In the year gone by…

2018 has arguably been the year of Possibilities, Opportunities and at times Disappointment; not only for India but for the entire cricketing world. The way it has shaped up, despite the meticulous highs and terrible lows is indeed heartening. The competitiveness at all levels of international cricket for both men and women has been worth a keen look. A few commanding victories, a few astonishing upsets, a few horrible mistakes, a few stupendous knocks and a few fairy-tale finishes, the year gone by has sought all emotions, each worthy of an unforgettable memory.

It all started with the Aussies conquering the Ashes with a comprehensive 4-0 margin riding on the brilliance of Steve Smith and the Australian bowlers. However, the Australian fortunes were meant to switch sides. sandpaperCaught tampering the ball strategically using a sandpaper in the consequent series against South Africa, the captain-vice captain duo of Steve Smith and David Warner along with young Cameron Bancroft were handed a periodic ban by Cricket Australia. The harsh decision remained in discussions for long, but wasn’t meant to change. In a hush-hush scenario, Australian cricket underwent grass-root changes and Tim Paine was roped in as the stand-in captain. Australia’s struggle, evident from South Africa itself continued through Pakistan in UAE and also against India at home. A solitary test win against India and and a well-worked draw against Pakistan was all the island nation could manage.

“The year is a real test of character for the Indians”, was reciprocated all around. India’s tours of South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand along with the Nidahas Trophy and Asia Cup deemed this to be one of the most challenging phases of Indian cricket. “It’s the best ever Indian team to travel overseas,” coach Shastri’s claims were bold but not completely untrue. Coming in on the back of a few stellar performances in 2017, 2018 was all about implementing right strategies. And to a large extent, India did live up to its expectations. Although India could not manage outright test series wins in South Africa and England, their determination, patience, grit and especially the fast-bowling talents drove India to historic wins. dkDinesh Karthik’s last ball finish in the Nidahas’ finals, India’s commanding limited over victories against Proteas and the English and a well-deserved Asian champions title were a great highlight. Frequent shuffles in the batting order and incongruent contributions from India’s top order were the only worries jolting the Number-1 Test side. However, Kohli and Pujara’s dream run in Tests, former’s incredible display of skill in ODIs and Dhawans unmatched prowess in T20Is helped India firmly tackle all what came their way. More than 1300 runs in tests & an average of 135 in ODIs for Kohli this year overwhelmingly demonstrates his dominance. Retrospect, the best takeaway for India this year has been the fast bowling.indiabowlers Arrival of Jasprit Bumrah in tests has been a real revelation for India as him along with Ishant and Shami with an able support of Bhuvi and Umesh led India to an unparalleled bowling force. “It’s always the bowlers who win you matches in foreign conditions and to see India take all 20 wickets in 12 out of the 14 tests this year is immensely pleasing.” Rubbing off form from the seniors, a world cup win for the Shaw-led Indian colts added a certain silver lining to the Indian cloud.

Age is just a number but at times it forces reputed veterans to give up the sport. 2018 would definitely be remembered for on-field performances but also more so for the off-field declarations. Morne Morkel, Rangana Herath, Gautam Gambhir, Mohammad Kaif, Dwayne Bravo, Alastair Cook all bid their favorite game a farewell but the most shocking declaration came from Mr. 360 AB De Villiers. download.jpgGiving up at the acme of his game, AB’s retirement has to still sink in. Though he was later seen punishing the ball to all parts in local cricket leagues, his absence from the international scene was strongly felt by South Africa as well as the entire world. A brighter side comes in with a fading shadow. Not too long but 2018 too had its own dark patch where the umpires were blamed for misjudging the front-foot, referees were criticized for misrating the pitch and the selectors were questioned for omitting a few key players from the side. Nevertheless, none of them transpired to be a big issue and cricket’s most fruitful year ensured that it ended on a pleasing note and of course, with an Indian Boxing Day victory!

 

Advertisements

Cricketing Minds: Being a cricket fan!!

I would always wonder, how people actually stuck to their television sets early mornings, giving up sleep for a cricket match. Little did I know, 15 years down in life, I would be the biggest follower of cricket, giving up my beloved sleep for a glimpse of the game. I remember my father watching Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman crush the ‘invincible’ Aussies to bits in the Adelaide Test of 2003. CM1I also remember my uncle narrating to me the story of how the same duo brought India out of a follow-on to script a historic Test victory at Kolkata in 2001. Highlights of these exciting matches could  never do justice to its magnitude later, I knew I’d missed perhaps few of India’s life-defining cricketing moments. As I grew up and as the love for the sport multiplied, I understood how India’s tours of Australia and England held more importance than anything else. Every ball depicts a story, it’s about how you engage yourself in it. The intent, passion and an unconditional love and devotion towards the sport today, pumps up adrenaline to its peak, especially on every such winter morning.

Formats have changed and so has the pace of the game but the love for the sport has only ubiquitously increased. The shorter versions of the game have added a new dimension to the cricketing universe but having being introduced to TEST cricket first and the shorter forms much later, falling in awe of the longest format was meant to be. It still sends jitters and produces goosebumps alike the shorter formats. The elegance, patience and skill that the format brings in stays admirably distinguished in all regards. Every match and every ball possess a different challenge. Living up to one’s own expectation is the biggest for matches at home while the real test in the foreign countries lies not only about facing a stern opposition from the superpowers but also acclimatizing to the conditions and the characteristics of the unfamiliar cricketing atmospheres. The journey through India’s foreign as well as home tourneys has given me tons of memories and continues to teach me every minute detail of the game.  CM2Every new day, as a new page of the cricketing book is overturned, it leaves  a lesson and a value to be learned. India’s recent test win at Adelaide is just the 6th on Australian soil but is held in high regards by the entire cricketing generation. India’s all-round progress in the foreign frontiers this year, despite contrasting results, has been one to seek inspiration from. Indian bowling, once looked upon as a possibly subsiding dynasty, is today arguably a reigning superpower. The credit reaches out to the association, support staff , the fans or even the criticizers at every level of Indian cricket.

Over the past two decades, not only has the game matured but the fan culture in India has also hit puberty. Interacting with people over the sport since early teens, I realised that India stood divided despite having the widest fan base. I witnessed how people celebrated Indian victories enthusiastically and at the same time, cursed the same players for playing miserably.
CM3
However, today most fans regardless of the result stay dedicated and believe in the nation. The dynamics and the balance of the game is well restored and understood deeply by almost everyone. It is heartening to see how Indian fan armies like The Bharat Army has transpired both in India and abroad. Australia and England at times seem like a second home as the Indian supporters  overwhelmingly exceed the number of natives in the stadium. The atmosphere, passion and the patriotism amidst the fans is evident and contagious, even through the television screen.

Another aspect of cricket is how it influences the lives of the people. The induced habits like suddenly completing the bowling action while walking on the road, imitating idols, relating real life happenings with cricketing incidences and bombarding friends with a constant cricketing knowledge are those every cricket fan is proud off. CM4
New Zealand v India - 2nd Test: Day 1It’s always worth investing time in cricket, be it on or off the field. Coming out of the teens and looking back over the past decade and a half, I’d surely remember and treasure all the memories cricket has given me. Maybe now it’s about time when Virat’s men pull off the impossible, maybe it’s about time when India reincarnates the Australia of 2000s, but right now is certainly the best time to be a cricket lover in India.

 

(There probably exists no Indian to have not tried these actions)

 

 

The Battle for Asian Supremacy.

“Sheer joy and excitement! The subcontinental rivalry at its imperious best! ”

photo

The Asia Cup 2018 would surely go down in the books marking an uprising of the ‘minnows’. Despite India winning the coveted title for the 7th time, it was the stellar performances from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or even Hong Kong that grabbed attention. It was a tournament where Sri Lanka looked at its tormented worst and Pakistan, India were at ease with their mundane, the so called ‘minnows’ stunned everyone to bits with surprising upsets and technically pleasing skills.

It all began in Dubai, the adopted home of Pakistan, where the tournament opener saw Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka in a match that almost set the tone for the tourney. Tactically outplayed, aggressively outnumbered and defensively penetrated, Sri Lanka was slumped to a whooping 137 run loss. This win for Bangladesh was a great morale boost and the underdogs promised a great near future. However, it was followed by a disastrous loss against Afghanistan, again a team which in itself has made significant inwards in world cricket. prv_1537213178Afghanistan got better of Bangladesh in all departments and abided to a strict gameplan. Sri Lanka’s successive loss to Afghanistan then meant that the island nation was out of the competition. Their youth misfired and experience lopsided its value as none could make any worthy contributions. The losses also raise questions to their competitiveness at the World Cup next year. Meanwhile, the other pool too was host to couple of interesting matches. hongkongOne where Hong Kong cruised along to 174-0 chasing India’s mammoth 284 before losing out to experience and the other where ancient India-Pakistan resumed after the Champions Trophy final. India cruised to a win riding comprehensively on their disciplined bowling attack. The respective table toppers Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, Pakistan went on to qualify for the Super Four stages.

The group phase had sowed seeds of excitement in the Super Four stage. The teams battled hard and fair to knit close battles and interesting finishes. The reincarnation of India-Pakistan rivalry was the most sought after event. India reigned supreme over the neighbors once again with the openers scoring blistering hundreds. cms-imgComing to the tournament as in-form favorites, their vigorous routing through the opposition wasn’t unexpected. Under Rohit’s captaincy, India were aggressive yet watchful. They capitalized on smallest of chances and made crucial breakthroughs time and time again. Perhaps the only time when India was tested was against Afghanistan where Indian batting lost plot against the Afghan bowlers and Jadeja somehow scrambled home a solitary point, gifting Dhoni a tie in his 200th ODI as captain. Afghanistan resided to the able prowess of the dependable Shahidi, Nabi and Rashid Khan while Bangladesh rode on Mushfiqur and Mustafizur heroics. The two teams also battled each other till the very end where the formers defending mere 6 in the last over provided one of the rarest photo-finishes. Another such which followed was when Pakistan and rather Shoaib Malik almost single handedly got better of Afghanistan in the ultimate over. But Pakistan’s lucky escape was not meant to have a fruitful destination. An easy and a flamboyant victory for the Tigers against Pakistan shattered their hopes to bits. The tale of Bangladesh’s fight to the top against India in the preceding edition of the tournament was relieved and re-celebrated.

AP18271744803919_0.jpeg

It’s often said that the FINALS of a tournament depict the flow of how the tides have traversed. And this one in Dubai was exemplary to the referred saying. Going Right down to the wire, a hamstrung Kedar Jadhav managed to hobble around for a single on the last ball of the match to give India the title. The injured Jadhav was also a reason for India’s bowling coming back as he broke through crucial partnerships after Bangladesh blistered off to a start courtesy Liton Das’ major ton. Mashrafe Mortaza in the later half of the match was stunning with his captaincy but could only lead his side to a runners up claim. Though India would lift the title, Asia Cup 2018 would be remembered for all round performances. Be it Hong Kong’s 174 run opening stand or Mohammad Shehzad’s blistering ton against India, be it Mushfiqur’s consistent performances or Shahidi’s frequent rescue innings, be MSD’s lightening quick stumpings or a few sloppy drops, each and every moment would surely be remembered.

tamim-iqbal-759

The tournament was a thorough mix of the good and the ordinary. The scheduling of the event was one of the critical talking points all along. Teams were made to play matches on consecutive days and especially in the heat wave of Dubai, it certainly took a toll of their fitness. The umpiring, especially in the game that tied, was mediocre and gathered criticism. Albeit all this, there were also a few moments which brought joy to cricketing hearts. aftab-alam.jpgShoaib Malik consoling Aftab Ahmed after hitting him for 10 off his first 3 balls to sneak a win, Tamim Iqbal coming in to bat with a single hand despite injury and every team playing fairly without any heated arguments invariably increased the beauty of the sport.

“My asia cup was won when Tamim came out to bat with a broken finger.”
-Mashrafe Mortaza

Alastair Cook: The revolutionary Brit!

“This boy has as much talent as anyone in the game” – Kapil Dev

Upwards of 12,000 test runs, more than 30 test centuries and bountiful heartening memories.
The Chef’s now done Cooking. One of England’s prolific openers and successful captains hangs his boots from international cricket. A lesser significant 5th Test is suddenly the most important test of the season for the host. Often referred as the ‘Tendulkar of England’, Alastair Cook has proved to be revolutionary for English cricket over the years. Though his form has seemed to taper off in the later phases, his contributions can never be neglected.

images1999710724.jpeg

Alastair- ‘Defender’ as the name suggests has defended England out of crisis umpteenth time, as a player as well as a captain. Born in Gloucester 1984, Alastair Cook was an avid lover of music and played clarinet, piano and saxophone to utmost perfection; perhaps, it’s been a reason to his soundness in the techniques. Soon, as time passed, cricket eclipsed his love for music and the well-known little musician was talked about for centuries and noteworthy cricket performances. Scoring at around five thousand runs at a healthy average of almost 90 in his schooling years, Cook was invited to play for Essex Cricket Club. In 2003, the 18-yr old made his first class debut against Nottinghamshire and has never looked back since. He scored consistently and gave Essex the required boost at the top. The knocks yielded him a place and captaincy in England’s U19 squad in 2004. The elegant left-hander continued getting better off all his opponents and his selection at the highest level was nothing but inevitable.

Cook’s maiden Test call up came in 2006 when he was included in a tour to India after both Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick were left injured. Playing alongside the likes of Strauss, Flintoff, Collingwood was a great opportunity but at the same time, Trescothick and Vaughan were great shoes to fill. He scored a valuable 60 in the first innings at Nagpur, following it up with his maiden century in the second innings thereby entering a group of elite players to score a 50 and 100 on Test debut. In Sri Lanka, where England next stopped for a brief Test and ODI series, Cook meticulously tackled the spin threat of Muralitharan guiding the team to a Test victory. He also had his limited overs debut on the same tour but failed to make any notable performances. However, the journey of Alastair Cook had just begun and with time he promised to mature into a better batsman.

cook480.jpg

England then came back home for the return tours of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka where again Cook didn’t fail to impress. Post the retirement of England’s big guns, Cook crept up to be the mainstay of England’s batting. The perfectly placed sweeps, crunching cover drives and elegant late cuts, the southpaw always had the right belief and talent to succeed at the highest level. The ability to rotate strike, the ability to adapt to the situation, the ability to soak in pressure, the ability to control his instincts and the ability to lead from the front is what made him a better player. Be it the home seasons, the subcontinental tours or the Ashes, the batting order largely revolved around his performances. The Ashes of 2010-11 shot him to utmost fame. Battling the hostile crowds of Australia, England started with a real bang at Gabba where Cook scored his 14th test hundred & first of the 5 double centuries. He hung in with utmost concentration and salvaged an important draw for England.images (1)771985760..jpg  

The corresponding Tests matches were even more fruitful as England won 3 out of the next 4 to regain the Ashes. This 3-1 series win was historical for not only England but also for Cook. He was adjudged Man of the series for his mammoth 766 runs reaching multiple milestones due course. ‘Cookie’ as he was often called was named England’s full-time captain in 2011 after Strauss stepped down from the post. It was a dawn of new phase in Cook’s life and he was ecstatic to become a flagbearer of his nation.

The phase and pressure of captaincy is generally quite cumbersome to handle. However, it brought out the best of this gutsy left hander. In record 59 tests as captain, Cook amassed as many as five thousand runs at an average of 47. He also achieved a rare feat of being the only player to score centuries in first four tests as captain. His famous double hundred during the Ashes 2017 at Melbourne is still afresh in  England’s cricketing memories. He marshalled his troops well and was always an eager ear to improvements. He believed in the young and gelled well with the seniors.

images (2)765950916..jpg

Against India too, Cook holds an impressive record. He also led England to the famous series win in India in 2012. His 294 against India at Birmingham is still regarded as one of the greatest innings by an English batsman. Despite often being dummied by first Zaheer Khan and then Ishant Sharma, Cook was versed in tackling the Indian bowlers and especially the spinners to good effect.  He’d bat day in and day out without any discomfort to opposition’s dismay. He disdained life out of the fielders and brought England close to wins more often than not. More than anything, to all people in India, Cook was the only possible threat to break Master Blaster Tendulkar’s test record. Cook rarely had a dip in form until recently where he failed to convert his starts and didn’t move like he used to. With the legend set to retire after the last test, England will surely be void of an exuberant athlete and a trustworthy slip fielder. He has driven a revolution in English cricket for more than 15 years and now it’s all upto Root and his boys to give him a winning farewell at The Oval.

The ‘Elegant southpaw’ bids adieu, ALASTAIR COOK you’ll be missed!!

 

Know Your Legends: RAHUL DRAVID

Harsha Bhogale: ” When I’m done with my profession, I wish I could go with the reputation that Rahul Dravid earned”

THE WALL IS IN THE HALL!

Rahul-Dravid-
Rahul Dravid, perhaps one of the most underrated and unsung heroes of world cricket, was recently inducted to the ‘ICC Hall of Fame’ along with the veteran Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting and England eve Claire Taylor. Conferred to the legends of the sport, generally 4-5 years after their retirement, the award is considered to be the acme of cricketing fraternity. 5th Indian to be inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’, Rahul Dravid served Indian cricket for 16 long and fruitful years (1996-2012). Contributing a major part in rebuilding Indian cricket post 1999’s match-fixing scandal, Dravid brought the required calm and stability amidst India’s batting. His peaceful approach to any situation and his adaptability to the needs of his team went unmatched throughout his cricketing career. Alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Dravid laid the foundation to India’s bright future.
Born to a Marathi family in Madhya Pradesh, Dravid was brought up in Bangalore post his father’s transfer. Imbibed with love and passion for cricket right from childhood, he started his career with the school team and excelled greatly. He was selected for Karnataka’s Under-15, Under 17 and Under 19 squads and within years he was there representing his state at the highest level, The Ranji and Duleep trophies. The perfectionist in Dravid constantly strived for excellence, be it in sports or academics. For a 23-year old commerce graduate determined to complete an MBA, the national call-up in 1996 was a dream come true. Dravid’s consistency and technique caught the selectors’ attention and earned accolades. Post Indian crowd’s unfortunate loss to Sri Lanka in 1996 World Cup, Dravid had managed to sneak into the middle order in the tri-series with the champions and Pakistan in Singapore.

Steve Waugh: “Try to take his wicket in first 15 mins,if you can’t only try to get the remaining wickets!”

Though India, including Dravid, failed to live up to their expectations, Dravid’s first class performances made his selection in India’s 1996 England tour inevitable. Sharing an enthralling test debut at Lords with fellow debutante Sourav Ganguly (who went on to score a century), he made an impressive 95 countering the swing and battling hard in the English conditions. Little did anyone know, this talented lad from Karnataka would stand tall when the tides overturned and would sail Indian ship to safety when threatened.

120309111304-dravid-debut-1996-horizontal-large-gallery
Dravid’s stature grew with every match and his skills developed with every passing series. An impressive Caribbean tour to follow his maiden hundred in South Africa,1997 ensured him a place in the red-ball squad. He ended up as the leading run-getter in 1996-97 Test season and in the year coming by, he notched up a record of 6 consecutive Test fifties to his name. The form continued as Dravid emerged at the top again in the 1998/99 Test season. He steered India home in crunch situations, he took responsibilities on his shoulders when everyone else faltered and he raised high to lay down India’s middle order worries in Tests. Dravid however, failed to carry his form into white-ball cricket. Taking time to settle in, his game could not keep up with the pace of the game. Despite a solitary hundred against Pakistan in 1997, Dravid did not feature much in Indian scorecard. It took him his first World Cup, again in the lands where he made his test debut, to announce his arrival in shorter formats in style.

1999-World-Cup.jpg
India failed to make cut to the semi-finals of the World Cup but Dravid cruised to the top with a mammoth 461 @65.85 with an astonishing strike rate of 86. His hundreds against Kenya and Sri Lanka to go along with worthy half centuries against England & Pakistan made his capabilities known to everyone across the cricketing globe. In a format where Dravid was also flaked with criticism, he finely illustrated the desired replies with the bat. In process, Dravid also went on to be crowned as CEAT Cricketer of the World Cup and broke multiple partnership and individual records.
The purple patch was shining and evident but the breaks were certainly inevitable. When India toured Australia in 1999-2000, the team could not put up a strong front. Dravid by then had also made a mark as a wicketkeeper after injuries to India’s preferred stumpers forced him don the gloves. This somehow helped keep his place in the squad. The hard work, the sincere efforts and the firm belief to improve, brought back his glory again in years to follow. Starting with the Coca-Cola Championship in 2001, Dravid had no looking back and amassed bountiful runs and cherished plenty victorious memories. A brief county stint with Kent also helped him develop his game sense and made him mature.

vvs-laxman-rahul-dravid-m
Against the same Australian line-up that haunted him in 1999, Dravid showcased what was perhaps regarded as the turnover of the century when he staged the historic match-winning 375 run stand with VVS Laxman following on at the Eden Gardens. The centuries, the significant contributions, the silent wicketkeeping successes and pleasing Indian wins all continued steadily as India in years to come brought back what it had lost to evil practices. Indian cricket post the 2003 world cup rose to great heights and Dravid was a part of the team which witnessed many glorious moments and which brought its supporters pure joy.

Matthew Hayden: “If you ever wanna see aggression on a cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes!”

One of the most noteworthy cricket series in Dravid’s lopsided second half of the career was the tour of England in 2011. He always loved English weather and batting conditions. When the whole of India failed, Dracid would silently stand out and see them through. The whole series was a debacle as India did not manage to register even a single win except for Rahul Sharad Dravid who scored as many as 26% of country’s total runs in that series. He also carried his bat with a valiant 146* at the Oval emphasizing that he still had the will and the ability to go the distance.

1520920448-Rahul-Dravid-2-PTI
He never had a Golden Duck in his 287 test innings, he barely dropped a catch in the slips (has a record 210 catches in Tests) and he always won fierce 1v1 battles. Dependable, confident, highly focused, determined, tempered, aggressive and yet extraordinarily calm under pressure, Rahul Dravid was an exemplary talent. One of those rarest batsmen whom bowlers feared the most, one of those who stuck a heavy price to his wicket and one of those who led from the front and yet supported the rest as firm as ‘THE WALL’. More than 10,000 runs in both ODI as well as Test Cricket, as many as 48 blistering centuries and thousands of heartening memories, THE WALL ALWAYS STOOD TALL! And well, with playing a support as India’s overseas consultant and Under-19 coach, Dravid still continues to serve Indian cricket to the fullest. You can always take a cricketer out of cricket but never cricket out of a cricketer. He’s driven Indian cricket ably for so long, he’s attained the unassailable greatness a batsman would dream off and yet he’s the same humble and spirited human you would love listening to. RAHUL DRAVID, you are an INSPIRATION!!

Rahul Dravid: “ I’ve failed at times, but I’ve never stopped trying!”

Journey to a Historic First!

afg1.jpg
Just like any other international team, Afghanistan has also cropped up as one of the most celebrated team in world cricket. The players have risen up to the occasion and country’s cricket team was rightly awarded Test status this year. In one of the most talked about debuts, Afghanistan could only manage to withstand Indian onslaught for a mere 2 days. Two sessions was all it took for the Indian bowlers to bowl out the debuting visitors twice. Wouldn’t be untrue to term it as an ‘Easy Defeat’, but Afghanistan still have a lot to gain from. Meanwhile, India’s welcome gesture to pose together with the debutantes reminded the fraternity that the spirit of the game still remains intact and guarded in high regards.
The minnow nation has managed to counter the dreadful living conditions back home and has produced eye-caching performances time and time again. A gentle blend of experience and youth, Afghanistan has emerged to be the most consistent associate nation over the last few years.


Their upset wins against Bangladesh and West Indies and a spirited resilience on display in recent world cups have garnered praise and admiration from across the globe. The kind of bowlers they have generated off the concrete and barren grounds of Afghanistan is phenomenal and with the able support of their government and cricket board, the talents are rightly nurtured and taken care of. From Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai to the youngsters in Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rehman every Afghanistan cricketer comes in with an X-factor that stands out amongst the rest.
They say ‘It’s tough to attain success but its rather tougher to maintain it.’ It all started from the 2010 T20 world cup where Afghanistan created history qualifying for the tournament first time ever. Though they could not manage a win on the top-most stage, it left them with bountiful experiences and high-pressure situations to learn from. Post their updation to Associate member of ICC and after successfully qualifying for every World Cup since 2012, Afghanistan amassed ample cricketing knowledge playing against the top teams and legends of the game. Veterans like Mohammad Nabi, Shapoor Zadran and Mohammad Shehzad stepped up for the Afghans and laid down the foundation for their youngsters to take up and excel in the sport.

afg4
Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rehman are the shining results of the cricketing culture the Afghanistan Cricket Board has developed amidst the country. Allowing their players to feature in international cricket leagues, providing them with best infrastructure and insuring a mundane training and fitness schedule has what prospered the nation into a well-established one. Help from BCCI has also come in as a blessing. Allowing Afghanistan venues for practice and to host series against other nations, Indian cricket has set an example to the world portraying that ‘Cricket knows no borders’.

Sunil Gavaskar:
“Afghanistan come across as natural cricketers. They seem to have ball sense. Their timing of the bat swing and the delivery strides of the bowler, it all comes naturally to them”

afg6.jpg
Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb have been travelling across the globe and are still unmatched and uncracked on talent. Transitioning onto red-ball cricket, the Afghans stepped in keen on making an impact against India on their first ever international Test match at Bengaluru on June 14. Opting to bat first, the host nation drew the first blood as both the openers went on to score hundreds. The experienced and impressive ‘limited over’ bowlers from Afghanistan were toiled hard for runs only to manage a few strike backs towards the end of the first day.

afg7.jpg

It was however expected that Afghanistan would come out strong with the bat after bundling India to 474. But, onto an innings which never looked settled, onto an innings which never looked patient and onto an innings that lacked intent, Indian bowlers had it easy to restrict visitors to a mere 109 and thus enforce a follow on. The Afghanistan cricket heads sitting in the dressing room were certainly happy to see their team perform on international stage but certainly not on how they fared. The debacle continued and followed similar scripts as Indian bowlers got rid of Afghans for only 103 thereby registering their highest ever test victory margin.
It takes a different approach, it takes a different game altogether. Tests can never be played as ODIs or T20Is and that’s exactly what Afghanistan would look to take from the loss. Utilizing the conditions well and grappling the opponent to pressure with time is something they would look to do in near future. It’s never too late to learn and with a set of talented, humble and hardworking men, it’s never too difficult. World admires the Stanikzai-led squad and its certain that with time and experience Afghanistan are hopefully world cricket’s next big thing. The journey’s being tough but sojourn is yet be dwelled.

The ‘EXPERIENCED’ Champions!!

 

csk2.jpg

Exuberant batting performances, mesmerizing bowling spells, few extra-ordinary catches, athletic fielding displays and numerous unforgettable memories, IPL 2018 has proved to be the most aesthetic of all. Two months of this cricketing carnival transpired onto festive moods and post all exciting, nervous and heart-warming moments, the comeback Kings CSK emerged victorious. A team built with 11 on-field match winners, 20 off-field supportstars and thousands of dedicated fans, the Whistle Podu family celebrated their third title getting the better off SRH.

csk1.jpg

Shane Watson took the reigns in his hand after allowing the Sunrisers bowlers to cringe on him with pressure in the first 10 deliveries, where he failed to get off the mark. 117 of 57 chasing 179 is worthy of all praise. Getting all his experience to the fore, Watson maneuvered the bowlers to all parts of the ground.

Coming off an unfortunate switch in home ground, Chennai adapted well and made the most of their opportunities. Being the most balanced side of the tournament perhaps, the ‘Champion’ crown is more a justice to their doings than a surprise.

csk3

Their choice of going in with 9 thirty-plus players in the auction took everyone by surprise and amassed ample criticisms. However, the team management as well as coach Stephen Fleming were confident and optimistic of this decision.

What I have seen over the years is that experience and professional players dominate big part of the IPL. Older players, who are still motivated, fit and committed, can provide consistency, which help their teams to make progress at the top of the table moving forward.”

And that’s exactly what Chennai capitalized on. Be it the tournament opener against Mumbai where Bravo and Kedar held their nerve to seal the deal or the qualifier against Hyderabad where Faf du Plessis utilized his experience to see CSK through against the mighty destructive Sunrisers bowling lineup, there’s always been something about these senior players. MS Dhoni and the team management have used them judiciously as well. Allowing the players to rest, not burdening them with too much of responsibilities and giving them the leisure to play hard and free has done wonders for the team.  

csk9.jpg

Players who seemed to taper off during the previous editions of IPL have come to the franchise and almost reincarnated their career with a flare. The way Shane Watson struggled for the Royal Challengers last year, the way Rayudu and Raina lost their places from the national side or be it the way Harbhajan Singh showed signs of giving away to age, Chennai have still bought out the best out of these veterans for the game. The opening stand Watson and Rayudu have established this season, set the tone for the rest of their middle order to follow. The discipline and street-smart bowling from Harbhajan and Jadeja just about allowed the rest of the bowlers the extra margin of error.csk6.png
Instinctive yet effective tactics from Dhoni to go along with his unleashed batting-avatar this season caught attractive admiration. The vital cameos from Bravo and Raina also came in handy along their path of victory. The young blood of Chahar, Ngidi and Billings too lived up to the expectations. But even after all this, one would still give a thought to why CSK have attained consistent success even with different set of players over the years?

 

The answer lies deep within the CSK dressing room. The culture MS Dhoni and Fleming have successfully developed over the years goes unmatched to probably all other IPL teams. The freedom they have showered upon the players to not only approach their game the way they like but also to express themselves is worth a lesson. The constant support-staff has also tuned in pretty well with the team management. Supportive franchise and warm-hosting sponsors have helped to keep the required team spirit alive. Striking a perfect balance not only with the team combinations but with the dressing room atmosphere as a whole stands a main cause to CSK’s winning habit.

 

Post the injury to Kedar Jadhav, another important factor that has influenced the turn in tides is the rotation of players as well as the batting order. Playing without any wrist/mystery spinner, it was important to generate the unpredictability and doubt in the batsman’s mind. Dhoni from time to time ensured that his bowlers kept the shape and confidence intact. By virtue of rotating them according to the conditions, he’s played everyone into form. Similar scripts were portrayed in the batting. Allowing Rayudu to seek his natural game at the top, playing around with Faf and Billings to team’s benefits and also giving himself the time and space to settle in before initiating a carnage, Dhoni had his tactics perfectly in place throughout. Despite a few disastrous loses here and there, CSK were never not in contention for a Top 2 finish. One of the masterstrokes from Dhoni however came on the penultimate day of the league stage when he sent in the tailenders to create a chaos against the mighty impressive Kings XI Punjab. Chahar and Harbhajan disturbed the rhythm of the bowlers and neutralized the swing with a few slogs and wild swings. Eventually, it helped CSK to easily pocket the match in their own den.

csk8

Every game constitutes a game plan and every game plan demands an on-point execution. CSK this year have nailed every department with utmost glory. Under Captain cool, CSK always generated a sense of calm in panic situations. In such leagues, it’s important to fiddle around with your strengths and cover up for your weaknesses and Super Kings have pulled it off exceedingly well. Setting up a benchmark for all teams to follow, Chennai has certainly proved how experience reciprocates the given value and respect.