The Indian juggernaut just rolls on and on

Partab Ramchand Updated: 18 November, 2019, 10:36 AM IST


The Indian juggernaut just rolls on and on, seemingly unstoppable and in fact going from strength to strength setting up records and landmarks along the way. Three successive innings victories, six wins in a row and so on. The ruthlessness is symbolized by victories inside three days and that is the hallmark of a No 1 side – to win by the biggest possible margin in the shortest possible time. All the really great teams in the history of the game – recent examples being the West Indian sides of 80s and early 90s and the Australian team of the late 90s and the early years of the new millennium – have brushed aside the opposition in a similar emphatic fashion.

So it is perhaps not a surprise that a debate has started as to whether this Indian team is on its way to becoming one of the greatest of all time. On results and in the manner in which they have taken a runaway lead in the ICC Test Championship table there is little doubt that the Indian squad is an awesome one, clearly the finest in Indian cricket history. The batting is formidable, the fast men constitute the best Indian pace attack of all time by a distance, the rich spin bowling tradition remains strong and they are led by a charismatic captain who inspires his teammates to perform above their potential. Plainly put Indian cricket has never had it so good.

But does it really compare favorably with the greatest squads of all time? Generally in this category we have the two examples listed above as well as Don Bradman’s Invincibles of the late forties. Indeed the Australians laid the first benchmark of the really formidable squads by remaining unbeaten in 25 Tests between 1946 and 1951. This stood as the record till England surpassed it by remaining unconquered in 26 Tests between 1968 and 1971. The present record however is held by the West Indies who were unbeaten in 27 Tests from 1981 to 1984.

While this is an important stat in determining the really great sides another yardstick is the number of successive victories. The West Indians of the 80s set the ball rolling by winning eleven consecutive Tests in 1984 which was a remarkable feat cementing their position as an all- conquering side. But then Australia stretched the record to 16 wins on the trot from 1999 to 2001 and what’s more they repeated the feat in the period 2005 – 2008. Interestingly it was India who on both occasions ended their run, the first in the famous Kolkata Test and the second time around in Perth.

However outstanding the current Indian side is to join the ranks of the truly great one reckons it has to match at least one, if not both feats to really take their place among the greatest of all time even as they continue with their fabulous run of successes.

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Feature Cricket

For Virat Kohli it is to the limit and beyond  

Partab Ramchand Updated: 9 December, 2019, 9:04 PM IST


He is already one of the greats and the question now is how much further he can go. At 31 Virat Kohli has a few more years in the game and the manner in which he is batting, the way he is getting better and better with every game in every format verily the sky is the limit for the Indian captain. But with the insatiable hunger for success that he has allied to an ideal temperament and prodigious gifts it could well be a case of ``to the limit and beyond.’’

Kohli is at a stage when nothing is beyond him. For long the best in ODIs and T-20s he has now taken over the No 1 spot in Tests from Steve Smith and that is really saying something. The Australian is in a league of his own but so is Kohli. Smith may still boast of a better average, a better century ratio (26 in 70 Tests compared to Kohli’s 27 from 84) but the Indian captain’s conversion rate is astonishing (27 hundreds and 22 half centuries compared to Smith’s 26 hundreds and 27 half centuries).

But even if they could be running neck and neck in Tests Kohli is well ahead of the rest of the field in the shorter formats of the game. He averages 60 in ODIs which really is a ridiculous statistic. There are only a handful of cricketers who average 50 in this format and to breach the 60 mark would have been unthinkable till Kohli actually did it. And we are talking about a batsman who has played 239 ODIs over an eleven year period and whose career strike rate is a highly acceptable 93.

Perhaps even more remarkable are Kohli’s feats in T-20 internationals. This is a format which calls for very quick scoring marked by big hits which means that the risk factor is high. Moreover the restricted number of overs means that knocks are generally explosive and entertaining but short on the duration factor. Astonishingly Kohli averages 51 in the format to go along with a highly impressive strike rate of 136. To put these figures in proper perspective lets examine the stats associated with two T-20 players with a sky high reputation – Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum. The former has a strike rate of almost 143 but he averages only 32 while the latter has the same strike rate as Kohli’s but averages 35.

Kohli doesn’t have a hundred – his highest is 94 not out - but with a record 23 half centuries he is well ahead of the second placed Rohit Sharma who has 18 despite playing in almost 30 more matches. Incidentally on Sunday he overtook Rohit as the leading run getter in T-20 internationals but it was his masterclass at Hyderabad on Friday which was superlative even by Kohli’s lofty reputation and confirmed his status as the leading batsman across all formats.

Opinion Cricket

Why the Secrecy and Confusion over Dhoni?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 9 December, 2019, 9:01 PM IST


One of the motives behind the Lodha report recommendations for reform was with the issue to ensure greater transparency. However, while player management remains a key part of administration, the lack of clarity and even worse, confusion and secrecy over Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s status as cricketer is an anomaly that suggests rather erroneously that some players are larger than the game.

Even Sachin Tendulkar was subjected to intense scrutiny and to several send offs before his eventual retirement. The adage was always that despite Tendulkar’s stature as a modern batting genius and maestro, no player was above the game.

Yet in what has become a sideshow to the Indian cricket team fortunes – and rather unfair on Virat Kohli and his team - is this attention on the issue of Dhoni’s availability, or rather lack of availability, every time India face up to another series.

While Dhoni is intended to have stated at the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 that he intends to play at least until the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next year, there is no evidence of that intent in that neither he nor the selectors have come clean on why, if he is in the running, he is being allowed to not show up for training and matches.

It was quite alarming when Sourav Ganguly, the newly elected BCCI chief, first stated to the media and the public that he was in the dark about Dhoni’s playing status and then more recently, stated that Dhoni’s position was clear within the BCCI and with the selectors but that some player matters could not be discussed in the open. But why?

For someone who has accepted a career in the spotlight and enjoys the adulation of fans across the length and breadth of the country, for fans who have invested their time, money and energy into making the cricketers what they are, Dhoni owes the fans the right to know how their team shapes up and whether players of such stature are intent to carry forth or not. This toying around with people’s sentiment and emotions – just see the chaos that ensues at the mildest suggestion of a Dhoni retirement – simply does not sit right.

Players like Rishabh Pant are given the slap on the wrist even though he is all of twenty-one years of age and has not been mentored in the same dressing room as Dhoni. Yet Dhoni, who has not enjoyed a good run in international cricket in the last few months that he did show up, seems like a stop gap option, kept to warm the bench just in case. That is not the way succession planning works.

Either way, it makes little sense for Indian cricket to be kept on tenterhooks. Not only is a clear succession planning conspicuously absent but also, it has left plenty of room and scope for better team management.

Ganguly should have had more authority. Instead his recent comment that the media should ask Dhoni if he will play the ICC Twenty20 World Cup seems misleading because it is not up to the player to show up at the late hour and be allowed to step in. AB de Villiers had a bitter taste although given the Indian scenario of player worship that is not limited just to the fans, nothing is impossible.

What the Dhoni situation is creating is suspense and if it is with design in collusion with favourable administrators and sponsorships, it is setting a very dangerous trend of which player can get away with what. While Dhoni has been a long serving member of the Indian cricket community, it is no way an assurance that a currently contracted player can be allowed to stay away from the game and then be allowed in when the opportunity strikes or even worse, be asked to pitch in when the team realizes its fallacy of not having planned ahead.

News Cricket

R Ashwin praises former KXIP mate Nicholas Pooran for his crucial knock in second T20I

Garima Kotroo Updated: 9 December, 2019, 8:59 PM IST


Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin recently posted a special message for his former KXIP teammate Nicholas Pooran after the Windies cricketer performed exceedingly well against India in the second T20I match.

The electrifying cameo from the left-handed batsman helped the visitors to register an impressive eight-wicket win against India at the Greenfield Stadium . The 24-year-old cricketer scored an unbeaten 38 runs off just 18 balls.

While praising Pooran for his solid cameo on his official Twitter handle, Ashwin said, “This guy Pooran ( special )”.

Chasing down 171 runs against India was like a child-play for the visitors as the openers Evin Lewis and Lendl Simmons gave a head start to their team with amazing performances.

When on on side, Simmons played an unbeaten knock of 67 runs off 45 deliveries, Lewis on the other, amassed 40 crucial runs for Windies.

During the second T20I encounter, all the top-order batsmen of India, Rohit Sharma (15), KL Rahul (11) and Virat Kohli (19) failed to score against Windies bowlers.

However, the young all-rounder Shivam Dube somehow helped his side to post a challenging total on board as he scored much-needed 54 runs off just 30 balls which was laced with four sixes and three boundaries.

News Cricket

Rishabh Pant can be an absolute superstar in Indian cricket - Kevin Pietersen

Staff Writer Updated: 9 December, 2019, 8:57 PM IST


Rishabh Pant was hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket after his exceptional performance in the last edition of the Indian Premier League. However, he has failed miserably across formats and has lost his place to Saha in Test squad. Even his performance in the limited-overs cricket is below-par, and the ongoing matches against the Windies, will determine his future association with Men in Blue.However, former England stalwart Kevin Pietersen feels Pant could become an absolute superstar in the future.

“I observed him very closely during the IPL and he kept making the same mistake and when you do that continuously then pundits, experts and people who have played the game want to criticize you because you should be learning from your mistakes,” Pietersen said on Star Sports as quoted by Times Now.

“But I never realized he’s 21 (22), I thought he was 24 or 25 because by that age you have matured in your game and at the age of 27-30 is when you are playing your best sport,” he added.

Pietersen feels Pant has a long way to go. “If you look at all the mistakes he has made and the position he is in, with the team and Virat backing him and with MS out at the moment, he does have a long way to go. He will be looked upon on his performance and he is 21 (22), so will he be able to buy the time to be an absolute superstar in Indian cricket is what we need to see, and I think he actually can,” he said.

News Cricket

Playing West Indies more will only make India a better T20 team - Sanjay Manjrekar

Staff Writer Updated: 9 December, 2019, 8:52 PM IST


Lendl Simmons scored 67 not out off 45 balls as West Indies beat India by eight wickets to win the second Twenty20 and level the three-match series 1-1 on Sunday.

Simmons hit four fours and four sixes, scoring a 38-ball half-century, and added 73 runs for the first wicket with Evin Lewis (40). India was sloppy in the field, dropping multiple catches.

In reply to India's 170-7, West Indies scored 173-2 and won with nine deliveries to spare as dewy conditions played into their hands.

For the hosts, Shivam Dube (54) scored a first T20 half-century off 27 balls after a surprise promotion to No. 3 in the order.

Chasing 171, openers Simmons and Lewis added 50 runs off 39 balls. Both openers survived in the fifth over as two catches were dropped in the space of three deliveries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Nicholas Pooran smacked 38 not out off 18 balls, with four fours and two sixes, on his return from an international ban for ball tampering.

Former cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar wants India to play more matches against the Windies in order to become a better T20 team in international cricket.

While India are ranked fifth in the latest ICC T20I rankings, West Indies are in eighth place.

News Cricket

Sri Lanka arrives for 1st Test in a decade in Pakistan

AP Updated: 9 December, 2019, 8:49 PM IST


Sri Lanka's cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Monday to play a two-test series that will be the first tests in Pakistan in more than a decade.

Sri Lanka was the last team to play a test match in Pakistan in 2009 before the team came under a terrorist attack in Lahore. Eight people were killed and several Sri Lankan players and team officials were injured during the attack.

“It’s a huge day for all the Pakistanis and we have been waiting for this day for quite some time,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani said. “It will send a strong message to the whole cricketing world that Pakistan has the ability to host all its home matches in Pakistan.”

The PCB has been trying for the last four years to convince foreign teams to play in Pakistan. Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and the World XI toured Pakistan during this period but all these matches were either ODIs or Twenty20s.

The test series in Pakistan was made possible after Sri Lanka toured three months ago and played an ODI and a Twenty20 series in Karachi and Lahore without any security trouble.

Pakistan's government has promised top-level security, normally reserved for heads of state. The two test matches will be played in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

A security force of more than 4,000, including policemen from Punjab province and the Pakistan Army, will be deployed around the Pindi Cricket Stadium where the first test starts on Wednesday. Karachi will host the second test from Dec. 19-23.

“We have suffered a lot for the last 10 years and I really want to thank all the (security) forces, especially the Pakistan Army, for making this dream come true," Mani said. “I also want to thank the Sri Lanka Cricket for showing confidence in Pakistan’s abilities to host international matches and I think the doors of international cricket will be completely opened for Pakistan.”

PCB director of cricket operations Zakir Khan welcomed the Sri Lanka team members at Islamabad International Airport before the team drove to the hotel amid tight security on Monday.

Sri Lanka suffered a setback just before the departure from home when fast bowler Suranga Lakmal was ruled out with dengue fever. He was replaced by Asitha Fernando, who has played for Sri Lanka’s under-23 team.

The team will be led by Dimuth Karunaratne and includes seasoned players like Angelo Matthews and Dinesh Chandimal. The three players were among 10 high-profile Sri Lanka cricketers who refused to tour Pakistan three months ago because of security concerns.

For the 16-man Pakistan squad, led by captain Azhar Ali, who has played 75 test matches, it will be their first test in Pakistan, while seamer Usman Shinwari and spinner Kashif Bhatti have yet to make their test debuts.

Opening batsman Shan Masood said all the team players have forgotten the two defeats against Australia in Brisbane and Adelaide and look forward to playing in front of the home crowd.

“Hats off to the Sri Lankan Cricket board, to the Sri Lankan players for giving us the opportunity to host them over here,” said Masood, a left-handed batsman. “Hopefully whatever test cricket our players have missed out at home, I hope we get the chance to perform in front of our home crowds.”

Legspinner Yasir Shah, who is the fastest bowler to complete 200 wickets in test cricket, batsman Asad Shafiq and fast-improving test batsman Babar Azam are some of the exciting players who have not played in front of home crowds.

“This is an opportunity for our children to look at people like Azhar Ali, who has scored 300 and 200 (in an innings in a test match), to look at people like Asad Shafiq, who has scored centuries in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, everywhere around the globe,” Masood said.

Pakistan had its training session at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Monday while Sri Lanka rested in their team hotel and will train on Tuesday.

The PCB has invited former Sri Lanka captain Bandula Warnapura and former Pakistan test captain and coach Javed Miandad for the test in Rawalpindi.

Warnapura and Miandad led their respective nations during the first-ever test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Karachi in 1982. Pakistan won that test by 204 runs.

News Cricket

Rishabh Pant is "a totally different player" than MS Dhoni - Brian Lara

Staff Writer Updated: 9 December, 2019, 7:56 PM IST


Rishabh Pant played sensibly in the second T20 match, scoring an unbeaten 33 in the process. However, India were beaten by the Windies in the end. The young gloveman is on the radar of critics who have blasted him for his ordinary display in the last few series. With the T20 World Cup in mind, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have decided to back Pant.

Legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara has also batted for Pant stating that he should be allowed to get mature with time.

"Rishabh Pant came into the game creating a lot of excitement, he had a lot of aggression and the Indian public expects someone to replace (MS) Dhoni immediately and in the same fold but he is a totally different player," Lara said while speaking at a show.

"I know the time is critical with the World Cup just 8 or 9 months away and they may even go with another keeper but the excessive pressure on him is unnecessary," he added.

News Cricket

After ‘notebook’ celebration, Williams gives keep shut send off to Virat Kohli

Garima Kotroo Updated: 9 December, 2019, 5:04 PM IST


After facing a disappointing defeat in the enthralling T20I opener, Windies bounced back strongly against Men in Blue with a power-packed performance in all the departments. Kieron Pollard-led squad stunned the hosts by squaring off the series at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.

The visitors were in no mood to lose the second encounter of the ongoing series against Virat Kohli’s troops. As a result, they successfully edged past the home team by eight-wickets margin.

Explosive openers Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis led the batting unit for Men in Maroon in the game against India. Kesrick Williams was the star of the show in the bowling department.

During his spectacular show for the visitors, the 29-year-old Williams successfully took his revenge from the Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

Right after the dismissal of the Indian skipper in the 14th over, cricket fans speculated that Williams would take out his ‘notebook’ one more time. But the pacer rather decided to keep finger on his mouth indicating fans to shut up after Virat Kohli’s departure.

The third and the final encounter of the T20I series between India and West Indies will be played at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on December 11.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli miffed with fans for chanting MS Dhoni’s name to tease Rishabh Pant in 2nd T20I

Garima Kotroo Updated: 9 December, 2019, 3:05 PM IST


Young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant faced the wrath of cricket fans after he delivered another disappointing performance with gloves in the second match of the ongoing series.

During the second encounter, Pant dropped an important catch of Evin Lewis after which the enthusiastic crowd of the Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram started chanting MS Dhoni's name .

This reaction from the crowd left the Indian skipper disappointed. Kohli was clearly not happy with the reaction of the crowd after Pant’s mistake.

It was not the first time when Kohli came forward to rescue the under-fire Pant. Before the beginning of the three-match T20I series, the ace cricketer tried to defend Pant for his errors. He urged the fans to give Rishabh Pant some space and support him during the game.

On the match front, the flop show of the team cost them an important match against West Indies on Sunday. Men in Blue failed to deliver a strong performance with bat and ball at their own den. As a result, Kieron Pollard’s team won the game by 8 wickets.

Now, it will be a ‘do or die’ situation for India and West Indies in the final encounter at Wankhede Stadium as Caribbean leveled up the series with 1-1.

News Cricket

I come out with a will to win - Kieron Pollard

AP Updated: 9 December, 2019, 9:07 AM IST


Lendl Simmons scored 67 not out off 45 balls as West Indies beat India by eight wickets to win the second Twenty20 and level the three-match series 1-1 on Sunday.

Simmons hit four fours and four sixes, scoring a 38-ball half-century, and added 73 runs for the first wicket with Evin Lewis (40). India was sloppy in the field, dropping multiple catches.

Chasing 171, openers Simmons and Lewis added 50 runs off 39 balls. Both openers survived in the fifth over as two catches were dropped in the space of three deliveries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Nicholas Pooran smacked 38 not out off 18 balls, with four fours and two sixes, on his return from an international ban for ball tampering.

West Indies’ Kesrick Williams (2-30) and Hayden Walsh (2-28) shared four wickets to strike at regular intervals.

"I am continuing to enjoy my cricket. Most I can do is pass on the knowledge to the youngsters. We will have good results if we stay as a unit. I pride myself on being a leader. God has given me a talent to play cricket. So when I come out, I come out with a will to win. And now captain, the will is stronger. But there were areas we need to improve about: couple of wides, couple of no-balls. We look forward to the final game at Wankhede," said Pollard

News Cricket

With fielding like that no score can be good enough - Virat Kohli

AP Updated: 9 December, 2019, 9:05 AM IST


In reply to India's 170-7, West Indies scored 173-2 and won with nine deliveries to spare as dewy conditions played into their hands.

For the hosts, Shivam Dube (54) scored a first T20 half-century off 27 balls after a surprise promotion to No. 3 in the order.

"We expected to get more runs in the last four overs, but fell short. We were 10-15 runs shy of a par score, but with fielding like that no score can be good enough. If you drop catches, it is going to cost you,” India captain Virat Kohli said.

Earlier, West Indies won the toss and put India in to bat on a challenging wicket.

India crossed 50 in the eighth over but lost both Lokesh Rahul (11) and Rohit Sharma (15).

Dube was promoted up the order to increase the scoring rate. He scored a well compiled fifty and looked comfortable throughout his innings.

News Cricket

We met in Hobart where you don’t even see animals after 6 pm: Sania on her first meeting with Shoaib

Staff Writer Updated: 8 December, 2019, 9:21 PM IST


Indian tennis star Sania Mirza has disclosed about her first meeting with Shoaib Malik. They bumped into each other at a restaurant in Hobart.

“We knew each other socially and then we bumped into each other at a restaurant in Hobart where you don’t even see animals/birds after 6 pm, forget people,” Sania told India Today.

“Must’ve been destiny that we met over there to be very honest. Only later I realized that he had actually planned to come to the restaurant because I was there. I was giving destiny all the credit but it was clearly not,” she added.

They got married on April 12, 2010 in Hyderabad. Sania is planning to play Hobart International in January 2020.

“I am playing in Hobart, then I am playing the Australian Open. I am planning to play a tournament in Mumbai, which is a USD 25,000 (ITF women event) next month, but I am 50-50 about it, so let’s see how my wrist behaves. We will see, but Hobart and Australian Open (for sure),” she said.

News Cricket

If given an opportunity, I will definitely like to prove myself again - Dinesh Karthik

Staff Writer Updated: 8 December, 2019, 9:20 PM IST


The Indian wicket-keeper batsman, who was axed from Team India after the World Cup, is planning to stage another comeback. Dinesh Karthik scored a runs in the two domestic tournaments - Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. The captain of the Tamil Nadu tried his best but failed to lead his team to titles. The veteran will not lead his state side in the Ranji Trophy as he wants some youngster to take the team forward.

However, with T20 World Cup in mind, Dinesh Karthik believes that he can still be a part of the squad if given a chance to prove himself.

"Everybody tries to get into the India side and I’m not an exception. I am trying very hard to be a part of the India set-up again,” Karthik said.

He is ready to deliver as a finisher. “Finisher’s role is something which I have always enjoyed. If given an opportunity, I will definitely like to prove myself again,” he added.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli is ever hungry to learn more and stay fit - Shanker Basu

Staff Writer Updated: 8 December, 2019, 9:19 PM IST


Indian cricket team's former strength and conditioning trainer Shanker Basu has lauded Virat Kohli for his commitment towards fitness. According to him, Virat Kohli is ever hungry to learn more about fitness. When he was asked about Virat Kohli's fitness level, he said, "I think there is still more exploring for him to do. We are looking at performance. In fitness, the sky is the limit. "The beauty of Virat Kohli is that he is ever hungry (to learn more, to stay fit)."

Dinesh Karthik, who was the part of an event with Basu, also spoke about the importance of staying fit.

"All that I have done is I have not tried anything different. I keep saying (myself) is to win matches. I want to be a part of that situation so that make it easy for youngsters", Karthik said at the sidelines of an event here.

"...using my experience and my prowess I think it is important that we face all the tough situations and help the team make sure to cross the winning line" the cricketer told reporters.

News Cricket

He’s lying in bed with my sister: Faf’s hilarious reply on Viljoen's absence leaves presenter in splits

Staff Writer Updated: 8 December, 2019, 9:17 PM IST


Paarl Rocks captain Faf du Plessis was at his humorous best in one of the matches of the ongoing Mzansi Super League. The skipper was asked about Hardus Viljoen's from playing XI and his reply was enough to leaves match presenter in splits. "Viljoen is not playing today because he's lying in bed with my sister as they got married yesterday," he said. Hardus Viljoen recently tied the knot with sister of Faf du Plessis.

His absence was not felt as Paarl Rocks won the match by 12 runs. Faf du Plessis accumulated 22 runs off 19 balls as his side scored 168/5 in the allotted 20 overs.

Chasing 169 runs to win, Nelson Mandel Bay Giants managed to score 156/6. Paarl Rocks are leading the points table with 27 points from 10 matches. Nelson Mandela Bay Giants also have also identical points but Paar Rocks lead the points tally due to superior net run rate.