A lot has been said and written of late about Indian pace bowling never having it so good. Possessing a quintet of world class fast bowlers in Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami with one of them being acknowledged as the best in the world at the moment and with many more young hopefuls around ready to take over if and when the need arises is a scenario one would never have envisaged in the sixties and early seventies when the new ball was operated by the likes of ML Jaisimha, Salim Durrani, Eknath Solkar, BK Kunderan, Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar, MAK Pataudi and V Subramanyam.
The fact of the matter however is that Indian bowling itself has never had it so good. For decades India’s batting was their traditional strength and the bowlers for all their greatness were in the shadow of the batsmen. Not anymore. These days even with the presence of world class batsmen the bowlers have been able to hold their own and command as much respect and adulation as Virat Kohli and company.
If it is an embarrassment of riches as far as the pace bowling is concerned it is no less so when it comes to spin bowling. In the era following the peerless spin quartet of Bishen Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and S Venkatraghavan – who had to both contain and take wickets with an apology of a new ball attack – there has been at a time a couple of world class spinners and two or three others who were a couple of notches below that. These days the team management is spoilt for choice not only when it comes to pace but also spin.
Take the first Test against West Indies for example. It was decided to go in with just one spinner and there were three claimants for the slot in Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja before the last named got the nod. Ashwin, acknowledged as the No 1 spinner for years had to sit on the sidelines. Throw in Yuzvendra Chahal who is a certainty in ODIs and could make the grade in the Test squad for matches played at home and a clearer picture emerges regarding the healthy scenario as far as bowling is concerned. Oh yes, viewed from any angle this is the golden age of Indian bowling.
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.
The Men in Blue are all set to kick-off their tour of New Zealand with a five-match series against the Black Caps starting from January 24. The last time when India and New Zealand locked horns on an international stage, Virat Kohli and his team faced a humiliating defeat in the 2019 World Cup semifinals.
Ahead of the series-opener against Kane Williamson’s troops in Auckland, Kohli said that he is not thinking of any revenge from Kiwis as they are too nice to take revenge.
“Even if you want to think of revenge these guys are so nice that you can’t get into that zone. It’s all about being competitive on the field. They are one side that has set the right example for teams to carry themselves on the international stage. We were actually happy for them when they qualified for World Cup finals. When you have lost you have to look at the larger picture. So nothing about revenge.”
Speaking about his strategy against New Zealand in the first T20I, Kohli then added, “You have to play good cricket to win. Know what they bring to the table while playing at home. We are not going to take them for granted. They know their conditions well, they understand how the pitches play, the angles off the field. They will have a slight home advantage. But we have also played here a lot. So we definitely have to be at our best.”
Senior Indian pacer Ishant Sharma sustained an ankle tear in the recently-concluded Ranji Trophy match between Delhi and Vidarbha. The right-arm bowler is now most likely to miss the upcoming two-match Test series against New Zealand next month. The pivotal Indian pacer went on to twist his ankle on his follow-through while bowling against Vidarbha earlier this week.
The Test series against New Zealand is scheduled to start from February 21 in Wellington and Ishant's absence will hand India a blow. The pacer has been advised six weeks rest, however, the BCCI will make an assessment in consultation with the NCA in Bengaluru.
"Ishant Sharma's MRI report shows a Grade 3 ankle tear and it is serious. He has been advised six weeks of rest and rehabilitation. It is indeed a big blow," DDCA general secretary Vinod Tihara told PTI.
Ishant has been India's principle bowler in Test cricket and his performances in the past two years, in particular, have been strong. In the year 2018, Ishant played 11 Test matches and claimed 41 wickets at an average of 21.80. In 2019, he claimed 25 scalps in six Tests at 15.56 to highlight his importance for the Virat Kohli-led side. Ishant is irreplaceable in this Test team and forms a potent attack alongside Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
He is ideal to hold things from one end and also pick up wickets with a stubborn length and line. The conditions in New Zealand would have helped Ishant extracting aplenty from the surface. He has tasted success in New Zealand earlier and knows how to go about things. In five Tests here, Ishant has 23 wickets with a best of 6/51 at an average of 30.91.
In 96 Tests, Ishant has a total of 292 scalps and notably, 194 of these wickets have come outside India. He has claimed eight five-wicket hauls as well. These are encouraging numbers. With Ishant growing more as a bowler of late, his success rate could have got higher in New Zealand.
The bowler claimed 11 wickets from just two Ranji Trophy matches recently to show his consistency factor. He is a leader in the ranks and could have offered substance alongside Bumrah and Shami. However, Umesh Yadav is likely to replace him in the starting XI with Navdeep Saini taking his place in the squad. India's bowling unit lacks the cutting edge without the services of Ishant. It remains to be seen how skipper Virat Kohli manages the same.
Virat Kohli needs 81 runs to go past MS Dhoni's record in T20Is. The right-handed batsman has accumulated 1,032 runs in 33 T20Is as captain at an average of 46.90 and is fourth in the list of most runs scored by a skipper in the slam-bang version of the game. South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis leads the list with 1273 runs in 40 innings.
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand skipper, is third in the chart with 1083 runs under his belt. Virat Kohli needs 242 runs to go past Faf and the upcoming five-match series will present him with a good chance of achieving this record as well.
He is the leading run-scorer in T20Is with 2,689 runs from 78 matches at an average of 52.72.
Hardik Pandya was recently spotted outside the Mumbai airport decked up from head to toe in some of the most iconic luxury fashion brands. It was actually the watch that caught all the attention. He was wearing a Patek Phillipe’s Nautilus Perpetual Calendar 5740/1G. Hardik is a big fan of the Patek Phillipe Nautilus.
The watch is made of white gold straps. It is one of the most expensive watches. The estimated price of the watch is close to Rs. 1.10 crore.
Apart from the watch, Hardik’s sneakers also stole the limelight. Hardik was wearing Lou Spikes from Christian Louboutin. They are made of black calfskin leather and have a very punk rock appeal thanks to their black spikes. Like most Louboutin street pieces, they have a distinct marker in the form of the spikes.
Hardik is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. He was included in India A squad which is touring New Zealand at the moment. However, he was dropped from the squad after failing the mandatory fitness Test. Hardik was not picked selected for the tour of New Zealand.
Bangladesh have landed in Pakistan to participate in the upcoming T20I series. Mustafizur Rahman, who is part of the squad, took to Twitter to urge his fans to remember him and his teammates in prayers.
"Heading to Pakistan. Remember us in your prayers." While Pakistan fans welcomed the visiting players, home fans told them to be careful on the tour.
The T20I series will be played from January 24-27 in Lahore, followed by the first Test from February 7 to 11.
Bangladesh will then return to Pakistan in April for the one-off ODI which will be played on April 3 and the second Test from April 5-9.
Earlier, Bangladesh were not ready to tour Pakistan for the Test series but after the intervention of the ICC head, Shashank Manohar, they decided to play in Pakistan.
Former Pakistan pace bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, took a dig at former India opener, Virender Sehwag for his comments on the Pakistani pacer. Shoaib said that he has more maal (money) than Sehwag has baal (hair) on his head.
"I have more maal (money) than you have baal (hair) on your head. If you are not able to fathom that I have such high followers, then understand it. It has taken me 15 years to become Shoaib Akhtar. Yes, I have a huge fan following in India, but I criticized them when they did not play well in the first ODI against Australia," Akhtar said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
Shoaib Akhtar was replying to Virender Sehwag’s comments dating back to 2016, in which the Indian batsman had said that the Shoaib Akhtar praises Indian cricket and its cricketers so much because he needs business.
The former fast bowler said that all people praise good cricket and he does not do it for followers, but out compassion for the game. "Just tell me one Pakistan YouTuber who does not praise India when their team does well. Ramiz Raja, Shahid Afridi all praise the Indian side when they do well. Tell me one thing, isn't it right that the Men in Blue are in fact the number one side in the world, isn't it right that Kohli is the number one batsman in the world," Akhtar said.
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has given the Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli a new title. Kangana, who is known for her controversial statements, has called Virat Kohli the “Panga’ King of Team India while calling herself the “Panga Queen”.
“I am the Panga queen, and the Panga king of Team India is definitely Virat Kohli. He is fearless and is up for any challenges that come his way. This time we both will take a ‘Panga’ on the same day – mine will be at the theatres, and he will battle it out against the New Zealand team on their home ground. This will be fun,” the 32-year-old actress said while promoting her upcoming film ‘Panga’.
Kangana Ranaut starrer Panga would hit the theaters tomorrow, while Team India would play it’s the first match of the New Zealand tour, tomorrow as well.
However, Virat Kohli, who is known for his fitness standards and a disciplined diet, was on Wednesday seen relishing a ‘good meal’ after a gym session with his teammates KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey in Auckland.
The Bangladesh cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday to play three Twenty20s in Lahore, its first tour of the country in almost 12 years.
Bangladesh last played in Pakistan in 2008 when it lost an ODI series 5-0 and a one-off Twenty20.
Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will host all the three T20s on Friday, Saturday and Monday.
The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches in three phases after the national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai in a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.
Bangladesh will return for the first test at Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test at Karachi on April 3-9.
Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches at Rawalpindi and Karachi.
Bangladesh’s experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim is the only notable absentee from the tour after he pulled out of both Twenty20s and the two test matches due to security concerns.
Bangladesh's T20 team will be led by Mahmudullah and also include experienced opening batsman Tamim Iqbal.
The PCB has said it will no longer host its home international matches at a neutral venue as it insists Pakistan is now safe for foreign teams.
Sri Lanka’s test series was the first in Pakistan in over 10 years since terrorists attacked Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore in 2009. The ambush left eight people killed and injured several Sri Lanka players.
The most capped player in Twenty20 international cricket doesn’t want to think about this year’s T20 World Cup because he wants to focus on performing well for Pakistan in his comeback series against Bangladesh.
The 37-year-old Shoaib Malik, who has played 111 T20s, has been recalled for the three-match series starting Friday. He last played for Pakistan against South Africa early last year. India’s Rohit Sharma (104) is the only other player with more than 100 T20 international appearances.
“My selection is for the Bangladesh series and I will try to avail whatever opportunity I get," Malik said Wednesday. "World Cup is too far, and I don’t set long-term goals.
“There are lots of youngsters in the team and they should be groomed — that’s my priority. I don’t want to focus on the World Cup because it is too far.”
The selectors made a selection U-turn and recalled Malik and 39-year-old Mohammad Hafeez to take on Bangladesh after Pakistan could win only one out of its nine completed T20s last year. The heavy defeats included being swept 3-0 by a second-string Sri Lanka squad at Lahore late last year and a 2-0 loss in Australia.
Malik has scored 2,263 runs in T20 internationals at an average of 30.58 and has taken 28 wickets. He quit test cricket in 2015 as he wanted to focus on the 50-over World Cup in 2019. He retired from ODI cricket after that.
But Malik continued to press for his national recall in the T20 squad as he performed well in the domestic leagues in Canada, the West Indies and Bangladesh.
“Whenever I do get an opportunity, I play in the leagues around the world,” Malik said. “The goal should be how to give your best shot wherever you play, so it’s another opportunity for me (to play for Pakistan) and I will try to give my best shot.”
Malik’s recent experience playing in the Bangladesh Premier League could be handy for Pakistan. He scored 455 runs in 15 matches at an average of 37.91 for eventual champions Rajshahi Royals.
Bangladesh's Mushfiqur Rahim pulled out of the tour citing security concerns, but Malik hoped next time the wicketkeeper-batsman will come to Pakistan after getting positive feedback from his teammates.
The Pakistan government will deploy heavy security around Gaddafi Stadium and team hotels, as it has for other tours since the decade-long absence of international cricket ended last year.
“Only one (Bangladesh player) is not coming because of personal reasons,” Malik said. “I just like to request him that you are not coming this time, but next time please do come and see for yourself.”
The three matches will be played at Lahore on Friday, Saturday and Monday.
The governing body of Indian cricket was criticized because of the stark difference in the recently awarded contracts to men and women cricketers of the country.
While the Men’s cricket team annual retainers were divided into four categories- A+ [7 Crore], A [5 Crore], B [3 Crore] and C [1 Crore], their counterparts highest retainer fee was 50 Lakhs.
Smriti Mandhana, the leading cricketer, is not bothered about the pay disparity.
“We need to understand that the revenue which we get is through men’s cricket. The day women’s cricket starts getting revenue, I will be the first person to say that we need the same thing. But right now, we can’t say that,” Smriti Mandhana said as quoted by The Hindu.
“I don’t think any of the teammates are thinking about this gap because the only focus right now is to win matches for India, get the crowd coming in, get the revenue. That is the thing which we are aiming for and if that happens, all other things are going to fall in place. And for that, we need to perform. It is unfair on our part to say that we need the same pay, it is not right. So I don’t think I want to comment on that gap,” she added.
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