Posts Tagged ‘india’

Yuvraj Singh – A Remarkable, Inspirational Return To Cricket

Yuvraj Singh – a winner on and off the pitch

This weekend sees the return to cricket of Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh as India take on New Zealand in two Twenty20 Internationals ahead of the ICC World T20. The first game is in Visakhapatnam on 8th September and the second is in Chennai on 11th September.

Nothing remarkable about that, you might think as players recover from injury and return every day. However, not many do what Yuvraj has done, which is to fight, and beat, cancer, then make his way back to international cricket. It is a story that has echoes in what Lance Armstrong was able to achieve, although Yuvraj has still to write his final on-field chapters.

Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj Singh © REUTERS / Action Images

He was diagnosed with a lung tumour last year – not long after the World Cup final, in fact – and subsequently underwent treatment in America before finally being given the all-clear in March.

Words hardly do justice to the magnitude of what he has undergone and what he will achieve, simply by turning up to the ground along with his team-mates ready to don the blue shirt once again.

He is arguably best known for hitting Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over in 2007 and winning the World Cup last year, but he has had to face up to something far more deadly than a fast bowler or a batsman trying to hit him out of the park.

His illness, and the humility he showed during each phase of it, gave sports fans around the world a sense of perspective. Yes, winning World Cups and blasting the ball hundreds of metres is great, but at the end of the day, there are more pressing things to worry about.

He was cheered royally when he attended a Pune Warriors game in this year’s Indian Premier League and he will doubtless receive a rapturous ovation the next time he walks out to bat. More than perhaps any other cricketer, he deserves it.

Already, cricketers have offered their congratulations to this remarkable competitor:

@yuvstrong12 Hey buddy, good luck tomorrow re being back on the field, very proud of you & your determination..Well done champion…

— Shane Warne (@warne888) September 7, 2012

 

Rahul Dravid – Farewell To A Cricketing Colussus

Rahul Dravid – ‘The Wall’ – Retires

Rahul Dravid, one of Indian cricket’s most celebrated stalwarts, captains and fielders has called time on a distinguished international career. He was as classy a batsman as he is a dignified and eloquent man. Five-day cricket will miss him greatly.

The numbers bear testament to just how important a cog he has been in India’s run-gathering machine which, during his career, reached the top of the Test rankings and won both ODI and T20I World Cups.

504 times he has represented India in international cricket (163 Tests, 340 ODIs and a solitary T20 last year against England) and scored over 24,000 international runs.

While Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag and others have thrilled crowds with explosive innings, on so many occasions they have been given the foundations to play their strokes because it is Dravid, be it at number three or opening the batting, who has ground down the bowlers’ resolve. He has been the man that when a match needs winning, or a tricky run chase is in the offing, you would want batting for you.

A sense of extraordinary calm pervaded everything he did on the field – and he did pretty much everything, from batting through taking hundreds of catches at slip, to wicket-keeping, to leading the side and even turning his arm over in the early days – and he always looked like he had so much time at the crease.

Perhaps his finest hour was in Kolkata in 2001 when he and Laxman contrived to help India beat Australia after following on. Yet he can look back on an international career full of outstanding innings and you won’t find many, if any people who have a bad word to say about him.

I was at the press conference at Sussex in 2007 when Dravid, along with Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, declared they would not play Twenty20 cricket for India, as it was a ‘young man’s game’. Given how the likes of that trio, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and many others have subsequently forged impressive second careers in the IPL, it was a rare error of judgment from the man known as ‘The Wall’.

The fact that he played international cricket for one of the best teams in the world for almost 15 years is a more than adequate reminder of just how good a player he was. He will leave an enormous set of pads to fill – whenever he decides to call it a day.

In 20 years, when Twenty20 cricket will perhaps rule the world, future generations will look at Dravid’s career statistics and simply will not understand how much of a colussus he was. I consider myself lucky to have seen a master craftsman in action and I wish him the very best in retirement.

What are your memories of Dravid’s illustrious career? How much will India miss him? And will his retirement heap extra pressure on Sachin Tendulkar?

A Busy Week In Test Cricket Lies Ahead

It might be cold and dark here in the UK but in warmer climes, we have a busy week in the world of cricket ahead as three Test matches get underway.

In Adelaide, Australia take on India as they bid to seal a 4-0 series clean sweep although on a pitch expected to take turn, could this offer India a chance at reacquanting themselves with a winning feeling and will Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international century?

Then in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan take on England in high spirits following their ten-wicket win in the opener in Dubai. England must improve on their performance if they are to stay in the series and must play especially well to overcome a well-discplined and well-drilled unit.

Finally, New Zealand meet Zimbabwe in Napier. Having almost produced an upset win in Zimbabwe when these two teams met last year, this match could well be worth watching. New Zealand have named uncapped players Kruger van Wyk and Sam Wells in their squad and they will not be taking Zimbabwe lightly.

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan - captain no more

New Zealand’s last outing was a memorable win against Australia and they will hope that victory can be the springboard to further success.

Going one step further than New Zealand with their team selection is Australia. They have named an uncapped player – George Bailey – as their new Twenty20 International captain.

They play India in two T20s on 1st and 3rd February and have also recalled 40-year-old left-arm spinner Brad Hogg. Uncapped James Faulkner also makes the squad as erstwhile captain Cameron White and ‘Mr Cricket’ Michael Hussey miss out.

White is not the only player to become an ex-captain this week after Tillakaratne Dilshan resigned as Sri Lanka skipper to be replaced by Mahela Jayawardene.

For Australia, the road to the ICC World Twenty20 later this year starts here. But what are you most looking forward to watching this week?

What Does 2012 Hold In Store For Cricket?

2011 in cricket was a year of incredible highs – particularly if you were a supporter of India – and incredible lows – but what lies in store for cricket in 2012? Will 2012 be able to match the rollercoaster ride we had last year?

Although not as high profile as the Mohammad Asif-Mohammad Amir-Salman Butt spot-fixing controversy, cricket will be heading to court again shortly when Mervyn Westfield stands trial for the same offence in January. Surely seeing fellow players thrown into jail for their misdemeanours will be enough to prevent any other players attempting to illegaly manipulate games in the future? We can but hope.

On the pitch, the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka offers India a chance to put their dismal Test form (at least away from home) of late to bed and I expect one of the three top Asian teams to win the tournament. Sri Lanka are a class act at home, India always perform well there and Pakistan cannot be discounted having never failed to reach the semi-finals to date.

The Women’s tournament is wide open – wider than before as conditions should bring India closer to pace-setters Australia, New Zealand and England.

How England go about defending their newly-acquired number one status in Tests will be fascinating. In taking on Pakistan and Sri Lanka away from home followed by South Africa at home – a series all the more poignant following the passing late last year of Basil d’Oliveira, the man whose name is on the trophy the two sides compete for – they have three huge challenges. Win two of those series and they will have done themselves proud.

Lose two – and especially if they lose to South Africa – and it will again be back to the drawing board for Andy Flower’s men but they have never had a better chance to cement themselves as world leaders and begin to work on that legacy that Flower and captain Andrew Strauss are fond of reminding us about.

Talking about world leaders, Haroon Lorgat stands down as ICC chief executive in July. Can we expect big changes once he has gone? Unlikely but it will be interesting to see what new direction, if any, his replacement will go down.

2011 saw the emergence of a number of young cricketers, from Devendra Bishoo to Jonathan Bairstow to Ravi Ashwin on the world stage. The World T20 could offer the opportunity for more stars to be born.

Keep an eye on the West Indies – in the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite and Kirk Edwards, not to mention Darren Bravo, they are bulding a formidable batting line-up and all this without Chris Gayle or Ramnaresh Sarwan. If the stand-off between the WICB and its former captain can be ended, then don’t be surprised if the men from the Caribbean enjoy a strong year.

What are you most looking forward to in 2012? Which teams and players do you foresee enjoying success?

 

Australia Have Had A Poor Year – The Stats

Australia will soon name their squad to take on India in the first Test which begins in Melbourne on Boxing Day and already their cricket fans are predicting the worst.

Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke has mush to ponder ahead of the Boxing Day Test - credit: REUTERS / Action Images

Missing Patrick Cummins and Shaun Marsh as well as having a string of other players nursing injuries, there seems to be little optimism that the Baggy Greens can overturn a seven-run defeat to New Zealand in their previous match and offer India a stern challenge.

New coach Mickey Arthur enjoyed a honeymoon period lasting around seven days before his side unravelled dramatically in Hobart to hand New Zealand a first win in Australia for 26 years.

Using the Cricket World Most Valuable Player ratings, it is even more clear that Australia have had a poor year – the MVPs only take performances from the last 12 months into account to give a true barometer of who is in form at any one moment in time.

Batting: 1 rating point is roughly analagous to an average of 1 run. Aside from the injured Marsh, who is in sixth place with 66.9 points, the top Australian batsman in the Test batting ratings is Michael Clarke, who has 44.1 points at number 22 and is followed immediately by Michael Hussey (43.9) one place behind. That translates to a reasonable year but not outstanding, and Clarke’s figures are boosted by his outstanding form since taking over the captaincy.

Next up for Australia is Usman Khawaja – very much a work in progress – down at 53rd with 29.5 points and you have to drop to 56th to find Ricky Ponting, Phil Hughes is 60th, Brad Haddin 64th and Shane Watson lies 77th.

Bowling: It does not get much better in the bowling rankings although Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon are top of the pile in 20th and 21st place respectively. Shane Watson is in 29th, Peter Siddle 34th but Mitchell Johnson, to confirm what we probably already know, is down in 44th place just a few places above Hussey (49th) and Clarke (50th).

We wait with bated breath to see just how ruthless the selectors might be but the evidence based on the ratings would only guarantee Clarke, Lyon and Harris a place in the line-up. Time was when Australia dominated the ratings, both as a team and players.

Those days are now gone but can the likes of Marsh, James Pattinson, Cummins and Khawaja launch their team back to the top? India themselves aren’t able to call upon a fully fit squad of players so might the series turn out to be a little closer than Australian fans fear?

Save the date

December 2006:

Test batting top ten: Mohammad Yousuf, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting, Kevin Pietersen, Michael Clarke, Mohammad Hafeez, Michael Hussey, Mahela Jayawardene, Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood

Test bowling top ten: Muttiah Muralitharan, Stuart Clark, Corey Collymore, Anil Kumble, Mohammad Asif, Monty Panesar, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Jerome Taylor, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hoggard

December 2011

Test batting top ten: Brendan Taylor, Tino Mawoyo, Kirk Edwards, Kumar Sangakkara, Tatenda Taibu, Darren Bravo, Shaun Marsh, Ian Bell, Vusi Sibanda, Angelo Mathews

Test bowling top ten: Saeed Ajmal, Pragyan Ojha, Ravi Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Stuart Broad, Rangana Herath, Shakib Al Hasan, Ray Price, Daniel Vettori, Junaid Khan

Seven Days Is A Long Time In Cricket

Has cricket ever known a seven days like the ones we have just witnessed? From the ridiculous to the sublime and from ecstasy to tragedy, we have seen most of it.

For just the second time in the history of Test cricket, a part of all four innings was played on the same day when South Africa, having folded to be all out for 96, dismissed Australia for a staggering 47 and it needed a last-wicket partnership to prevent them from setting an unwanted record for the lowest Test score in history.

We then had Shahid Afridi’s latest comeback from retirement and although he last played for his country in May, he said he had spent the ‘long time’ away from the side wisely. Whatever he had been doing seems to have worked as his three wickets earned him the man-of-the-match award in a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka and he struck with just his fifth ball back. Who writes his scripts?

In among that we saw Sachin Tendulkar score his 15,000th Test run but miss out on his century of international centuries and a graceful VVS Laxman guide India to a thrilling win over the West Indies. Their squad was then rocked when news of a horrible bus crash in Saint Lucia – captain Darren Sammy’s home – filtered through and they are paying tribute by wearing black armbands for the second Test.

I have queried elsewhere whether it is the retirement of Tendulkar that will cause India the most problems as for me, Dravid and Laxman are just as irreplaceable. Exciting times ahead for the Indian selectors in the next five years.

At the end of the week, esteemed journalist and former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa, cricket losing one of its great characters and it is both tragic and sad that he should have chosen to have taken his own life just as too many other former players have done over the years.

Too often, words such as ‘tragedy’ or ‘disaster’ are bandied about when a team is well beaten, dismissed cheaply or a player misses out on a personal milestone. Perspective. Out of focus.

The last seven days have – unfortunately, but perhaps necessarily – reminded us what those words actually mean.

How Will India Replace The Dravid-Tendulkar-Laxman Axis?

Watching the final day of the opening Test between India and the West Indies, we saw Sachin Tendulkar miss out in his latest quest for his hundredth international century and VVS Laxman guide his side to an impressive victory.

Both players were in supreme form and their 71-run partnership ensured there was no way back for the West Indies, who fought gamely, but came up short, despite having played exceptionally well over the first two days.

It was a tale of the two number fives – Shivnarine Chanderpaul scoring a century and then 47 to lead West Indies’ charge and his opposite number Laxman making up for a first innings failure with a consummate unbeaten 58 in 105 balls including some typically wristy leg-side strokes.

VVS Laxman - Irreplaceable?

VVS Laxman - Irreplaceable? Image: REUTERS / Action Images

India are undoubtedly going to face a slight dip when they have to replace Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid but do they have anybody ready to play Laxman’s role waiting in the wings?

His performances in his side’s second innings are exemplary – if not quite as good as Dravid or Tendulkar. It was he who carried India to unlikely wins over Australia in both Kolkata in 2001 and Mohali in 2008. He averages more than 55 against Australia – who during his career have more often than not been the best side in the world which is a testament to his being a man for the big match.

The three players complement each other perfectly, of course – Dravid as the solid, traditional number three bat allowing Tendulkar and Laxman’s free-flowing style to come through.

While the former style of player is rapidly going out of fashion – you would hardly call Darren Bravo or Shaun Marsh a blocker – there remains plenty of room in the game, and eventually India’s middle-order for prolific strokemakers.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif are some of the players who have been tried but which of them, if any, have what it takes to nail down a spot in the middle order when India’s talented triumvarate decide to call it a day?

India have been blessed to have had so many talented cricketers at their disposal at the same time during the last ten years. There is talent coming through the ranks but whether they have the longevity and class of their predecessors will dictate India’s future on the field – particularly in Tests.

In the meantime, it’s going to be fascinating for the rest of us to see who gets picked and then how they do. Who would you pick and how long do you think Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman can play on for?

Will Tendulkar Score His 100th Century Against The West Indies?

Let us leave the spot-fixing trial to one side for a moment to focus on on-field matters as there is some good quality Test cricket both underway and coming up.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar - due to score his 100th international century? Picture: REUTERS / Action Images

The Pakistan-Sri Lanka battle has been fascinating while Zimbabwe are on the back foot against New Zealand but I want to turn your attention to India playing the West Indies, in which the first Test begins on Sunday in Delhi.

On the face of it, India should be plenty strong enough to win the three-match series and there is a strong chance that sometime in the next month Sachin Tendulkar will score an unprecedented 100th international century.

Yet, if you look at current form this is a meeting between a side that has lost its last four matches (India) against a team on a high, fresh from winning an overseas series for the first time in eight years and with an exciting young leg-spinner in their ranks (Devendra Bishoo).

India, meanwile, have rung the changes – out go Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina, in come Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin. One wonders whether probable Test debuts, Rahane and Kohli doubtless being touted as the next Tendulkars/Dravids/Sehwags and Tendulkar’s impending landmark could just distract the Indian side.

Make no doubt about it, in Kirk Edwards, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell, the West Indies have unearthed some fine batsmen who appear to have the temparement to match their skills and they will be stronger for including Adrian Barath in their side.

The perfect result for the neutrals is probably a 2-1 series win for either side with Tendulkar scoring his 100th century – probably earlier rather than later – but as both sides look to rebuild their sides it could offer several pointers for the future.

Do England Need More Subtlety In Their ODI Batting?

Following England’s humiliating series whitewash in India, many disenchanted fans have called for a complete overhaul of England’s ODI plans involving the inclusion of more aggressive batsmen and have pointed to the need for more six-hitters to make use of the powerplays. Indeed, an article on Cricinfo today makes that very point while you only have to read people’s comments on Twitter and other message forums to know that it is a widely held view.

How long before James Taylor gets an extended run in England's ODI side?

However, is this assumption really correct? It is a fact that England actually hit more sixes in the series (14 maximums to India’s 13) than the hosts. It is also true that England’s batsmen are starting to look more and more like musclebound powerlifters with every passing series. Therefore I would argue that less, not more, power is the answer, especially on the suncontinent, to England’s ODI woes.

In fact what they are actually missing is flair; an ingredient that India’s batsmen have in abundance and an essential quality a batsman must have when facing spin in the middle overs. If you stand Kevin Pietersen next to Gautam Gambhir, or Suresh Raina next to Jonny Bairstow, for example you are immediately struck by their difference in body shape. Gambhir and Raina are wiry and relatively slight, whereas Bairstow or Pietersen have forearms that are threatening to tear their shirts apart at the seams, characteristics that are reflected in their batting styles. Whereas Pietersen and Bairstow look to get on the front foot to the spinners and play them straight down the ground, Raina and Gambhir will sit back and use their wrists to manoeuvre the ball and utilise the full 360 degree arc of the playing surface. The muscular aggression displayed by the first two may well work in the world cup in 2015 when it is held on the faster pitches of Australia or New Zealand, but unless their plans change then the seven-match ODI series against India in 2013 is going to be a long one for England fans.

So what can be done? Well I suggest bringing in a couple of players that pride themselves on accumulation rather than power for the next time England tour Asia. In a nutshell, what England really need is a player of the type of Neil Fairbrother, Graham Thorpe or Paul Collingwood.

Those that know me will be unsurprised to learn that one of the players whose inclusion I advocate is James Taylor, the other being Owais Shah, whose dropping from the ODI side after an excellent Champions Trophy has always puzzled me.

While Taylor’s inclusion is a matter of when not if, don’t expect to see Shah any time soon as he – like Samit Patel who was belatedly included and has been successful - is not one that appears to fit Andy Flower’s blueprint of a ‘new England’ player.

What do you think? Do I have a point or should England continue along their power-hitting route? Please let me know in the comments below.

Who Are You Backing To Win Hong Kong Sixes?

With the quarter-finalists now decided, who is your money on to win the Hong Kong Sixes?

The pick of tomorrow’s matches is perhaps the second quarter-final that sees England take on India in the Kowloon heat as the two sides continue to do battle in all forms of international cricket. Tomorrow also sees the Woodworm All Stars – a team made up the biggest names in cricket – do battle against Sri Lanka after they won both of their last two matches to squeeze into the next round. Their opening partnership of Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi is surely among the most destructive in world cricket and is worth the admission fee alone.

The other two games see the hosts Hong Kong take on Scotland and dark horse Ireland take on Pakistan. Scotland, in particular, have been impressive so far in the tournament, with their ruthless efficiency seeing them progress at the expense of the more fancied teams, while Pakistan have one of the players of the competition in Umar Akmal in their ranks.

Whatever happens tomorrow it is sure to be a spectacular and exciting exhibition of hitting.

See a round-up of today’s action here.