Faf du Plessis has continued to reiterate his intention to take South Africa through the transition in a rather difficult leadership position.
The seeds of confusion though in that role were sown when it was announced on the tour of India that Quinton de Kock would lead the Twenty20 squad while Faf insisted back home he was the man to lead South Africa into this year’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
Now while there is mention that Faf has been rested for the series against England, there is also the assertion coming from the likes of the director of cricket, Graeme Smith, about the fact that Faf will not be around for the 2023 edition of the World Cup and Quinton must be given time to polish his captaincy skills.
Be that as it may and given the arduous journey that has been Faf’s in the past year but also, ever since he stepped into the captaincy shoes after the likes of Hashim Amla stepped down and Ab de Villiers was ambivalent about the role after taking it up. For Faf it has been many a year of navigating issues of color representation, of balancing teams, failing to find replacements to the powerhouse retirements and of now seeing the team through a traumatic transition on and off the field with the future still uncertain, for him and for South Africa.
Given how heavy the defeat to England has weighed heavy on Faf and the dressing room this week and given that the fact that South Africa’s next home Test is a fair way away, it is hard to imagine that even an away tour like that of the West Indies would have appeal for Faf in a reduced capacity.
It would be interesting then if the Wanderers becomes Faf’s farewell Test at home. It will certainly be a reversal of fortunes since it is usually the England captains stepping down after a bout of playing South Africa.
I sometimes feel that Angelo Mathews does not get enough credit for his manifold achievements. As a batsman, bowler, captain and now senior statesman he has served Sri Lanka heroically for over a decade. Unfortunately, his best years have coincided with a slump in Sri Lanka’s fortunes and that is perhaps the chief reason why his gallant exploits have gone under the radar.
Not very long ago after he made his Test debut Sri Lanka in quick succession lost the services of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan. It is not easy for a team when great players retire in quick succession and Sri Lanka felt the heat. From being one of the leading sides in all formats they slipped down in the rankings. The bowling chiefly because of the tireless Rangana Herath continued to be a force to reckon with but the weakness in the batting was repeatedly exposed.
It was Mathews who gave it the much-needed stability in the middle order. Equally adept at attack or defence he played the rescue act time and again. But given the team’s fragility more often than not he was cast in the sheet anchor role concentrating on defence. With his concentration, dedication and determination he had the penchant to play long innings and many of his three-figure knocks lasted six to seven hours. In the just-concluded Test against Zimbabwe in running up his maiden double hundred he batted ten hours.
Mathews is well aware of his responsibilities. As the Sri Lankan captain across all formats for long, he enjoyed mixed results but these days free from the pressures of captaincy he is enjoying his role chiefly as a batsman with his days as a bowler virtually over because of a spate of injuries. These saw him miss quite a few games but he is back now playing an inspirational role to a whole new set of youngsters. At 32 Mathews still has a lot to offer Sri Lankan cricket and remains a pivotal figure in the transitional phase.
Mathews has run up impressive figures in all formats of the game but despite his batting and bowling feats in limited-overs cricket it is his stats in the traditional format that will stand the test of time. After 85 Tests he is approaching the 6000-run mark with ten hundreds and as many as 34 half-centuries. His batting style might not empty bars for with his serious, poker face approach he plays each ball on his merit. But it is invaluable to the Sri Lankan side for which he is the man for the crisis, ever reliable and dependable. For his enduring utility qualities, Mathews takes his place among the Sri Lankan greats.
Virat Kohli’s tongue-in-cheek remark appears to have rubbed the Board of Control for Cricket in India the wrong way. Instead of taking cognizance of the fact of the oddity of the present reality as pointed out by the Indian captain, bitterness is seeping through the board’s closed doors.
The Indian captain could only answer the query raised in the media he knew how about the practical feasibility of playing a Twenty20 international match in New Zealand right after playing a one day international against Australia at home less than a week before. The skipper tried to keep his wits about him as he stated, “It’s getting closer and closer to landing at the stadium straight.”
The Indian captain and prolific batsman expounded on the issue of having to deal with vastly different time zones, acclimatization issues, traveling, and of having to shift formats. Without a tour match, it becomes trickier to do a tour in another hemisphere and continent. While some have called it the bane of the modern game, others are more critical of where this kind of playing at all costs is heading.
One would have thought that given Kohli’s stature as the virtuoso ambassador of the game, particularly Test cricket and leading stature in contemporary world cricket, the BCCI would come out, in its supposed new avatar post the Supreme Court intervention, and stand by the captain’s statement, and state at least publicly their intention to keep the players’ interests foremost in mind when planning future series.
It would certainly be in keeping with the fact that a player and former captain, Sourav Ganguly, now heads the BCCI president post. It certainly would have made for great publicity and a great unifying stance between the past and present of Indian cricket.
Instead the perception emanating from the BCCI officials is that they are not happy with the way they have been portrayed by Kohli, have taken his sarcastic remarks as a personal affront, insinuate proximity to Supreme Court officials, and instead have put the blame squarely at the feet of the Indian captain for not pointing out the issue at the outset at the time of the announcement of the itinerary. To suggest that the Indian captain might have a hidden agenda with the current board is taking conspiracy theory to another level.
It is not ideal in the manner in which the Indian cricket team is being pushed from one opponent to another, not to mention the fact that the conditions are likely to be decidedly different. To suggest that the skipper should be pointing out the problem as if the BCCI could not foresee the problem themselves in devising the itinerary in the current calendar or in future ones going forward is blatant evidence of the status quo of agenda and intentions of the board, Supreme Court notwithstanding. To suggest that the players had a long break post ICC Cricket World Cup and should be accommodating of such schedules is just plain flabbergasting. Is Virat Kohli’s outspoken behavior costing him brownie points with the board?
Stylish Indian batsman, Suresh Raina has said that whether the former Indian captain MS Dhoni would be able to make a comeback or not depends on the current Indian captain Virat Kohli.
Raina, who is Dhoni’s teammate in the IPL, feels that Dhoni should continue playing cricket. “I want to see him continue to play. He is looking fit and has been training hard. I still think the Indian team needs him. But it is Virat's call on how they go forward,” Raina was quoted as saying by TOI.
The southpaw further said that Dhoni knows his game well and would leave the game without any fuss. “Dhoni will probably be coming to Chennai in the first week of March to train ahead of the IPL. Right now, it is so good to see him spending a lot of time with his family. If he wants to leave the game, he will go without making a big fuss,” said Raina.
The Uttar Pradesh left-hander thanked Dravid for helping him improve and providing him plenty of opportunities when he made his Team India debut. He also thanked Dhoni for supporting him throughout his career.
“For any newcomer, it is important to get a lot of opportunities. I was lucky to play under Rahul Dravid when I came in. He gave me a lot of opportunities. Then I played under MS Dhoni, who understood my game. I used to believe in myself but the skipper has an important role to play as well,” he said
Indian batsman KL Rahul never fails to impress his fans with his exceptional batting skills during the international games. In the ODI series against Australia, the right-handed batsman showcased his Masterclass once again as he slammed 80 runs off 52 balls after coming at number five during the second game. He even received a Man of the Match award for his blistering knock and a sum of Rs 1 lakh.
Apart from his path-breaking performance on the field, Rahul also grabs the attention for his generous gestures off the field. The 27-year-old young batsman recently donated Rs 2 lakh to the animal rights activist Shravan Krishnan for the animal welfare.
While praising Rahul’s great efforts for such a noble cause, Krishnan said, “I knew he would send the money right after he won. But what surprised me was that he had sent double the amount that he won. He transferred a total of Rs. 2 lakh to the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary (BMAD).”
“Rahul and I have always been in touch and when I put photos of injured animals on Instagram he would tell me that it was difficult to even look at them. He always said that he can’t be hands-on and help us at the centre but that we should contact him for any financial assistance.”
Rahul is currently on a tour of New Zealand with the Indian squad.
Virat Kohli and his team are all set to lock horns with Kane Williamson’s troops in the first T20I at the Eden Park in Auckland. The series starts just a few days after India defeated Australia by 2-1 in the ODI matches. Ahead of the series opener against Kiwis, the Indian skipper said that the schedule of Team India is so hectic that one day they might have to land straight in the stadium. He also complained about the difference in the time-zones which created a lot of problems for the Men in Blue.
“It’s getting closer and closer to landing at the stadium straight. That’s how compressed the gap has become. This kind of traveling to a place that is seven and a half hours ahead of IST is difficult to adjust immediately. Hopefully, this will be taken into consideration in the future. But this is the year of the World Cup and every T20 is important. So, we can’t lose our focus.”
After Kohli addressed the press conference, a BCCI official stated that Kohli has all the rights to raise a point but he should have discussed the issue with the board officials before making it public.
“He has every right to raise a point, but to be fair, all travel plans are made keeping in mind the interest of the players. If you see, we tried to space it out as much as we could post the World Cup when we played at home and the boys were also given a break during Diwali.”
Former Australian cricketer, Shane Watson has said that Caribbean maestro Chris Gayle is the best selfie-taker in the cricketing world. Watson, who featured in ESPNCricinfo’s “25 Questions”, said in an answer that West Indies opener and entertainer par excellence, Chris Gayle takes selfies that are amazing.
'The Universe Boss’ and Watson have shared the dressing room as a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Chris Gayle will be playing for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the upcoming IPL edition after he was retained by the franchise.
In another answer, he named Ricky Ponting, MS Dhoni, and Rahul Dravid as the best captains that he had played under. While former Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson was called as ‘best mate to spend time in the gym with’, Shane Watson also said that he would love to bowl to Viv Richards.
The entire duration of that segment was filled with hilarious and witty replies from the former Aussie all-rounder. Answering another question, where he was asked about the Australian cricket culture, the Chennai star said, “play hard and fair (most of the time)”, the most of the time was added by with a sly smile, a few seconds later.
In the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has won the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament twice, first with Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural edition of the league in 2008 and then with the same team in 2013 season. He has been associated with Chennai Super Kings since 2018 and would be plying his trade again in the 2020 edition.
Cricket is not just a game in the sub-Continent but it is an emotion and another example of that has been essayed by the newly appointed Pakistan’s T20 captain, Babar Azam. Babar Azam has said that it was love for the game that made him walk 3 miles to come to Gaddafi stadium for working as a ball boy. He revealed that he worked as a ball boy during the 2007 Test match between Pakistan and South Africa.
Remembering those days, Babar said, “It seems like yesterday when I walked every day for almost three miles to get to the Gaddafi Stadium and work as a ball-boy for the 2007 second Test between Pakistan and South Africa,” he said.
An emotional and nostalgic Babar said that he was attracted by the stalwarts and therefore, he did not care for anything else but cricket. “It was the love for the game and the attraction of some of the stalwarts like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn that pulled me to the home of Pakistan cricket without caring for anything else,” Azam was quoted as saying during the interview to pcb.com.pk
The Australian all-rounder Shane Watson recently named the best captains under whom he played international matches and T20 Leagues. The 38-year-old veteran batsman has played many world-class innings under the captaincy of various legendary cricketers like Warne, Ponting, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid, and MS Dhoni.
During his most recent interview with ESPN Cricinfo, Watson was asked about his favorite skipper and he picked Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, and MS Dhoni. Surprisingly, Watson didn’t come up with the name of Virat Kohli under whom he played for Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise in IPL 2016.
The brilliant Aussie player even helped the Rajasthan Royals to lift up the trophy of inaugural IPL edition in 2008. Not only this, he has been amazing for MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings. Watson scored 398 runs from 17 matches at a strike rate of 127.56 in IPL 2019. Ahead of the new IPL season, he was retained by the Chennai-outfit.
Heading for the Tri-series in Australia, the Indian women’s cricket captain Harmanpreet Kaur has said that handling pressure would be crucial in the upcoming ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia, something that her side couldn’t do in the last two global showpieces.
The Indian captain was speaking to reporters at the pre-departure press conference ahead of the tri-series involving England and hosts Australia, which will be followed by the T20 World Cup next month.
India made a semi-final exit from the last T20 World Cup and in the previous ODI World Cup, they had finished as runners-up.
“We were quite close in the last two World Cups, the only thing is we have to keep in mind how to handle pressure in the tournaments, last two World Cups we lacked in handling pressure,” Harmanpreet said.
“This time we want to enjoy rather than taking more pressure on ourselves, thinking that it is a big tournament. We have to avoid thinking like that and focus on giving our best,” she added.
The women’s T20 World Cup will be played in Australia from February 21 to March 8. India will take on Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka in the group stage.
The 30-year-old Harmanpreet said that it’s not only about taking pressure in big tournaments.
“Last few World Cups, we put ourselves under too much pressure of playing in a big tournament. This time rather thinking that we are going for a big tournament, we just want to focus on our skills, how we should play and how to make the team win,” she said.
Former New Zealand coach, Mike Hesson has said that it would be interesting to see Virat Kohli play against the New Zealand fast bowlers. The former coach of New Zealand is of the belief that Indian batsmen like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli could do well in the Kiwi nation if they apply themselves on the crease.
“For me, the match-up I am interested to see is how Virat Kohli deals with New Zealand seamers in his first 10-20 balls. If he can get starts in NZ, then his hunger for runs will make him difficult to dislodge for Kane Williamson,” Hesson was quoted as saying in the Times of India.
Earlier, Hesson had said that Trent Boult would be a difficult bowler to tackle and it would be a good battle between Rohit Sharma and Trent Boult. “Trent Boult versus Rohit Sharma in ODIs will be a fascinating match up with a little bit of swing on offer,” added Hesson.
Starting from the 24th of January, India will be taking on New Zealand for a five-match T20I series. Following this, the two teams will battle it out in the ODI series. After one-day internationals, India and New Zealand will play in the purest format of the game.
The first Test match of the series will start from the 21st of February and the second one will be played from the 29th.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who hasn’t been seen in any film over the past few months, recently conducted a question and answer round on his official Twitter handle. This session spread like a wildfire on social media as many SRK fans came forward to ask different questions from the popular actor.
While some of the fans asked him about his upcoming movie, others kept questions related to other important things in life. Amid all these queries, a random fan came up with a very unique question. He asked when will KKR make Shubman Gill their skipper.
“When will @KKRiders make @RealShubmanGill the captain? #AskSrk”.
At this, Shahrukh gave a hilarious reply to the Twitter user. He wrote, “As soon as KKR makes you the Head Coach my friend.”
Interestingly, the official Twitter handle of Kolkata Knight Riders posted a photo of KKR head coach and former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum with a hashtag #SavageReplies.
On the action front, Gill is currently in New Zealand with India A side. He played an important knock of 50 runs off 66 balls against New Zealand XI in the first warm-up match at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln.
New Zealand is one of the trickiest countries to tour cricket wise as visiting team after visiting team will admit. While it is true that they have some of the finest players in the world today the fact remains that at home they are able to raise their game to such a level that the opponents find it hard to come up with positive results. This is true across all the three formats and Virat Kohli and his men are well aware of the task that awaits them as they take on the Kiwis in a T-20 five-match series followed by three ODIs and finally two Tests.
To be candid New Zealand are a handy side anywhere as the ICC rankings will confirm – No 3 in both Tests and ODIs and No 6 in T-20 internationals. Without actually shedding their nice-guy image they are performing in a thoroughly professional manner and nothing symbolizes this more than finishing runners-up in the last two Fifty50 World Cup competitions. In Tests too they have shown steady progress and it is only their performances in T-20s that call for improvement.
Under the circumstances it is clear that all three formats should see a close contest even if India have the better record overall – No 1 in Tests, No 2 in ODIs and No 5 in T-20s. The home advantage, however, nullifies this to some extent even if the Indians will be a confident lot embarking on the trip after notching up a meritorious 2-1 win over Australia in ODIs. The Indians will also be encouraged by the fact that on the last tour of New Zealand a year ago they won the five-match ODI series 4-1 before losing the T-20 series 1-2.
With all the importance of the other two contests it may not be wrong to say that the chief focus of both teams will be on the T-20 matches as they aim to get the right combo in place for the World Cup to be held in Australia in October. Both teams have been beset with injury problems. Shikhar Dhawan had to pull out at the last moment following a shoulder injury sustained in the third ODI against Australia at Bangalore while Hardik Pandya was not picked with his rehab taking longer than expected. Ishant Sharma too has been ruled out of the Test series because of injury.
New Zealand too will not be at full strength because of injuries to Tom Latham, Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson. But both teams still have a lot of top players and for starters, one can look at a keenly fought contest in the T-20 series that gets underway on Friday
Former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin has landed in another problem after an FIR was registered against him and two other people for duping a travel agent.
However, Mohammad Azharuddin has refuted allegations and said: "I strongly rubbish the false FIR filed against me in Aurangabad. I am consulting my legal team and would be taking action as necessary."
Azharuddin's personal assistant Mujeeb lives in Augurangabad and knows travel agent Shadab pretty well.
According to Shadab, Mujeeb asked him to book some flight tickets but did not pay the amount.
Former cricketer VVS Laxman feels India will win a lot of games away from home in Test cricket. Team India is currently leading the World Test Championship. Bowlers and batsmen are on a roll and are scripting match-winning performances in every series.
Laxman has praised the bowling attack and batting unit. "There's a lot of depth, not only in the bowling unit. There is now a lot of experience, class in their batting lineup. They will be a real threat and they will be winning a lot of overseas tours. Starting with New Zealand, I'm backing India to win," Laxman said on the upcoming episode of India Today Inspiration.
However, India have failed to win any ICC tournament in recent times. Laxman is backing India to come good in the near future.
"There is a culture which has been created within this Indian team. The culture to think like a champion. Results and trophies will come their way there is no doubt about it," Laxman said.
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