Category: _author:Arjit Dabas

MI Coach Mahela Jayawardene More Than a Mentor…

New Delhi: Son of a carpenter, life was never easy for Sri Lanka’s spin sensation Akila Dananjaya, who is the latest from Sri Lanka’s stable of mystery spinners. He has been one of the bright spots in the national team over the past couple of years when Sri Lankan cricket has been on bit of a decline.

He came to prominence after a breathtaking spell against India, when he dismantled the famed batting line-up, picking up 6-54 in Pallekele. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel were among the victims with no one being able to read him.

MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar later on helped India win the game, but Dananjaya’s performance didn’t go unnoticed as he became the only Sri Lankan to be bought in the auction, when Mumbai Indians picked him for Rs 50 lakh.

There, he is reunited with Mahela Jayawardene – the former Sri Lankan skipper who played a big role in Dananjaya’s rise.

He made his debut in the 2012 T20 World Cup, under Jayawardene, at the age of 18 without playing much first class cricket.

A lot of controversy was created and accusations were thrown at him that he had used money power and political influence to get into the team.

The 24-year-old had only played tier-three school cricket for Mahanama Vidyalaya when he was called up to bowl in the nets for Sri Lanka ahead of Pakistan tour in 2011.

There, Jayawardene and then coach Graham Ford were left stunned by what they saw. He had seven variations and could bowl the leg- spinner, googly, doosra and the off-spinner.

His first professional match was for Wayamba United in the Sri Lanka Premier League, where he played under Jayawardene’s captaincy.

Wayamba’s coach Trevor Bayliss was mighty impressed by what he saw. “What’s been really good to see is his temperament, for a guy who hasn’t played at this level before. The control with which he bowls his various deliveries is impressive, but he’s also shown a lot of poise at the big moments, and a tendency to ignore what’s going on around him and do what he does,” he was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

“The challenge for him will come when batsmen get a better look at him and begin to work him out,” Bayliss added.

“But he has the basics there to make him a good bowler regardless, and maybe in future his focus might be on the more orthodox aspects of spin bowling.”

In 19 ODIs so far for Sri Lanka, he has picked up 21 wickets at an economy of just below 5. His T20I record isn’t the most impressive as he has 12 wickets in 15 games at an economy of just below 8.

Dananjaya didn’t have the best of debuts in the IPL, where he ended with figures of 0/47 in 4 overs but this will surely be a learning curve for him.

You can’t help but feel that this is only the beginning of the Dananjaya story!

IPL 2018: Despite Injury Setback, MD Nidheesh’…

New Delhi: It was supposed to be the biggest day of his life but it ended in heartbreak as 26-year-old fast bowler MD Nidheesh suffered a knee injury which cut short his trial with the Mumbai Indians.

“I had given up hopes of playing in the IPL, but then I got a call from Tinu Sir who told me that Mumbai Indians had inquired about me. I just asked him if I stand any chance of getting picked,” said Nidheesh, while talking to Mumbai Indians TV.

He was eventually picked on base price of Rs. 20 lakh by Mumbai Indians in the auction and he couldn’t hold his excitement.

“I was informed by a media person and I didn’t know how to express it. I was really excited and thankful to god and my parents,” Nidheesh said, recollecting the moment.

He has been making big strides for Kerala in the domestic circuit, impressing everyone with his pace and ability to swing the ball – much like state’s other star cricketer S.Sreesanth.

“He has a nice clean action and a deadly out-swinger. He can consistently clock above 145-kph and that makes him a valuable asset for any team,” says his long-time coach NA Sunil, during a telephonic conversation with Cricketnext. Sunil has been with the bowler for the past 8 years.

“What stands out for me is his hardwork and dedication. If he sets himself a goal, then he goes all out to achieve it. He was desperate to seal a spot in the IPL and I am really happy that the Mumbai Indians showed faith in him. Sreesanth and Yohannan have spoken highly about him so he certainly has the talent to make it big,” Sunil adds.

Former India pacer Tinu Yohannan, who is also the Kerala bowling coach has played a key role in Nideesh’s development and also helped him deal with the injury.

“He had a fantastic Ranji Trophy season and was disappointed when he got injured. He missed important tournaments(Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy) but we made him go through the rehab, he was called for the Kerala camp (Vijay Hazare Trophy) to Chennai and there he showed a lot of improvement,” says Yohannan.

He feels his maturity and clarity of thought will hold him in good deed going ahead.

“He has a good head on his shoulders and executes the plans well. He needs someone to show faith in him and he can deliver. If he can maintain the consistency he showed in Ranji Trophy, then he will surely be in contention for the national call-up,” Yohannan adds.

Though this might be his first stint with an IPL team, Nidheesh was earlier a net bowler for Kochi Tuskers Kerala. There, he had rattled the likes of VVS Laxman, Kedar Jadhav and Brendon McCullum.

In Mumbai Indians, Nidheesh will be sharing the dressing room with the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins, Mustafizur Rahman and Mitchell McClenaghan while working under the watchful eyes of former New Zealand great Shane Bond.

Yohannan backs his ward to come back stronger from the experience.

“I think he might play a couple of games but even if he doesn’t he will learn a lot from the experience of sharing the dressing room with such big names. He will return as a much better bowler for sure,” says Yohannan.

A lot of people in Kerala will be watching to see if Nidheesh can indeed live up to the expectations and carry on the state’s legacy of producing high quality fast bowlers.

IPL 2018 Analysis: Delhi Daredevils — Strength…

After ten seasons of IPL, if there is one team that has continuously failed to live up to the hype, it’s the Delhi Daredevils. The capital based franchise has been instrumental in introducing big names such as AB de Villiers, David Warner to the league, but has surprisingly let them go. Delhi often lose the season at the auction table, but it seems like a different story this year, as the assembled squad with Ricky Ponting as coach looks formidable on paper. Local lad Gautam Gambhir has returned and will lead the team. Big hitting Glenn Maxwell is also back in the Daredevils camp.

After being consistent underperformers, this might well be the year for Delhi and we take a look at their strengths, weaknesses and also predict where they’d finish.


Captain Reliable – In Gautam Gambhir, Delhi have a captain who knows what it takes to win the IPL. He has delivered for Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi will be hoping that he can do the same for them after investing Rs 2.80 crore in him. He knows how to work with the younger players and is also an asset for the team in terms of getting the crowds to the stadium. The only drawback might be a clash of personalities with coach Ricky Ponting – as both are aggressive in nature – which could hamper the team.

Pacers Aplenty – Delhi could have a potential pace bowling attack of Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Mohammed Shami and Chris Morris. Though, Rabada and Boult are likely to play in rotation but Delhi has a lot of options on paper. They will be hoping that the track at Kotla supports them and is not a low-slow pitch. In Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan, the team has more than decent domestic bowlers, who have proven themselves in the league.

World Class Openers – Gambhir will have more than able supportive opening partner in Colin Munro. For back up Delhi have Jason Roy and also local talent such as Manjot Kalra and Prithvi Shaw. Gambhir’s job will be to provide the stability so that his partner from the other end can go berserk. Delhi will certainly be a team to watch this year!


Inexperienced middle-order – Delhi’s middle-order is prone to collapses and that is something they will have to guard against. Pant, Maxwell and Iyer are all big hitters but none of them are as reliable as Delhi would like. A lot of responsibility will lie on Iyer to provide stability to this batting line-up.


Glenn Maxwell was the key player for Punjab, but after a rollicking start to his IPL career in UAE, where he announced himself, Maxwell hasn’t been as consistent as he would like to be. With a strike-rate of 164.50 and 6 half-centuries to his name, he certainly has the x-factor.

In Ponting, Maxwell has a coach who trusts him and backs him to deliver, something a player like Maxwell needs. Also, in this Delhi line-up he can just focus on his batting without the burden of captaincy.


It would be a real disappointment to see this Delhi team miss out on the top 4 and they should be one of the top two teams. A likely championship contender on paper.

IPL Gives You Confidence to Succeed in Interna…

Karun Nair has been quite a journeyman when it comes to the Indian Premier League, having plied his trade at Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Daredevils over the years.

This season, the 26-year-old was bought by Kings XI Punjab for a whopping 5.60 crore. In fact, Nair was one of the players who announced himself at the IPL before eventually getting the India call-up.

“IPL has played a huge role for me, as a domestic player playing in the IPL and doing well gives you the confidence as you’re playing against international quality. I was lucky enough to play with the Royals. They put me out there and gave me confidence. I am also thankful that they gave me sufficient time to make an impact,” said Nair in an exclusive chat with Cricketnext.

After gaining prominence with the IPL, he went onto play for India and became the second triple-centurion after Virender Sehwag, as he smashed an unbeaten 303 against England in Chennai. However, he went onto play just three more innings before being dropped from the squad.

Talking about the period, Nair added that he has worked on the mental aspect and when the chance arises, he will come back as a better player.

“I have learnt that it is important to maintain an emotional balance and not go overboard with things. Now, it doesn’t affect me as much as it did before. I can only do my bit and score at the domestic level. Rest is upto the selectors and the team management, what I do know is that I will be a better player next time I get an opportunity,”

He added that he was looking forward to meet his team director at Kings XI Punjab, Virender Sehwag and pick things from him.

“He is separate from any other cricketer in terms of his fearlessness and the way he played his game. I can’t be like him but I will have a word with him. He will understand my situation (of having scored and then being dropped) better. If his style works for me, then I will certainly work on it,” Nair said.

Kings XI have a unique situation with the core batting group having three batsmen from Karnataka, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal along with Nair.

“It’s certainly an advantage playing together, we understand each other’s game really well and it will be exciting to play together. We have a very well rounded team and I am looking forward to an exciting season ahead,” he said.

Nair was also all praise for first time IPL captain Ravichandran Ashwin, who will be leading a T20 side for the first time. Calling him an innovative captain, Nair said, “I am excited to play under him. I have know him for the past two-three years and he is a really smart guy. He thinks on his feet and is a forward thinking captain. ”

Though he added that he hasn’t had a word on the role the team has in mind for him yet, but he is working on his strengths and is confident to deliver whatever the team management expects.

Kings XI fans will certainly be hoping that Nair settles in quickly and delivers for the franchise as they look to win their first ever IPL title.

IPL 2018 Analysis: Kolkata Knight Riders – Str…

Kolkata Knight Riders are always one of the teams to watch out for in the Indian Premier League. The team owned by Shah Rukh Khan always has some big names in the line-up, but that’s where KKR fans will be slightly disappointed as no big Indian players are in the team. With inspirational captain Gautam Gambhir going back to Delhi, KKR have trusted Dinesh Karthik – who became an instant hero with a last ball six against Bangladesh – to take over the reins. We take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the KKR team and also predict where they’d finish in this year’s IPL.


Solid Opening Combination

With the ever reliable Gautam Gambhir departing, it means Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa will be the likely openers, with Sunil Narine being the other contender. This makes the opening combination not only explosive but also stable. Lynn has the ability to single-handedly win games with the bat and KKR will be banking on the Australian to deliver when it matters. The openers will be the key for Kolkata if they are to pose any significant challenge for the title.

Spinning Options

In Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, KKR easily has the best spinning options on paper. All three are more than handy with the bat also. They will be hoping that the pitch at Eden Gardens backs the slower bowlers, which hasn’t been the case in recent times. But whenever these three get favourable conditions, you can expect KKR to be in the game till the last ball.

In-form Captain

Dinesh Karthik’s recent heroics will mean he will come into the tournament on a high and with runs under his belt. That will also help him settle in the role of the captain and help him earn the respect of his teammates. With an impressive showing in the IPL, Karthik will all but seal a spot in the limited-overs setup of the Indian team going ahead and that should be motivation enough for him to perform.


Inexperienced Middle-order

Dinesh Karthik is likely to be the mainstay of what will be a rather inexperienced middle order. KKR have invested heavily in U-19 star Shubhman Gill but it remains to be seen how he will square up against some of the best bowlers in the world. Other than that, Ishank Jaggi, Andre Russell and Nitish Rana are the other likely contenders and none inspire confidence. If openers fail to provide decent starts, it could well spell trouble for KKR.

Pace Attack

An attack led by Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson can never really be a weakness, but again KKR have decided to invest in U-19 pacers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi. Their performances might well be crucial for the team. Vinay Kumar is also no longer a force he used to be a couple of years back. With Johnson only playing in the IPL, his form will surely be a worry. That means over-reliance on Starc and if he gets injured or fails to deliver, then it might well look like a rookie attack.

Over-reliance on Youth

If teams had to be judged by their youth power, then KKR will surely be a top team, but as IPL has shown, any good team needs to be a mixture of youth and experience. Gill, Nagarkoti and Mavi were certainly the stars of India’s U19 journey, but IPL is a step above. It will be interesting to see how they react to being thrust into the spotlight in front of an unforgiving Eden crowd, that being said, they could easily rise to the occasion and turn out to be the stars of the tournament.

Trump Card

Nagarkoti remains one of the big bets for KKR. The pacer was impressive in the U-19 World Cup, consistently clocking above 140kph and rattling opposition batsmen. It will be exciting to watch him run into bowl to some of the best batsmen in the world.


Kolkata might find the going a bit tough this season and my prediction is that they are likely to finish in the bottom half of the table.

‘Changed Our Buying Strategy to Include Stars,…

New Delhi: After a mega auction, we are just weeks away from what promises to be one of the most exciting IPL seasons.

One of the team’s to look out for this year is the Kings XI Punjab, who have gone for an overhaul. They only retained Axar Patel from last year’s squad and started the auction with almost a clean slate.

The team has bought well, going in for a strong Indian core, investing in match winners and big names like KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle among others, a move away from its previous strategy of investing in young players and unknown quantities.

For Yuvraj, it is also a homecoming of sorts as he returns to the franchise where it all began for him. With end coming near, Yuvraj will be hoping to turn back the clock in Mohali and once again entertain a huge legion of fans across the country.

The team will be led by Ravichandran Ashwin, which will be something worth keeping an eye on. Though no longer in the picture as far as India’s limited overs setup is concerned, Ashwin remains one of the smartest brains in the cricketing world and it will be interesting to see how he copes up with this new challenge.

Ahead of the season, Cricketnext caught up with owner of Kings XI Punjab Mohit Burman, who talked about the team’s journey in the league so far and also the road ahead for the franchise.

As IPL is set to enter its 11th year, what according to you has changed in all this time?

Certainly a lot has changed; we have concentrated on taking our game to the next level. Some teams haven’t survived. Some have faced suspension and have returned. We have had our own hiccups but have been here for 11 years and I hope to be here for the next 11.

What has been your most memorable moment so far in these 10 years?

The performance in 2014, that was certainly the most memorable moment, reaching the final and finishing 4 points ahead of our closest competitors. Not to forget, we were also unbeaten during the UAE leg of the tournament.

Kings XI Punjab seems to have gone for a strong Indian core this time around? Was that a strategy while going into the auction?

Earlier we were a bit light in this department (Indian players) and were clever thinkers in terms of spending the money. But our buying strategy has changed to include more stars as well as include the youngsters and give the best possible XI to the coaches so that we can win the tournament.

With the teams chopping and changing every year, is it tough to build a team which fans can relate to?

That maybe true to a certain extent but the teams and BCCI have kept this is mind. That is why you have the retention rule and also the right to match card. The whole idea is to keep the core together and then add/subtract whatever you dislike.

Kings XI Punjab is the only team in this year’s edition which is playing home matches in another city? Do you feel crowd turnout is a problem in Mohali?

The crowd turnout is not a problem at all, because it is such a long tournament it involves so many matches, sometimes it becomes difficult to keep the momentum and the enthusiasm going. That’s why we will be playing some of our home games in Indore. Also, this has been done keeping in mind BCCI’s policy of taking the game to different parts of the country.

With Ashwin leading the ranks, Punjab is the only side to have a bowler as a captain, does that make you a bit nervous?

A few nerves yes but I am looking forward to what should be an exciting season. Hodge and Sehwag have made a consensual decision and I totally agree with it. I feel this year you’re going to see one of our best performances ever.

Captaincy More About Responsibility Rather Tha…

New Delhi: Ravichandran Ashwin is all set for a new challenge as the captain of Kings XI Punjab in the upcoming IPL season and the off spinner said that he sees it as a great responsibility rather than added pressure.

“Leadership can be seen as pressure, power but for me it comes with a lot of responsibility. I will try to get the bowlers up to speed and try to get the best out of them irrespective of their quality. It’s not about today or tomorrow but we have two years ahead of us and I am confident we can shape this team into a really strong unit,” Ashwin said at Kings XI Punjab’s jersey launch.

This will be the first time Ashwin will be leading a team in T20 but he has captained Tamil Nadu before, in fact he led a team bereft of stars. The team eventually ended up winning the Vijay Hazare trophy that year (2009) under his captaincy.

“I’d like to win the trophy here as well, I still remember there was a bit of void in that team (Tamil Nadu) as a lot of stars had left due to ICL. The selectors backed me with the job but a lot has changed since, I have matured a lot and I am looking forward to the challenge (captaining in T20),” he added.

One of the key reasons behind Ashwin’s rise has been the captaincy of MS Dhoni, both at Chennai Super Kings as well as the Indian team. When asked whether Dhoni’s leadership will inspire Ashwin the captain, the twerker said that he will try to take the best qualities of every skipper he has played under.

“Not just Dhoni, I have had the honour of playing under different captains throughout my career. I will try to inculcate the best of every captain I have played with,” the off-spinner added.

He also said that he will take help from Viru or Yuvi when required, “Of course, both of them have been my captain at different stages, they have played a big role in who I am. I won’t hesitate to take advice when required,”

Talking about his teams weaknesses and strengths, Ashwin said that wicket-keeping is considered a perceived weakness for the Kings XI but it isn’t something that bothers him.

“Every team has their own weaknesses and strengths, people might see this (wicket-keeping) as a weakness for us but as far as I am concerned, a keeper only has to take six balls in an average T20 game, so if our keeper can do it then it will be well and good,” he said.

Ashwin is no longer in the limited overs setup as far as the national team are concerned and he ruled out using IPL as a platform to get back into the scheme of things. “No” was his snappy reply when questioned about it.

South Africa vs India, 2nd ODI in Centurion: T…

New Delhi: Yuzvendra Chahal starred with his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs as India crushed South Africa by nine wickets to go 2-0 up in the six-match series, at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday. Chahal (5/22) and Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) helped the visitors bundle out South Africa for 118, which is also the lowest score by any side at the venue, batting first. Later, Shikhar Dhawan slammed his 24th ODI fifty and put on a 93-run stand with skipper Virat Kohli to get the team over the line.

Cricketnext takes a look and analyses the performance of each player in the match.

Shikhar Dhawan: Rating 8.5: Verdict: Very Good

Shikhar Dhawan was at his brutal best as he hit a quick fire half-century and ensured that India didn’t have to face any trouble while chasing the total. He stayed unbeaten on 51 off 56 balls with 9 boundaries, with the South African bowlers failing to pose any kind of trouble to the left-hander.

Rohit Sharma: Rating 2: Verdict: Poor

Rohit Sharma failed yet again and was dismissed for 15, after hitting a couple of boundaries and a six. The tour of South Africa has been a big disappointment for the batsman so far with both the red and the white ball. He will be hoping to find form in the remaining matches, otherwise questions of him being a flat track bully might again come to the fore.

Virat Kohli: Rating 8.5: Verdict: Very Good

It wasn’t much of a challenge for the finest limited overs player with a low target of 119, Kohli slammed an unbeaten 46 as he continued his fine form for India. He hit four boundaries and a six in his innings. He was smart with his captaincy as well, keeping the pressure on the South Africans and using the wrist-spinners beautifully in partnership.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Rating 8.5: Verdict: Very Good

Bhuvneshwar was again impeccable with the new ball, getting the wicket of Amla, who was South Africa’s biggest threat with du Plessis and de Villiers missing. He conceded just 19 runs from his 5 overs and ensured that South Africa never got off to a flying start.

Hardik Pandya: Rating 2: Verdiuct: Poor

If there was anyone who had a really bad day on the field, it was Hardik Pandya. He is still far from a 10-over bowler and needs to improve his bowling considerably if he is to be a genuine all-rounder. He conceded 34 runs from his 5 overs. He took 2 catches, and was safe in the field. His skills with the bat weren’t required by the team.

Jasprit Bumrah: Rating 8.5: Verdict: Very Good

Bumrah’s services too weren’t required in full tilt, with the pacer bowling only 5 overs and conceding 12 runs in total. He got the wicket of Tahir and also bowled 1 maiden over.

Kuldeep Yadav: Rating 9.5: Verdict: Excellent

Kuldeep Yadav continued his fine form from the first game and picked up three wickets, conceding only 20 runs. South Africa haven’t been able to pick him at all and trying to play him off the pitch isn’t helping their cause either. He bowled 25 dot balls in 6 overs, which shows that the opposition didn’t know how to tackle him at all. Kuldeep will be looking to continue the same way in the remaining ODIs and build on his partnership with Chahal.

Yuzvendra Chahal: Rating 10: Verdict: Excellent

Yuzvendra Chahal registered his career best figures of 5/22 and spun a web around the Proteas. He wasn’t afraid to give the ball air and was aided by some ordinary shot selection by the South Africans. He bowled in tight channels and seemed to have a plan for every batsman. His figures were second best by a spinner in South Africa, behind Nicky Boje’s 5/21 against Australia. Overall, Chahal’s figures are second-best for India against South Africa, behind only Sunil Joshi’s 5/6 in Nairobi. This was Chahal’s maiden five-for. South Africa will need to find an answer to Chahal-Kuldeep combo or this series might well be a clean sweep for the visitors.

Ajinkya Rahane: Rating N/A: Verdict: N/A

MS Dhoni: Rating N/A: Verdict: N/A

Kedar Jadhav: Rating N/A: Verdict: N/A

Duminy Expects India to Provide a Stiff Fight …

Durban: Fresh from their victory at Johannesburg, South African batsman JP Duminy expects India to provide close contest during the six-match ODI series and improve their modest record.

The first ODI will be played at the Kingsmead Oval on Thursday.

“India are a phenomenal ODI side and they’ve managed to compete in all conditions around the world. You don’t expect anything less from them. They have a few new faces and few young players but also a lot of talent,” Duminy said.

“They have been exposed to the IPL scene and they will be competitive in the series. Even though we won the first two Test matches, India competed and that’s what you want to see from high profile teams. India being the worlds No. 1 ranked team, you expect nothing less from them.”

Batsmen from both sides struggled during the Test series on bowler-friendly pitches. Duminy said that the ODI pitches will be more batsmen friendly, but added that the India’s top-order batsmen will have to improve their poor showing from 2013.

“The pitches are going to be more batsmen friendly, I think. Its probably going to be high-scoring games across the country. And that’ll obviously bring the teams closer together. The key fundamentals for me in One-day cricket are partnerships with ball and bat. The team that gets that right has the best chance of winning, said Duminy.

South Africa will also be keeping a close eye on their preparation for the 2019 World Cup as this ODI series begins.

Duminy said that a lot of changes have happened in how teams now approach their middle overs.

"It depends on the make up of your team. If you look back to a team like England, who bats quite deep they probably bat until 10 or 11 at times I guess they can afford to lose a couple of wickets in the middle in trying to be a little aggressive. And that’s worked for them over a period of time.

"For our team, its about understanding whats the make up and how do we best get to a 300-past score. These days, even 300 is not good enough. Even with 350, you’re still not guaranteed a win. So, its about understanding whats the make-up, what each players role is and understanding how to go about that role, he said.

"There’s going to be a lot of shifting I would think leading up to the World Cup so guys will want to understand their role, understand their game and understand what brand of cricket we want to play going into 2019. Its going to be an intriguing phase not only for our team but for all teams.”

Last but not the least, Duminy said he was looking forward to reuniting with Mumbai Indians at the 2018 IPL.

“Obviously I have been part of the IPL for a number of years so playing against the Indian team, you do end up playing against a lot of your potential teammates in the IPL.

"But right now, you know you’re going to be competitive, you want to win and you want to put big performances against the opposition. I dont think we will see anything different, said Duminy.

"But yes, in a few months time, well be teammates (with Rohit Sharma at Mumbai Indians) and at that time, obviously it’ll be about putting the past in the past and concentrate on winning the IPL. I’m really happy to be back with the Mumbai Indians. It all started for me at Mumbai,” he signed off.

South Africa vs India Test Series: Team India …

India might have lost the series but a brave performance from Virat Kohli and Co in Johannesburg showed that the team is capable of performing outside the sub-continental as well. As the series comes to an end, we analyses the performance of each and every player who played for India in the three Test matches.

1. Shikhar Dhawan: Rating 2: Verdict: Very Poor

Shikhar Dhawan had a disastrous time as an opener. He played only one game and was dismissed for 16 in both the innings but he looked out of his depth against a quality South African bowling attack. Dhawan’s overseas form with the red ball hasn’t been impressive and he might find himself under pressure this year with India set to tour England and Australia as well. The fact that he was dropped after just one game also shows that team management might be losing their faith on him.

2. Murali Vijay: Rating 5: Verdict: Average

Murali Vijay has always been among the most reliable batsmen for India in overseas conditions. His technique of leaving the ball outside the off-stump is something that has aided him perform in tough conditions. Though, in this series, Vijay shuffled a lot and went for balls which were outside the off stump. This change in technique was rather surprising considering his previous technique had always aided him. He played some important knocks in difficult times, facing a lot of deliveries but 102 runs in 6 innings at an average of 17 showed how poorly India’s openers performed and that was one of the reasons why the team lost the series.

3. KL Rahul: Rating 3: Verdict: Poor

Although this was Rahul’s first Test in overseas conditions against quality bowlers, Rahul will be disappointed with the way he went about things. He has a tendency to lose concentration, which is something he will have to work on if he has to cement a spot as an opener in the team. This will be a learning experience for him and no doubt he will get more opportunities this year. Rahul managed to score only 30 runs in 4 innings at an average of 7.50.

4. Cheteshwar Pujara: Rating 6: Verdict: Average

Pujara was another batsman who was expected to perform better than he did. In the first two Tests, Pujara seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and also became the first Indian player to be run out twice in a Test match – achieving the rather unremarkable feat in Centurion. In the final Test, Pujara took 54 balls to get off the mark but played a very important knock in the context of the game. Pujara needs to be given the freedom to play his natural game. He might not be as athletic as some of the other players, but his patience and technique are the qualities that make him India’s best bet in toughest of conditions. He shouldn’t be forced to change that.

5. Virat Kohli: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good

For his batting, Virat Kohli deserves a 10 on 10. The Indian skipper was simply in a league of his own and was the only player in both the teams to score a century – an incredible 153 in Centurion. Every time he was at the crease, it seemed India would score runs. His favourite word ‘intent’ was something he showed in abundance. But his captaincy left a lot to be desired, the decision to drop Ajinkya Rahane for the first two Tests and then Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the second Test was shocking to say the least. His argument too didn’t seem to support the decision. In Shastri, Kohli has a coach he wants but sometimes you wonder whether Kohli needs another strong personality in the dressing room to bounce his ideas off. This was one of India’s best chances to record a series victory in South Africa and one hopes that Kohli has learnt from his mistakes for the other foreign tours coming up this year.

6. Rohit Sharma: Rating 3: Verdict: Poor

The fact that Rohit Sharma was able to make it to the team in place of Ajinkya Rahane – one of India’s most successful overseas performer was a surprise for many Indian fans. His selection was defended, saying he was the ‘in-form’ player but Rohit found out the hard way that scoring against a quality South African attack in difficult conditions is not as easy as slamming centuries against a hapless Sri Lankan bowling unit. Rohit scored 78 runs in 4 innings, with a best of 47. His shot selection left was questionable on more than one occasion and it will be difficult to for him to replace Rahane in the future.

7. Ajinkya Rahane: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good

Ajinkya Rahane played only 1 game – the final Test in Johannesburg – which had the toughest batting conditions in the series. But a feisty 48 in the second innings showed why Rahane should be one of the first names on the team sheet whenever India plays a Test match. His fielding abilities, especially in the slip cordon make him indispensable for the team. He must have been under tremendous pressure coming into the team but he showed his class and surely sealed a spot in the playing XI for the foreseeable future. His calm demeanor also makes him a perfect deputy to the aggressive Kohli. He will now be hoping that he won’t have to prove himself again and again, and that his impressive overseas record will speak for itself.

8. Hardik Pandya: Rating 5: Verdict: Average

Hardik Pandya scored a fantastic 93 in the first innings to show that he belongs to the Test arena – even drawing comparisons the great Kapil Dev, but he only managed to score 26 runs in the other 5 innings. In fact his run out led to Kapil Dev commenting that Pandya doesn’t deserve to be compared to him if he keeps throwing his wicket away. His shot selection too was ordinary in most of the innings. It seems that sometimes his attitude gets the better off Pandya and it is something he will need to reflect going ahead. He is known to be a quick learner and the team management must have had a talk with him about the same. The less said about his bowling, the better as he picked only 3 wickets and averaged 54 in the series.

9. Wriddhiman Saha: Rating 5: Verdict: Average

Over the years the role of a wicket-keeper has changed in world cricket and a good glovesman is also expected to contribute with the bat. Saha might be India’s finest stumper at the moment but his batting doesn’t seem to offer any hope in foreign conditions. He played only 1 game and scored 8 runs in the two innings. He injured his hamstring and was ruled out of the rest of the series after the 1st Test.

10. Parthiv Patel: Rating 4: Verdict: Poor

Parthiv Patel often finds himself playing in the most difficult of conditions and you might feel a bit unlucky for him. He seemed lacking in confidence and wasn’t at his best behind the stumps, he batted in the most precarious of situations – even opening the innings in Johannesburg, but the gutsy Parthiv showed a lot of fight and even hurt his finger, which led to him being taken off the field and replaced by Dinesh Karthik.

11. Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Rating 10: Verdict: Excellent

One of the biggest positives of the series was the fact that India found a true all-rounder in Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Not only was he lethal with the ball – picking 22 wickets at an average of 20.30 in two Test matches, but he was also effective with the bat, scoring 101 runs at an average of 33.66. In fact, his average was second only to Virat Kohli as far as Indian batsmen were concerned. It was indeed shocking to see him dropped for the second Test. Bhuvneshwar has proven himself to be a key bowler for India in all conditions and never deserved to be dropped.

12. Ravichandran Ashwin: Rating 7: Verdict: Good

Ashwin picked up 7 wickets in the two games that he played at an average of 30. The conditions weren’t the most favourable for the spinner, but he would be mightily disappointed with his showing in the second innings in Centurion, where he picked up only 1 wicket – that of Lungi Ngidi. The conditions in Centurion were the most favourable for the spinners and Ashwin performed well in the 1st innings, picking 4/113 and keeping India in the game. His batting was up to the mark and it showed why India consider him a genuine all-rounder in the team.

13. Mohammed Shami: Rating 7: Verdict: Good

Shami seemed to be one of the bowlers who had an off and on switch. Sometimes he would run in with intent, spearheading the attack and at other times he seemed to be going through his motions. His fantastic five-for won the Test for India at Johannesburg, where the batsman couldn’t get bat on ball when he was steaming in. Some baffling captaincy also seemed to put Shami off, as he simply didn’t bowl in the second session despite picking three wickets in the morning session on Day 4 of the second Test. He was key for India in the second innings but his performance in the first innings weren’t certainly up to the mark.

14. Jasprit Bumrah: Rating 9: Verdict: Excellent

It would be hard for anyone to say that this was Jasprit Bumrah’s first Test series. He made his debut in Cape Town and was thrown in the deep end straight away. The fact that he was preferred over Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma shows how much faith the team management has in him. Bumrah certainly repaid that faith as he picked up 16 wickets at an average of 25.21. He bowled the right line and never got carried away with the conditions on offer. He showed patience and was rewarded for that. Going ahead, he is certainly expected to be a key player for India across formats but his workload will have to be managed well by the think tank to ensure he doesn’t suffer any injury.

15. Ishant Sharma: Rating 8: Verdict: Good

Ishant Sharma has been one of the silent stars in the Indian bowling attack for the past few years. He again was terrific in the two matches he played as he picked 8 wickets at an average of 18.75. One of Ishant’s finest qualities has been his ability to bowl long spells in consistent areas. That might not show in the wicket column, but they play a crucial role in creating doubt in the batsmen’s mind. Other bowlers often reap the reward of his hardwork. He has certainly emerged as Kohli’s go to bowler when the going gets tough for the team.