Category: _author:Hardik Worah

Veteran Mithali to Newbie Jemimah – Meet India…

The Women’s World T20 will kick off on Friday with India taking on New Zealand at the Providence Stadium in Guyana. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side looks balanced on paper but with the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland, all placed in Group B with India, getting through to the semifinals will be a demanding task. Here’s a look at the 15 players tasked to represent India at the showpiece event.

Mithali Raj

Matches 82 | Runs 2176 | Average 36.88

The 35-year-old has been playing international cricket since 1999 and has managed to evolve as per the demands of the game. Someone with even a basic knowledge about women’s cricket will be well aware of her resume. Mithali’s consistency is second to none but she is not a dasher. The team management realised it and started to use her as an opener. She mostly operates at 100-120 strike rate and allows other batters to play freely. India have got quite a few big hitters in their squad and that makes Mithali’s role very important. However, she is someone who can always throw in a surprise as she did against Australia A last month, smashing an unbeaten 105 off just 61 balls. Mithali is one of the pioneers of the game and her experience will help other players to settle down in the event where the stakes will be high.

Smriti Mandhana

Matches 47| Runs 868 | Average 21.27

The left-hander is one of the sweetest timers of the ball and can take the game away in the space of few overs. Mandhana will be burdened with the responsibility of providing India quick starts and she has got the game to do it. She didn’t quite do justice to her talent in two successive editions of the World T20, and in her debut Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) stint for Brisbane Heat. However, she came to her own in the 2017 World Cup in England and played a couple of eye-pleasing knocks. It was her performance in the 2018 Kia Super League (KSL) that blew everyone away. The 22-year-old smoked 421 runs in nine innings at an average of 60.14 and a breathtaking strike rate of 174.68. Mandhana, however, has struggled to get going in the last couple of months, and India will hope she gets back to her best if they want to win the cup.

Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain)

Matches 88 | Runs 1703 | Average 27.91

Her ferocious knock of 171* in the semi-final against Australia completely changed the dynamics of the Indian women’s cricket. Harmanpreet calls Virender Sehwag her idol and bats with the same mantra of ‘see ball, hit ball.’ She made her international debut in 2009 but it took her 3-4 years to stamp her authority at this level. She became the first Indian player to play in the WBBL and KSL. Apart from leading the side, Harmanpreet’s role will be to provide that late surge, and also finish the innings when required. She’s a match-winner, and on her day, Harmanpreet can rip apart any bowling attack. She is also a very handy offspinner and can bowl those difficult overs when required.

Jemimah Rodrigues

Matches 14 | Runs 336 | Average 37.33

The new girl in town! She might be only 18 years old but Rodrigues has already made quite a name for herself. She made her Under-19 debut at the age of just 12 and that tells a story in itself. Rodrigues is only the second woman after Mandhana to score a double hundred in a 50-over cricket match. She hit 202 in just 163 balls in Aurangabad against Saurashtra in November 2017. She was rightly fast-tracked and made her India debut in February this year. Her scores of 37, 44, 50, 36, 57, 52* and 46 suggest she can be that game-changer up the order. Playing around the likes of Mithali and Mandhana will give her the freedom to play her natural game. Also, she is amongst the best fielders in the team.

Veda Krishnamurthy

Matches 53 | Runs 647 | Average 19.02

She’s an aggressive batter and a brilliant fielder, but can be inconsistent sometimes. The 26-year-old from Karnataka is currently going through a lean patch. Her performance in the ACC Women’s T20 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur and the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka was nothing but ordinary. Veda is still one of the best finishers in the team and that’s what will be expected of her in the World T20. She can be a nightmare for bowling attacks when in full flow.

Deepti Sharma

Matches 19 | Runs 95 | Wickets 18

Don’t let her size fool you! This is the same player who tonked 188 off 160 deliveries in an ODI against Ireland. She can bat. She can bowl. She can field. Deepti is a captain’s dream. The 21-year-old can be a floater when it comes to batting, but it’s her bowling that helps India build pressure on the opponents. She started playing cricket when she was only nine but got into state cricket around the age of 15. She is not one of those who needs specific roles to shine, just tell her to do something and Deepti will do it. And you need these types of players in the shortest format of the game.

Anuja Patil

Matches 42 | Runs 381 | Wickets 38

Patil is someone who provides India that much-required balance. She is equally good in both the departments and likes shouldering responsibilities. Despite being out of international contention sometime, Patil kept playing domestic cricket. She is the only Indian women cricketer to score a fifty and take three wickets in a T20I. She can contribute some way or the other and will have to play a vital role in the tournament.

Dayalan Hemalatha

Yet to make her debut

The all-rounder from Tamil Nadu has played three ODIs but is yet to make her T20I debut. The middle-order batter, who is also a handy offspinner, did well for India A against Australia and that helped her fetch in Indian ODI for their ODI series against England. She didn’t feature in any of the games but played three ODIs in Sri Lanka where she scored a crucial 35 in the second encounter. Unlike other players, Hemalatha only started playing competitive cricket at the age of 18. She made her debut for Tamil Nadu in 2011 before playing her first Challenger Trophy in 2016 and then for India A in 2017. She mostly opens for her state but will be asked to do the finishing work if she gets an opportunity.

Taniya Bhatia

Matches 20 | Runs 66 | Average 11

The 20-year-old from Chandigarh is one of the best wicketkeepers in India. It was her performance for India A and India Blue in the Challenger Trophy that earned her a spot in the India T20I squad for the tour of South Africa. Bhatia is yet to set the international stage on fire but her courageous knock of 68 in an ODI against Sri Lanka in September gave the team management such confidence that India have travelled to West Indies with just one wicketkeeper in their squad. She almost quit cricket at 17 after she faced a major loss of form but her family pulled her out of the funk. Three years later, she has turned it around in some fashion.

Poonam Yadav

Matches 43 | Wickets 61 | Average 13.34

The legspinner is India’s highest wicket-taker in this format. Poonam is captain’s go-to bowler and more often than not does the job for her team. The 27-year-old operates at an economy of 5.46 and is very difficult to get away. The second-ranked T20I bowler has featured in all the 20 T20Is that India has played this year and will lead the spin department which also comprises of Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Deepti and Patil. Poonam has been in good form of late and her exploits will be crucial to India’s chances.

Radha Yadav

Matches 9 | Wickets 9 | Average 19.88

Radha might not end up playing all the games but the left-arm spinner will always be there when/if needed. She only made her international debut in February 2018 and has the ability to bowl those tight spells. At 12, Radha got picked for Mumbai in the 2014-15 season but it was her switch to Baroda that brought her into national reckoning. She took nine wickets in six T20s and was picked for the T20I series against South Africa. She did her reputation no harm in Sri Lanka where she played all the five games. She hasn’t yet got the chance to showcase her skills with the bat in international cricket but it’s believed Radha can play the big shots as well.

Ekta Bisht

Matches 40 | Wickets 50 | Average 14.50

The experienced left-arm spinner has got the skills of bowling with the new ball and that might come very handy in the Caribbean. She is the only Indian bowler with a hat-trick to her name – v Sri Lanka in the 2012 World T20. Bisht, who is the first woman from Uttarakhand to play for India, has worked with India veteran Neetu David and the influence can be seen in her bowling. The 32-year-old has got tremendous control over her bowling and can bowl those tough overs inside the powerplay, and at death as well. Even if she doesn’t play in all the games, Bisht’s experience can come in very handy.

Mansi Joshi

Matches 2 | Wickets 1 | Average 32

India will be without Jhulan Goswami in this World T20 and the onus will be on Joshi to lead the pace attack. She played a couple of matches in the 50-over world cup last year and that will help her to tackle tough match situations. India have also dropped Shikha Pandey from the squad and that shows the believe they have in Joshi. The right-arm fast bowler is returning from a serious knee injury and will short on match practice. She can swing the new ball and her ability to bowl yorkers at the death can turn out to be pivotal.

Pooja Vastrakar

Matches 11 | Runs 85 | Wickets 12

Vastrakar is a perfect T20 player! She can run in quick and has the ability to tonk the ball hard. If used right, Vastrakar can turn out to be the game-changer for India. Playing only her second ODI, Vastrakar smashed 51 from No. 9 against Australia. She then followed it up with a 30 in the next match. They call her Chota Hardik (referring to Hardik Pandya) and her role will be no different the one Hardik performs for the men’s team.

Arundhati Reddy

Matches 5 | Wickets 4 | Average 30.75

The 21-year-old made her debut in September against Sri Lanka and looked impressive. Arundhati got all the support from her family from the very young age and has already played with Mithali for South Central Railways. Former Indian player and coach for the Indian Railways team Nooshin Al Khadeer and Hyderabad Cricket Association head coach Savita Nirala were instrumental in shaping her career. Joshi and Vastrakar might be the preferred pacers but Arundhati will get to learn a lot even if she doesn’t get a game.

Ranji Trophy Digest | Mixed Bag For India Star…

The 85th edition of Ranji Trophy, the most awaited first-class tournament in India got underway from November 1 with a total of record 37 participants. Out of 17 matches, only seven produced outright results with four of them coming from the Plate Group where all the nine new teams have been placed.

There were quite a few international stars playing for their respective teams but not one managed to come up with something special. However, the likes of Milind Kumar, Mohammed Mudhasir, Abrar Kazi and few other domestic players set the stage on fire to get the season rolling. There were three double hundreds, two hat-tricks, few face masks and a couple of off the field the incidents that made the first round of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy entertaining. Oh, and also, a total of 94 players made their first-class debut.

Cricketnext takes a look back at the Round One of Ranji Trophy:

Mixed outings for India stars

Cheteshwar Pujara turned out for Saurashtra against Chhattisgarh but batted in only one innings due to a sore neck. Pujara was on 30 when he was forced out but did return to add 26 runs more to his tally.

Tamil Nadu’s R Ashwin bowled 38.4 overs against Madhya Pradesh to finish with four wickets, while M Vijay could only manage 19 runs. Meanwhile, both Hanuma Vihari (19) and Parthiv Patel (25) got good starts but couldn’t convert it into something substantial.

All of these five players are in the Indian Test squad that will travel to Australia for the four-match series.

Milind Kumar: Sikkim’s one-man army

Having been reduced to 15 for 5 on Day 1 against Manipur, Sikkim needed something + someone extraordinary to pull them out of the woods, and that’s what Milind Kumar did. Milind smashed an astonishing 261 out of Sikkim’s first innings score of 372, which is 70% of his side’s total. However, 75 years ago in December 1943, great Vijay Hazare made 309 for the Rest against the Hindus in the final of the Bombay Pentangular of 1943-44. His team were dismissed for 387, which means a whopping 79.84% of the total came from Hazare.

Coming back to Milind, who hit a century on his debut for Delhi in 2011, was left out of the Ranji squad for this season. He was told that he will be kept on standby, and that’s when he got a call from Sikkim Cricket Association. Out of his 261, 202 came on a single day which also impressed former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. The 27-year-old smacked 39 fours and three sixes during his stay in the middle.

Sikkim initially had been reluctant to hire outstation professionals but after they failed to win a single match in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy, the state hired Milind, Gujarat’s Ishwar Chaudhary and Bipul Sharma, who has earlier played for Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The trio contributed heavily in this match and helped Sikkim thrash Manipur by an innings and 27 runs. Apart from his handy 45, left-arm spinner Bipul also scalped seven wickets in the match, while right-arm fast-medium Chaudhary too took the same number of wickets.

Meanwhile, domestic heavyweight Yashpal Singh, who played for Tripura last season, is captaining Manipur this year. The 36-year-old hit an unbeaten 132 in the second innings but couldn’t save his team from an embarrassing defeat.

Hat-tricks for Mohammeds

Two pacers named Mohammed from the northern most and southern most states of the country bagged hat-tricks on the second day of round one.

Jammu & Kashmir’s Mohammed Mudhasir became only the second bowler in the history of Ranji Trophy to pick up four wickets in four deliveries. Delhi’s Sankar Saini was the first person to achieve the feat in 1988 against Himachal Pradesh. Mudhasir dismissed Chetan Bist, Tajinder Singh Dhillon, Rahul Chahar and Tanvir Mashart Ul-Haq in four consecutive deliveries in the 99th over and became the first player from his state to pick up a hat-trick. The right-arm seamer completed the set via LBW dismissals; the first such instance in the first-class history. He returned figures of 5 for 90.

Despite Mudhasir’s heroics, J&K lost the match by 75 runs, courtesy Chetan Bist’s 159 in the first innings, Rahul Chahar’s 9 for 148 and Nathu Singh’s 4 for 122. This was Nathu Singh’s first Ranji game since October 2016. Irfan Pathan only managed scores of 14 and 35 and went wicketless in his first Ranji outing for J&K.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu’s M Mohammed became the sixth bowler from his state to claim a hat-trick in this tournament. He got rid of Yash Dubey, Rajat Patidar, only after he scored 196, and Mihir Hirwani in successive balls. Madhya Pradesh were bundled out for 393 runs but Tamil Nadu had to wait for almost two days to get a proper knock. Baba Indrajith, who was appointed as the skipper, commenced his season with a century as the match ended in a lackluster draw with both teams sharing a point each.

Lad junior vs Lad senior

Mumbai’s crisis-man Siddhesh Lad might have missed out on his seventh first-class hundred by just one run but the 26-year-old would be really happy that he got to showcase his skills to his father Dinesh Lad, who was hired by India Railways to be an observer for their side. In the process, Siddhesh also went past the 3000-run mark in first-class cricket. He hit 76 in the second innings as well.

Mumbai collected three points on the basis of the first-innings lead with Lad, Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dubey, Tushar Deshpande and Aditya Tare all chipping in. Dubey notched up his maiden first-class ton in only his second match. Meanwhile, Deshpande, who missed out on the last season, continued his superb Vijay Hazare Trophy form by registering his best innings bowling analysis – 6 for 70.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Harsh Tyagi, who was Man-of-the-match in the Under-19 Asia Cup final, picked up seven wickets and scored 39 off 142 deliveries for Railways in his first-debut.

Smog sees return of face masks

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The poor air quality in Delhi forced some players from Mumbai and Railways to play with the face masks. Mumbai batsman Siddhesh batted with a protective face mask on the opening day.

“Tushar (Deshpande) is not feeling well. He has been vomiting and complaining of headache and fever since he arrived in Delhi,” Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant told reporters.

This comes almost a year after when Sri Lankan players wore masks during a Test against India due to heavy smog in the city. In 2016, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had to cancel two Ranji Trophy encounters due to similar conditions.

Not-so-great start for defending champions

Vidarbha, who surprised everyone by winning the Ranji Trophy last season, didn’t have a great start to the competition as they gifted three points to Maharashtra. In reply to Maharashtra’s first innings total of 343, Vidarbha were bowled out for mere 120. Vidarbha, however, fought back well in the second innings on the back of Faiz Fazal’s 131, Akshay Wadkar 122*, Wasim Jaffer’s 63 and Aditya Sarwate’s 60.

“We don’t want to prove to anyone. We want to prove to ourselves. We won the Ranji Trophy because we played really well. Ranji Trophy can’t be won in a fluke” – Fazal, the Vidarbha skipper, told Cricketnext ahead of the tournament, and hopefully their performance in the second essay will give them confidence for the coming matches.

Wasim Jaffer: The marathon man

The 40-year old is featuring in his 22nd Ranji season. Since his debut in 1996/97, he has only missed the 2016-17 edition. However, the record for appearing in the most number of Ranji seasons is 29 by Chandrasekhar Sarwate (1936/37-1968/69). Jaffer made scores of 27 and 63 in this match. He is now only seven appearances away from breaking now-retired Devendra Bundela’s all-time Ranji record of 145 games.

Abrar Kazi schools Mizoram

Kazi, who shifted his base from Karnataka to Nagaland this season, scored his maiden double century and also picked up nine wickets in the match to help his team demolish Mizoram by an innings and 333 runs – biggest winning margin by a debutant in terms of innings victory. This is also the 12th biggest win in the history of the competition. Making his first-class debut for Karnataka in the 2013-14 season, Kazi only featured in nine games for the state.

Akshdeep Nath – Uttar Pradesh’s new commander

Nath, who was appointed as the captain of Uttar Pradesh, couldn’t have asked for a better start to their campaign. He himself scored 194 and got solid support from Mohammad Saif (126) and Priyam Garg (117*). This is only the sixth time three Uttar Pradesh batsmen have scored centuries in an innings. The 19-year-old pace sensation Shivam Mavi claimed five wickets in his debut match as Uttar Pradesh thrashed Goa an innings and 247 runs.

Debutants shine in Punjab’s opener

Mayank Markande, who was added to India’s 15-man squad for Emerging Teams Asia Cup, took a five-wicket haul in his very first game for Punjab. He also made an unbeaten 68 in the first innings. Another debutant Sanvir Singh scored 110, while Shubman Gill scored fifties in both the innings. This was Mandeep Singh’s first four-day game as captain for Punjab. Despite all the efforts, Andhra rode on Ricky Bhui’s 181 to pip Punjab’s first innings total of 414 by nine runs and take three crucial points.

Other records

Rajasthan’s Robin Bist went past 6000 runs in first-class cricket, while Himachal Pradesh’s Prashant Chopra, Odisha’s Biplab Samantray and Hyderabad’s Bavanaka Sandeep crossed the 3000-run mark.

Bishal Ghosh (201 vs Services) became only the third batsman from Tripura to score a double hundred in Ranji Trophy, with Yogesh Takawale (212 vs Hyderabad) and Vinayak Samant (200* vs Vidarbha) being the other two.

Manisankar Murasingh picked up seven wickets for 53 runs against Services – fourth best for Tripura in Ranji. Timir Chanda took 8 for 133 against Himachal Pradesh in 2011-12.

Assam’s paceman Ranjit Mali went past 100 wickets in Ranji Trophy.

Priyank Panchal, who had a remarkable 2016-17 season but failed to replicate it in 2017-18, started this edition with a century as Gujarat raced to a nine-wicket win over Baroda.

Social media watch

The victorious Uttar Pradesh team pose for a group picture.

Welcome to the big league!

What a year this has been for Mayank Markande.

Trendsetters

Highest match aggregate: Rajasthan v Jammu and Kashmir in Jaipur (1,121)

Highest innings total: Uttar Pradesh – 564 for 4 declared (v Goa)

Highest run-getter: Milind Kumar – 261 runs

Highest wicket-taker: Abrar Kazi – 9 wickets

Highest individual score: Milind Kumar (261 off 331 balls v Manipur)

Best bowling figures in an innings: Manisankar Murasingh (7 for 53 for Tripura v Services)

Best bowling figures in a match: Abrar Kazi (9 for 29 for Nagaland v Mizoram)

Most dismissals by a wicketkeeper: Rohit Motwani – 6 (Catches: 6, Stumpings: 0)

Highest partnership: Akshdeep Nath and Priyam Garg: 250 (for the fourth-wicket for Uttar Pradesh v Goa)

Total debutants: 94

Total bonus-point wins: 4

Total three-day finishes: 3

Total two-day finishes: 1

Kishan, Mavi and Other Youngsters To Watch Out…

The 2018-19 Ranji Trophy is set to get underway from Thursday (November 1) and it will be the most jam-packed edition in the history of the competition. India’s most prestigious domestic tournament will comprise of 37 teams, including nine newbies, and a total of 160 matches will be played across different venues over the course of almost 100 days. The tournament will be filled with quite a few international and domestic stalwarts but it will also provide all the youngsters with an opportunity to get themselves in the selectors’ lens for the international or India A call-up.

Here, Cricketnext looks at five young players who will be looking to catch the eye in the 85th edition of Ranji Trophy.

Ishan Kishan

While his compeer Rishabh Pant has already represented India in all the three formats, Kishan is yet to take that next step in his career. The wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand has regularly been featuring in India A squads but this season will give him a chance to push his case for higher things. The left-handed dasher had a terrific 2016-17 edition where he scored 799 runs in 10 matches, decorated with three hundreds and two fifties, to help Jharkhand make their maiden semi-final appearance. That being said, consistency is Kishan’s biggest challenge. He did manage 484 runs in six games next season but not once breached the three-figure mark. Kishan can rip apart any bowling attack on his day but what selectors would want him to do is score runs on a consistent basis.

Kishan led Jharkhand in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy where he smashed 405 runs in nine encounters. The eastern state remained unbeaten throughout the group stage before losing a thriller against Delhi in the semi-final. The 20-year-old had an amazing Deodhar Trophy where he became the second youngest batsman after Sourav Ganguly (18-year-old) to hit a century in the final. However, Kishan is set to miss a couple of matches for his state as he will travel to New Zealand with India A for the last two four-day games and thee 50-over matches. India doesn’t really have too many options in the wicketkeeping department apart from Rishabh Pant. The stalwarts like Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel and injured Wriddhiman Saha won’t be there for too long and if Kishan can succeed in amassing big runs this season, it won’t be too long before he once again finds himself in the same dressing room with this Under-19 teammate Pant.

Anmolpreet Singh

With scores of 50, 113, 267, 12, 40, 252* and 19 in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, Anmolpreet couldn’t have asked for a better start to his first-class career. The right-hander mustered 753 runs at a Bradmenesque average of 125.50 in just five matches to end as tournament’s fourth highest run-scorer. He was then straightaway drafted to the India Blue squad for the Duleep Trophy where he scored an eye-pleasing 96 runs to play a key role in helping his team to beat India Red by an innings and 187 runs in the final.

The 20-year-old has also represented Indian Board President’s XI a couple of times which suggest he is already on the selectors’ radar. He only played three games in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy but still managed to smash two centuries. Virat Kohli is the epitome of consistency and it comes as no surprise that the India captain is who Anmolpreet looks up to. Like Kohli, Anmolpreet bats at No. 4 in red-ball cricket, and like Kohli, Anmolpreet will hope his run-scoring juggernaut never ends.

“I don’t really have any goals as such. I just want to focus on the present and do well for my team.” Anmolpreet told Cricketnext. “I always try to score big centuries. Once I cross that three-figure mark, I try to keep going. Of course, the next target is to play for India A but I don’t want to take any pressure. I just want to play my natural game. We (Punjab) have a good mix of young and experienced players, so the key will be how we utilise our resources. Young players like me, Shubman (Gill) and Abhishek (Sharma) will have to bat with more responsibility.”

Tushar Deshpande

The right-arm paceman from Mumbai made his first-class debut against Tamil Nadu in the 2016-17 season and scalped four wickets in the first innings. In total, he picked up 21 wickets at an average of 32.71 in eight games that season but couldn’t find a place in the next edition.

However, it was his performance in this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy that forced everyone to sit up and take notice. The 23-year-old bowled with some serious pace and was one of the catalysts of Mumbai’s third Vijay Hazare title. In the three knock-out games, Deshpande claimed 10 wickets, including a five-wicket haul. It doesn’t take too long to catch everyone’s eye in Indian cricket fraternity if you have the ability to bowl quick and cause damage and that’s what Deshpande will look to do the same in the upcoming tournament. But can you expect anything else from someone who has played khadoos brand of cricket ever since he took up the ball?

“I know every bowler wants to be the highest wicket-taker in the tournament but all I want to do is build on my Vijay Hazare form. I think I could have done slightly better in Vijay Hazare. I played with the attacking mindset in the knock-outs and that helped me. I get to bowl 10 overs in 50-over cricket but here I will get to bowl close to 17-18 overs a day and I will play with the same aggressive mindset,” said Deshpande.

“Aggressiveness is something that defines me and I can’t leave that. I have good pace and that’s a huge advantage for me. Pace ke hi chalte agge badhunga (It will be because of my pace I will move forward in my career). I missed out on the 2017-18 edition because of injuries but this time I have focused a lot on my fitness. Having played a decent amount of cricket for Mumbai, now I try to read the game and bowl accordingly.”

Shivam Mavi

Mavi is yet to make his debut in first-class cricket but the 19-year-old pace sensation has already made a name for himself in a very short span of time. The right-arm pacer took nine wickets in six encounters at an astonishing average of 18.88 during India’s successful campaign at the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year. He was then bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 3.2 crore in IPL 2019. Mavi didn’t end up with great numbers but he did manage to impress everyone with his effort.

He got to work with the likes of Jacques Kallis and Simon Katich and that helped him both physically and mentally. Mavi made his debut for Uttar Pradesh in this year’s Vijay Hazare and picked up a hat-trick in his very first game against Saurashtra. He ended the competition with eight wickets to his name and managed to break into Uttar Pradesh’s Ranji Trophy squad. The red-ball cricket is altogether a different beast and it will only help him to get better. Mavi is still very young but he will want to make a solid first impression.

“Honestly, domestic cricket is tougher than playing for India A or in the IPL,” said Mavi. “You get slow and flat wickets in India, nothing really happens from the pitch. Batsmen play shots unexpectedly; the preparation is also less as you don’t get videos for all the players. In IPL and India A, you know everyone’s strength and weaknesses. In domestic cricket, you have to analyse as you play.”

Pappu Roy

Pappu Roy’s journey to the top-level is one of the most heart-wrenching stories one can hear. The 23-year-old had to fight his way out of hell to make it to the Odisha Ranji Trophy squad. The left-arm spinner made his debut for the state in the Vijay Hazare and picked up 14 wickets at an average of 18.42 and an economy rate of just 3.79. Odisha managed only two wins in eight matches but Roy was able to create such impact that he found a place in the Ajinkya Rahane-led India C side for the Deodhar Trophy. He took six scalps in two matches, including the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Manoj Tiwary and Hanuma Vihari who have all played for India.

The second chapter has only begun for Roy and he will want to make sure the book doesn’t end here.

“I am happy I was able to perform in my first Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy,” gushed Roy. “It felt good to play with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina. I learnt a lot from them and that’s a huge thing for me. Now I want to keep working hard and do well in Ranji Trophy. As of now, I haven’t planned anything, will see how it goes.”

Meet the Windies – All You Need to Know About …

The 2018 Asia Cup is done and dusted and India will now shift their focus to the two-match Test series against Windies, starting October 4 in Rajkot. The last time these two nations were involved in a Test series in India was in 2012 where the home side won both the games to give Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar a meritorious farewell.

Windies are more confident in the limited-overs format but their recent record in the red-ball cricket hasn’t been at all. They have lost only one out of five Tests in 2018 and have also managed to defeat Pakistan and England in their own backyard in the last couple of years. The Jason Holder-led side are coming into this series at the back of a dominating series victory over Bangladesh, while India will still be rueing about their 1-4 defeat in England.

Virat Kohli’s men will enter into this series as clear favourites and will look to sort out few of their issues ahead of the all-important Australian tour, but no way they will take this Windies team for granted. The 15-member squad that has flown from the Caribbean looks good on paper and has the potential to give India a run for their money.

Before the action starts on Thursday at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, in Rajkot let’s know a little bit more about the 15 men from the West Indies who will go toe-to-toe with the top-ranked Test side.

Batsmen

Kraigg Brathwaite

Matches 49 | Runs 3263 | Average 37.94

With 49 Tests to his name, Brathwaite is Windies’ most experienced player in terms of numbers. When he is at the crease, you can sense a tinge of calmness in the air. The right-handed opener, who made his Test debut in 2011, doesn’t like to complicate things when he is in the middle. He has also represented his country twice (2010 and 2012) in the Under-19 World Cup. When it comes to batting, Windies heavily rely on Brathwaite and Shai Hope. It was Brathwaite’s unbeaten scores of 142 and 60 that helped Windies pull off a historic five-wicket win over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. The twin tons from Hope at Leeds might have stolen all the limelight but Brathwaite’s knocks of 134 and 95 were equally important in Windies’ famous win over England. Having scored eight hundreds and 17 half-centuries in this format, Brathwaite doesn’t have a great conversion rate. In the seven Tests that he has played against India, the 25-year-old has hit four fifties but not once converted it into a century. Brathwaite will be expected to tackle India’s new-ball attack, meanwhile, his solid footwork will give him a slight edge over his companions while facing spinners.

Kieran Powell

Matches 36 | Runs 1881 | Average 28.07

The left-hander took a break from cricket from July 2014 to January 2016 following a clash with the national board. He then tried his hand at baseball as he attempted to become the first professional cricketer to earn a contract in the Major League Baseball (MLB). Things didn’t quite work out in the tryouts with the MLB clubs New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers and Powell had to abandon the game after a few months. After staying away from professional cricket for almost two years, he made his return in early 2016.

Known for his aggressive stroke-play, Powell made his One-Day International debut in July 2009 but could never cement his place. He made his Test debut against India in 2011 but faced the same fate in the longest format of the game. However, he did score two hundreds in the same Test against Bangladesh to become only the second batsman from West Indies to achieve this feat since Brian Lara in 2001. Since then, he has played 24 Tests but not once breached the three-figure mark. The reason he was able to make his return to the international cricket was because of his fruitful stint with the Leeward Islands in the domestic 50-over competition, where he scored over 500 runs in a season. He has constantly been getting those 20s, 30s and 40s since his return to Test cricket but Windies will hope for a much better performance from the 28-year-old in the series against India. If Powell gets going, he has the game to dominate any attack in the world.

Shai Hope

Matches 22 | Runs 1210 | Average 31.03

Every time Hope comes out to bat, the 24-year-old is expected to score runs. Hope, who made his first-class debut in 2012-13, caught the eye of the national selectors after amassing 628 runs in nine first-class matches in the 2014-15 season. He was straightaway drafted to the Windies’ Test squad but failed horribly in the first 11 games. He finally announced his arrival with twin centuries against England at Leeds that led Windies’ to a famous win. However, that remains to be his only two tons till date. His technical brilliance, calm temperament, defensive technique and vivid stroke-play arguably makes him the most sound batsman in the current Windies’ Test setup. Hope possesses all the tools that are required to make it big in Test cricket. He can play well both off his front foot and back foot and is gifted with a robust defence. However, he has a habit to throw his wicket away after getting off to a good start a major reason why he has failed to live up to his potential. If Hope manages to do well against India’s formidable bowling attack, it will not only help his team but will also help his resume.

Shimron Hetmyer

Matches 6 | Runs 322 | Average 26.83

The 2014 U-19 World Cup didn’t go as per plan for the young batsman from Guyana. However, Hetmyer returned in the 2016 edition in Bangladesh – this time as the captain – and played a key role with fifties in the quarter-final and semi-final to lead his team to the final where they beat India to be crowned champions. He donned the whites for the first time in April 2017 but failed to convert his starts. He scored a good-looking 66 against New Zealand at Wellington last year before notching up his highest Test score of 86 against Bangladesh. With hundreds in the World Cup Qualifiers and in the series against Bangladesh, followed by a terrific stint with the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2018 Caribbean Premier League, Hetmyer has somewhat already proven his worth in the limited-over cricket, and now it’s time for the 21-year-old to do the same in five-day cricket.

Sunil Ambris

Matches 2 | Runs 25 | Average 6.25

Two hit-wicket dismissals and a fracture on the left-arm – Ambris’ Test career got off to a worst possible start. He was part of the Windies squad that played two Tests in New Zealand in December 2017. Playing his first delivery, Ambris stepped onto the back foot against a rising ball from Neil Wagner and ended up treading onto his stumps. He was dismissed in a similar fashion in the first innings of the second Test before another short delivery from Wagner in the second dig ended his tour prematurely. Ambris didn’t bog down and had a successful stint with the ‘A’ team. His 128 against India A at Beckenham and unbeaten 63 against Surrey in July forced the selectors to put him in the flight to India. If that wasn’t enough, the right-hander smacked a 98-ball 114*, decorated with 17 fours and five sixes, against Board Presidents XI in a two-day practice match to more or less cement his spot in the playing XI for the Rajkot Test.

Wicketkeepers

Shane Dowrich

Matches 23 | Runs 1034 | Average 27.94

The wicketkeeper-batsman made his international debut in June 2015 after a superb 2014-15 domestic season, where he scored 615 runs in 10 matches at an average of 51.25. Before that, he featured in the 2010 U-19 World Cup where he emerged as Windies’ second highest run-getter with 229 runs from six encounters at a strike-rate of more than 100. In his very first Test against Australia, Dowrich, who came in to bat with Windies struggling at 37 for 3, crafted a gritty 70 against the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. While he has already managed two Test hundreds, it was his knock of 74 and match-saving 144-run association with Roston Chase against India in the second Test at Kingston, and 60* and match-winning unbeaten 87-run stand with Brathwaite in the third Test at Sharjah that proved he belongs to this level. Dowrich has a water-tight batting technique and is more than a wicketkeeper who can ‘bat’.

Jahmar Hamilton (yet to make his debut)

The 28-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman made his first-class debut in 2008 and plays for the Leeward Islands. Hamilton is no spring chicken, considering he has already played 71 first-class games in which he has scored 3319 runs at 26.98. He came to national reckoning after scores of 100, 20 and 79 in the three innings for Windies A against England Lions earlier this year. Hamilton will serve as a deputy to Dowrich in the series against India.

All-rounders

Roston Chase

Matches 22 | Runs 1242 | Wickets 37

Remember a tall and lanky youngster who orchestrated an unbeaten 137 to deny India a victory in Jamaica a few years back? Playing only his second Test, Chase, who had earlier scalped 5 for 121, showed tremendous guts on the final day to save the game for his country. He was also involved in two crucial partnerships with Dowrich (74) and Holder (64*). The rare feat made Chase only the fourth West Indian to pick up a five-wicket haul and score a century in the same Test. In 2017, he amassed 403 runs in the three-match home Test series against Pakistan but couldn’t save his team from going 2-1 down to the Men in Green. The 26-year-old is also a handy offspinner and will have to play an important role in India, with the tracks more favourable to the spinners.

Jason Holder

Matches 34 | Runs 1483 | Wickets 81

Holder was given the ODI and Test captaincy at the age when he was still finding his feet in international cricket. The soft-spoken man was chosen to lead Windies out of the incessant mire. Things didn’t really look good at the start and Holder too was failing to contribute with both bat and ball. However, it got better for both Holder and his team as time went by. Since the beginning of 2018, Holder has returned 28 wickets at an average of 12 in five Tests. His bowling average dropped from 38.52 to an impressive 29.36. Living up to his reputation of an all-rounder, he has also made 265 runs at 37.85 this year. While Holder has always been a decent batsman lower down the order – for example, his 103* against England in 2015 and 110 against Zimbabwe in 2017 – it’s his bowling that has improved immensely. If Holder can keep his form going against India, he can inspire his team to create some magic on the land where they haven’t won a Test since December 1994.

Keemo Paul

Matches 1 | Runs 13 | Wickets 3

The moment Keemo Paul’s name pops up, people start talking about the mankading incident he was involved in the 2016 U-19 World Cup. The incident is well-documented but it was his skill-set with both bat and ball that helped Windies lift the title. Apart from picking up seven wickets, Paul also chipped in with 166 runs lower down the order. The 20-year-old has come a long way since that and has already made his international debut in all the three formats of the game. While he is yet to do anything substantial at this level, Paul is slowly and steadily starting to find his feet in international cricket. Now all he needs is that one breakthrough series that will do him the world of good.

Bowlers

Kemar Roach

Matches 48 | Wickets 163 | Average 28.31

He is quick, he is hostile, and if in the mood, Roach has all the ingredients to demolish any batting attack. He might not be as tall some of the earlier West Indian greats, but Roach has the pace to push any batsman on the back foot. He made his Test debut in 2009 but it was his spell against Ricky Ponting in the third Test at WACA that forced everyone to sit up and take notice. Roach bowled at a fearsome pace and forced Ponting to retire hurt after hitting him on the elbow. He looked impressive throughout the series and hurried most of the Australian batsmen. His first and only (till date) 10-wicket haul also came against Australia in 2012 in Trinidad. While the other Windies pacers kept fading away, Roach managed to hold his ground. However, an ankle injury slowed him down and Roach was dropped from the home Tests against India. He then picked up 23 wickets at 16.17 in the 2016-17 Professional Cricket League and made his way back to the team. Roach has only played one Test against India where he took just two wickets but Virat Kohli and Co. will be well aware of the threat the right-arm pacer can cause when in full flow. He might not get the same bounce here in India but Roach has the tendency to hit the length that allows the ball to skid on to batsmen quicker than they realise.

Shannon Gabriel

Matches 37 | Wickets 111 | Average 29.57

Gabriel was one of the 15 players picked for a stint at the Sagicor West Indies Cricket High Performance Centre, founded by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to improve the quality of young cricketers. It didn’t take much time for Gabriel to make his first-class debut and he straightaway made an impact by picking up 33 wickets in the 2010-11 season. Making his Test debut in May 2012, Gabriel didn’t have a great start to his career. However, it all changed in 2016 when the right-arm quick scalped his maiden five-wicket haul against Pakistan and played a key role in his team’s victory at Sharjah. He was brilliant in 2017 where he managed 34 wickets in nine Tests, including a match-figure of 9 for 92 against Pakistan at Bridgetown and a six-wicket haul versus England at Leeds. His match-tally of 13 for 121 against Sri Lanka in June made him only the third West Indian to pick up 13 or more wickets in the match after Michael Holding (14 for 149) and Courtney Walsh (13 for 55). He’s got the knack of picking up wickets and will have to be at his best against India’s Herculean batting lineup.

Devendra Bishoo

Matches 32 | Wickets 106 | Average 36.24

The legspinner bagged the ICC Emerging Player Award in 2011 and had a very good first year. He claimed 39 wickets in his first year before that dreadful Australian tour happened. He only played one Test there and leaked 125 runs without picking up any wicket. He soon fell out of favour and the likes of Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine took his place. He finally got his chance after three years and took his maiden 10-wicket haul against Pakistan in Dubai. He has been the part of the Windies Test squad since then and has done a decent job for his team. There hasn’t been any other spinner from the country in the last couple of years who has shown signs of taking over from Bishoo. The 32-year-old will get mouth-watering pitches in India and the onus will be on him to make full use of it.

Jomel Warrican

Matches 4 | Wickets 11 | Average 46.27

The left-arm spinner made his Test debut in October 2015 but after four futile outings was dropped from the squad. He was handed a red-ball contract by Cricket West Indies in January this year, indicating that he remained very much part of their plans. Warrican has spent his last few months with the ‘A’ team. While his numbers aren’t great, he did pick up 4 for 81 in a warm-up game against Sri Lanka. If required, he will offer Windies a second-specialist spin option behind Bishoo.

Sherman Lewis (yet to make his debut)

The 21-year-old right-arm pacer was called up to the squad in place of injured Alzarri Joseph. Lewis made his first-class debut for the Windward Islands last March and ended the season with 30 wickets at an average of 21.66 He went to England with Windies A and impressed everyone with four-fers in both innings against India A at Beckenham. In the two-day practice match against Board Presidents XI, Lewis returned 1 for 13 from 10 overs.

Asia Cup Report Card: India’s Bowling Excellen…

There were ups and downs in a couple of encounters, including the final, but that didn’t stop India from bagging the Asia Cup trophy for a record seventh time. The Rohit Sharma-led side received a tremendous fight from Bangladesh in the final on Friday but the Men in Blue held their nerves to seal a three-wicket victory in the match that went down to the last delivery.

India looked a bit rusty against Hong Kong in their opening game but showcased their supremacy against Pakistan (twice) and Bangladesh. They were then involved in a thrilling tie against Afghanistan in their last Super Four clash before somehow surviving against Bangladesh in the title match. The top-order was again amongst runs while the bowling unit remained consistent throughout the tournament.

Let us look at how Rohit and his men faired out in the event as we try to rate their performance individually:

Rohit Sharma – Rating: 9, Verdict: Very Good

Everyone was well aware of Rohit’s resume when he was named the stand-in skipper in the absence of Virat Kohli. The 31-year-old earned a lot of accolades for his astute captainship and led his team from the front smashing 317 runs in five games at an average of 105.66. Not once in the competition he fell without contributing to the team’s cause. He has often struggled against left-arm pacers, but this time around, he looked quite comfortable against the likes of Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Mustafizur Rahman. He scored 52 and 111* in the two games against Pakistan, apart from his unbeaten 83 and 48 against Bangladesh in the Super Four and final respectively. He, along with his partner-in-crime Shikhar Dhawan, provided India solid starts in almost every encounter.

Shikhar Dhawan – Rating: 8.5, Verdict: Very Good

Dhawan managed to put behind his struggles in the Test series against England and emerged as tournament’s highest run-getter. Dhawan is known to score big in major events and this was no different. The flamboyant left-hander amassed 342 runs in five matches, including two centuries, at 68.40. He scored centuries against Hong Kong and Pakistan and also made a couple of 40s. When the ball is not moving, Dhawan looks a completely different batsman. Apart from those flashy drives, muscular pulls and efficacious flicks, Dhawan also ran brilliantly between the wickets. Yes, there are doubts over his future in Test cricket but there’s no stopping Dhawan in white-ball cricket.

Ambati Rayudu – Rating: 6.5, Verdict: Good

While Rohit and Dhawan did most of the scoring, Rayudu pounced on whatever was left to gather. Coming in at No. 3, the 33-year-old didn’t set the stage on fire but gave India that much-required stability. The 33-year-old ended the tournament with 175 runs at 43.75. He scored two fifties but couldn’t convert it into big scores. Once Kohli comes back, Rayudu will have to give up on the No. 3 spot and move down the order. What will work against him is his career strike rate of 76.82. India already have MS Dhoni who can play a sort of similar role but if the team management sticks with the plan of playing Dhoni at No. 5, Rayudu is someone who can fit into that No. 4 spot.

Dinesh Karthik – Rating: 6, Verdict: Average

The Tamil Nadu batsman looked good in patches, scoring 146 runs in five innings at 48.66. He looked in decent touch throughout the event but failed to finish games, although he was unlucky to receive a harsh lbw call in the tie against Afghanistan. He had scores of 33, 31*, 1* 44 and 37 but would have liked to convert it into something more substantial. The World Cup is hardly eight months away and with the likes of Manish Pandey, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer waiting in the wings, it’s important that Karthik get big runs if he wants to keep his place in the Indian team.

MS Dhoni – Rating: 6, Verdict: Average

An average of 19.25 in the event doesn’t completely reflect what Dhoni brought to the table. He was superb behind the stumps with his glovework and also helped Rohit with captaincy and field placements. He kept on throwing suggestions to the bowlers, and with him being around, there were no DRS blunders. There’s a reason they call it Dhoni Review System, right? However, India will need Dhoni to contribute more with the bat and take the other middle-order batsmen along with him.

Kedar Jadhav – Rating: 7.5, Verdict: Very Good

India missed the services of Jadhav in England. More than his batting, it’s Jadhav’s low-arm slingy off-breaks that helped India. The innocuous off-spinner provides India that important sixth bowling option. For a part-time spinner to end the event with a tally of six wickets at an economy rate of 3.97 shows why the team management wants Jadhav to be fit and playing. His 3 for 23 and 2 for 41 against Pakistan and Bangladesh (in the final) respectively helped India create added pressure. Jadhav hardly got any chance to bat, but when he did in the final, he hit an unbeaten 23 to help India survive an upset in the final. If he managed to keep himself fit, Jadhav will most probably find himself in the flight to England next year.

Ravindra Jadeja – Rating: 7, Verdict: Good

The 29-year-old all-rounder showed everyone why he should at least be a part of India’s ODI squad. Brought in as Hardik Pandya’s replacement after the second match, Jadeja straightaway made an impact by picking up a four-wicket haul against Bangladesh. The left-arm spinner scalped seven wickets in total and also chipped in with a couple of handy cameos at No. 7. He is pure gold on the field and his run out of Mohammad Mithun last night is a proof of it. India won’t play three spinners in England but if needed Jadeja can be the man who can chip in all three facets of the game.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar – Rating: 7, Verdict: Good

Returning from a back injury, Bhuvneshwar looked a bit rusty against Hong Kong but started to get into the groove as the tournament went along. The right-arm seamer picked up six wickets at 29.33, with his 3 for 15 against Pakistan being his best performance. Apart from that 22-run over against Pakistan, Bhuvneshwar also did a commendable job in death overs. In the final, it was his 21-run knock that took India closer to the target before Jadhav put the finishing touch.

Kuldeep Yadav – Rating: 8, Verdict: Very Good

The left-arm wrist-spinner was always going to be a force to be reckoned with on the tracks of UAE and Kuldeep did no harm to his reputation. The 23-year-old took 10 wickets in the event to emerge as one of the tournament’s highest wicket-takers, along with Rashid Khan and Mustafizur. In the matches against Hong Kong and Bangladesh where the openers got off to good starts, it was Kuldeep who put the breaks on and brought India back on track. He played a key role in all the three encounters.

Yuzvendra Chahal – Rating: 6.5, Verdict: Good

Chahal wasn’t always amongst wickets but he did bowl some tough overs. Chahal bowled in the Power Play 1 as well as in the death overs. His best performance of 3 for 46 came against Hong Kong after they had got off to a solid start. Both Chahal and Kuldeep will be important to India’s cause in the 2019 World Cup.

Jasprit Bumrah – Rating: 8.5, Verdict: Very Good

If there’s one man apart from Virat Kohli who has the tag of India’s all-format player, it’s Bumrah. The 24-year-old has arguably been India’s best bowler in the limited-overs format in the last two years. In this competition, Bumrah provided India early breakthroughs and was fantastic in the death overs.

Here’s a fact that will tell you how good Bumrah was in the final overs: The right-arm pacer didn’t get hit for a single boundary in the 59 balls he bowled in the death overs at the Asia Cup.

Khaleel Ahmed – Rating: 7, Verdict: Good

Indian team management has been pretty vocal about the requirement of a left-arm pacer in the ODI setup. They gave Khaleel a chance and in the two games that he played, the 20-year-old looked impressive. He took four wickets, including a three-wicket haul against Hong Kong. He still has a long way to go but Khaleel has done more than a decent job to keep his place in the side for the home series against Windies next month.

*The likes of KL Rahul, Deepak Chahar, Siddarth Kaul and Manish Pandey only featured in one match and that was a dead-rubber against Afghanistan. While Chahar, Kaul and Pandey failed in that match, Rahul scored a stylish 66-ball 60 keep himself in the contention. Meanwhile, Shardul Thakur and Pandya suffered injuries and had to return to India after playing just one match

*Rating chart: Very poor 0-1, Poor 2-4, Average 5-6, Good 7, Very good 8-9, Excellent 10.

Asia Cup 2018: Five Players Contending for Spo…

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are set to announce a 15-man squad for the 2018 Asia Cup on Saturday. With the 2019 World Cup less than a year away, the six-team 50-over tournament will serve as a perfect platform for captain Virat Kohli and the Indian team management to address certain areas ahead of the mega-event. The Asia Cup, also involving Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and an unconfirmed qualifier, gets underway on September 15 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the final on September 29. India are placed in Group B with their arch-rivals Pakistan and a qualifier.

The Indian team is currently involved in a five-match Test series in England and has been playing non-stop cricket for the last 12 months. While the top-order and bowlers have been firing on all cylinders, India will look to fix their middle-order tribulation before it gets too late. The Asia Cup will provide one such opportunity to the selectors to look beyond the set number of players. There are quite a few who have been making waves in the domestic circuit and we list five of them, new and old faces, who might find themselves in the flight to the UAE.

Mayank Agarwal

(Image: Facebook)

“Scoring 2000 runs in a domestic season is not a joke.” Indeed, it’s not! The Karnataka batsman has been piling up runs for fun since the start of 2017-18 season. He scored over 1000 runs in a month last season. The flow of runs even continued for India A but the national selection is yet to materialise. However, Agarwal kept his head down and continued to let his bat do the talking. After having an impressive English sojourn with the ‘A’ team, Agarwal also ended up as the second highest run-getter in the recently concluded quadrangular series with 236 runs at a brilliant average of 59. With the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul already in the mix, it won’t be easy for Agarwal to wear the opening boots. However, the 27-year-old is no spring chicken and can give India some solidity in the middle-order as well.

Manish Pandey

The Indian middle-order currently wears an iffy look and the 28-year-old couldn’t have timed his return to form better. After featuring in two Twenty Internationals in Ireland, Pandey only warmed the bench in three T20Is against England. What made it worse was he couldn’t even make it to the One-Day International squad that played three games in England. He returned to India and was tasked to lead India B in the Quadrangular series. He then didn’t just lead his team to the title but also amassed 306 runs in four innings, without being dismissed even once. He has done more than enough to regain selectors’ faith and is the favourite among these five to find a spot in the ODI setup. What makes his chances even better is Shreyas Iyer, who captained India A in the same series, only managed 98 runs at a mediocre average of 24.50.

Ambati Rayudu

(Getty Images)

The 32-year-old took the 2018 Indian Premier League by storm. Rayudu, one of the many old warhorses in the Chennai Super Kings outfit, plundered 602 runs in 16 innings and played a key role in helping his team lift the trophy for the third time. He then was selected to play the ODIs against England in July but failed to clear the mandatory yo-yo fitness test. Having cleared the test this month, he was straightaway drafted to the India A squad and the right-hander did not disappoint. While his team failed to qualify for the final, Rayudu stood head and shoulders above the rest, finishing with 187 runs at 62.33. Rayudu is a proven match-winner and can easily be placed at No. 4. He averages over 50 in ODIs which suggest he has the temperament to survive at the top-level.

Krunal Pandya

(Image: PTI)

This one is a tempting option! The elder Pandya can tonk the ball all around the park like his younger brother Hardik but also possesses the skills of playing the waiting game. Krunal is also a street-smart left-arm spinner, someone who knows what his strengths are and is not ashamed to build his game around that. Krunal, who was in the squad for T20Is v England but didn’t get a game, can provide India that balance down the order that captains keep talking about. Ever since making his debut for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2016, Krunal’s graph has only gone up. He had a couple of good outings with the ‘A’ team both in England and quadrangular series. It’s his attitude that stands out, and is someone who makes things happen. Krunal has got all the shots in his book and can play those game-changing cameos late in the innings. While Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal lead the race to be India’s two frontline spinners, it won’t be a bad idea to have Krunal in the mix as well.

Deepak Chahar

(BCCI Photo)

The paceman from Rajasthan has come a long way since his dream first-class debut where he picked up 8 for 10 in the Ranji Trophy 2010-11. In what has largely been a stop-start career, Chahar received a huge boost in the IPL 2018. Playing for CSK, he scalped 10 wickets in the season and was highly impressive with the new ball. He had a fantastic stint with India A in England – that earned him his maiden international call-up. He did play a T20I against England where he picked up one wicket at the expense of 43 runs. Chahar is also a handy lower-order batsman who can stick around if the situation demands. He didn’t pick up many wickets in the quadrangular series but was fairly economical. He has also worked on his death bowling but is yet to be tested at the international level – something which won’t work in his favour when the selectors sit down in Mumbai to pick a team for the Asia Cup.

Honourable mentions –

Kedar Jadhav

Rishabh Pant

Hanuma Vihari

Mohammed Siraj

India vs England: The Rose Bowl Story — Bat Fi…

Only one team in the history of Test cricket has won a five-match series after being 2-0 down – and that was Sir Don Bradman’s Australian side in the 1936-37 Ashes. 80 years later, India have an opportunity to emulate what Bradman and his men achieved Down Under.

The first step towards glory has already been taken. After losing the first two encounters of the series, Virat Kohli’s men made a spectacular comeback in the third Test at Trent Bridge. The skipper led from the front, while Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah rattled English batsmen with ball in their hands as India registered a morale-boosting 203-run victory.

As the series now stands at 2-1, still in favour of England, the action now shifts to the Rose Bowl, Southampton. Unlike the other historical grounds in England, Rose Bowl is a new addition to the family – as new as 2001. However, it still has its own share of history. The ground, shaped like a circular amphitheater, and its highlight – the three-storey pavilion with a canopied roof – is a feast for the eyes. Currently known as The Ageas Bowl for sponsorship reasons, it’s the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club.

Considering the smaller nature of the ground, it has been used more for the limited-overs games. Traditionally, the track at Rose Bowl has been more favourable to the fast bowlers. The venue has hosted only two Tests since its inception. While Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera helped Sri Lanka pull off a draw in 2011, India were blown by England’s all-round performance in 2014.

Not much has changed since 2014. In the 2017 and (ongoing) 2018 County Championships, the pacers have taken maximum wickets, while spinners do come into play in the latter stages of the games. Out of 351 wickets that have fallen in 12 first-class matches in the last two seasons (as of August 28), 268 wickets have been taken by pacers, 75 by spinners, while the remaining eight have been other mode of dismissals.

It comes as no surprise that four of the top five wicket-takers at the venue in the last two seasons have been pacers.

Expectedly, teams batting first have had the last laugh on most of the occasions. Out of the 12 games, five have produced results, with four of them being won by the team batting first. The only exception being Essex, who scripted a brilliant come-from-behind win after being bowled out for just 76 in their first innings.

Despite the average first innings total at this venue in the last 10 matches being 297, both India and England might look to bat first. The key will be to get a total of above 300 and put the opposition under pressure. At Edgbaston, England did get close to the 300-run mark in their first essay and ended up winning the encounter. While at Lord’s, India were bowled out for just 107 in their first dig and that cost them the match. However, they did manage 329 in the third Test and that was enough to push England on the backfoot.

If India does end up batting first in the fourth Test, they will have to survive the first few hours against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. The visiting side will want to put up enough runs on the board for their bowlers, who have constantly been doing the job for Kohli in the last two years. And the same can be said for England.

Presumably, the conditions are once again going to be more suitable to the bowlers and both the teams are quite stacked up in that department.

In the last three Ashes Tests of 1936-37, Bradman had scores of 270, 212 and 169, and the onus will be on Kohli to do something similar in Southampton, which eventually might end up helping India win the Test match.

England at Trent Bridge: Historically Average …

Trent Bridge hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for England. The venue in Nottingham hosted its first Test in 1899 and since then England have played 62 games here. They have won 22 of those matches, lost 17, while the remaining 23 encounters ended in draws. However, their record at the venue since 2000 has been nothing short of remarkable. They have only lost four out of 16 matches during that period and have emerged victorious on nine occasions.

England’s record against India at Trent Bridge isn’t as great as they would have wanted it to be. Six Tests, two victories, one defeat and three draws. It was on this very ground where the Rahul Dravid-led side defeated the hosts by seven wickets in 2007 and then went on to win the three-match series 1-0. The last time these two teams met here was in 2014 where the contest ended in a draw. England did eventually that five-Test series 3-1.

The home side will have an opportunity to polish that record when they take on Virat Kohli’s men in the third Test starting Saturday. England currently lead the five-match series 2-0 after wins in Birmingham and London (Lord’s). The home side have a great chance to wrap up the series at Trent Bridge.

Before the action begins in the ‘Queen City of the Midlands’, we look at how England have fared in their last five Tests at Trent Bridge:

Vs South Africa 2017 – England lost by 340 runs

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England’s batting failed embarrassingly against South Africa in the second Test of the four-match series and they had to suffer a 340-run defeat at the hands of the visiting side. What made it worse for England was South Africa did it without AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada in their ranks. In response to South Africa’s 335 and 343 for 9 (declared) respectively in two innings, England were bowled out for just 205 and 133. The 474-run target looked impossible from the word go as only four of the English batsmen could cross the double-digit mark. This was Joe Root’s first assignment as Test captain. His team might have failed miserably at Trent Bridge, but they did win the series 3-1.

Vs Australia 2015 – England win by an innings and 78 runs

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“I never dreamt I’d be able to get eight wickets in a spell. My previous best-ever bowling was seven for 12 against Kimbolton School Under-15s.”

Stuart Broad was brutal, ruthless and unplayable! The right-arm pacer tore through Australia on the first morning of the fourth Test to bundle them out for merely 60 in their first innings. The 8 for 15 that he scalped in 9.3 mesmeric overs helped England destroy their arch-rivals by an innings and 78 runs to regain the Ashes. It was a sort of day that terminated careers, just ask Michael Clarke. Root then scored a brilliant 130, giving England a 331-run lead. The tourists were slightly more competitive in their second essay but it was far from enough. Broad’s impact was such that hardly anyone remembers about Root and Ben Stokes’ (6 for 36 in second innings) vital contributions.

Vs India 2014 – Ends in a draw

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Both England and India had their moments but none of the two could grab their chances as the first Test of the 2014 series ended in a draw. While M Vijay (146) and MS Dhoni (82) helped India breach the 300-run mark, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (58) and Mohammed Shami (51*) added 111 runs for the last wicket to lead their side to a total of 457. In reply, Indian pacers had reduced England to 298 for 9 before Joe Root (154*) and James Anderson (81) joined hands to script a miraculous recovery. The two shared a 198-run association for the last wicket to give England a 39-run lead. The touring side suffered a serious scare as England took three quick wickets in the first hour of the fifth day. But Stuart Binny (78) and Bhuvneshwar (63), once again, steered India back to safety.

Vs Australia 2013 – England win by 14 runs

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Anderson’s 10-wicket haul, Ian Bell’s astonishing 109, Phillip Hughes’ fighting 81*, Ashton Agar’s fiery 98 on debut, Brad Haddin’s gritty 71 in the final innings, and a few DRS dramas – the first Test of the 2013 Ashes series had everything that a cricket match could offer. By no means was it as historic as the famous Edgbaston Test but it had its own charm. After dismissing England for 215 in their first dig, Australia were struggling at 117 for 9 before Agar showed up at No. 11. He built a remarkable 163-run partnership with the late Hughes and led Australia to a total of 280. Agar finally got out for a 101-ball 98, studded with 12 fours and two sixes.

However, England didn’t bow down and set a 311-run target, courtesy a century from Bell and fifties from Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Broad. In the final innings, when Haddin and James Pattinson, the No. 11 batsman, came together, Australia needed 80 runs and England seemed home and dry, but there was a twist in the tale. The duo whittled away 65 of those 80 required runs before Anderson returned to get rid of Haddin. The 14-run victory gave England a 1-0 lead in the series, which they went on to win 3-0.

Vs West Indies 2012 – England win by nine wickets

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Tim Bresnan played a key role in England’s nine-wicket win over West Indies in the second Test of the three-match series. Hundreds from Marlon Samuels (117) and Darren Sammy (106) took their team to 370. But Andrew Strauss then crafted a patient 141, and combined with Pietersen’s 80, propelled his team to 428. Bresnan, who had picked up four wickets in the first innings, got the same number of scalps in the second essay too as West Indies were bowled out for just 165. England chased down the 108-run target with nine wickets in hand and clinched their seventh successive home series.

Kohli’s Fitness, Pant’s Inclusion – Five Quest…

Virat Kohli’s men were at the receiving end of a humiliating defeat against England in the second Test at Lord’s. The Indian batsmen were blown away by rampant English bowlers, while the Indian bowlers too were made to suffer. India lost the match by an innings and 159 runs, handing England a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.

The manner in which India lost the second match must have taken a huge toll on their confidence and there’s no way England are going to offer them an easy comeback. The Indian team management will have a lot of thinking to do ahead of the third Test in Nottingham, starting on Saturday, and accordingly, make some tough calls. If the dreadful form of their players wasn’t enough, Kohli’s fitness concern has only made things worse for the visiting side.

India can’t afford to lose at Trent Bridge, which means they will have to sort out following issues before step out for the battle:

Will Virat Kohli be fit?

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“Five days to go, (I) should be okay. (It’s the) lower back issue coming up again and again, purely because of the workload. I should be ready for the next game although not (with) the same intensity in the field but I should be good enough to hold a position in the field and be 100% with the bat.”

The Indian skipper has been troubled by a recurring back injury in recent times, which flared up again at Lord’s, forcing him to bat in severe pain. The 29-year-old has managed to exorcise the ghosts of 2014 campaign and has waged a lone battle under hostile conditions against the opposition. Kohli scored 149 and 51 at Edgbaston but failed to replicate that performance in the second Test.

There was a grimace on his face every time he was trying to play a shot in the second innings, and the same injury also affected his running. The physio will have to work overtime to get Kohli match-ready. He will throw himself in even if he is 70-80% fit. Considering his never-say-die attitude, Kohli will make sure he walks out for the toss at Trent Bridge unless the pain is unbearable.

Which opening combination to field?

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Shikhar Dhawan – 39 runs in two innings

KL Rahul – 35 runs in four innings

M Vijay – 26 runs in four innings

The stats pretty much reflect how Indian openers have faired out in two Tests. The three batsmen have struggled big time against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Sam Curran. Dhawan and Vijay did share a 50-run stand in the first innings of the first Test but since then its been all downhill. In the second Test, Anderson got the better of Vijay and Rahul in both the innings. Vijay seems to lack that grittiness which made him one of India’s most trusted overseas batsmen, while Dhawan and Rahul have looked completely out of place.

The openers have been regularly failing to see off the new ball and that’s creating havoc in the middle-order. It’s unlikely that India will drop either of Vijay or Rahul, but what they can do is give Cheteshwar Pujara the opening spot. The 30-year-old belongs to a rare breed of cricketers. He is one of the few out-and-out Test cricket specialists and has the ability to eat up deliveries. He was unfortunately run out in the first innings at Lord’s but then showed some fight in the second. Even though he only scored 17 runs, the Saurashtra batsman lasted for 87 deliveries, more than any other Indian batsman. He can be the one who can see off Anderson and Broad’s opening spells and avoid England from getting an early look-in at the India’s middle-order.

Should India go with six specialist batsmen?

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It’s time to put this question to rest. Kohli likes playing five bowlers and it’s next to impossible he will go with six ‘proper’ batsmen. While it was all about Kohli in the first Test, R Ashwin was the only who showed the stomach for a fight in London. Openers haven’t done their job, and neither have Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya – the batsman.

Trent Bridge is traditionally a pitch suited for seam and swing bowlers and India is likely to stick with Pandya. The all-rounder did a decent job with the ball in his hands in the last match. However, he will have to contribute more with the bat. India have the option of picking up either of Karun Nair, Dhawan or Rishabh Pant (purely as batsman) but for that they will have change their entire game plan. If the track does offer some turn, Ravindra Jadeja could be Pandya’s only possible replacement.

Time to try Rishabh Pant?

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There’s no denying that Karthik is a workhorse and deserves more opportunities. The wicketkeeper-batsman from Tamil Nadu has been in good form in the limited-overs format since being recalled to the national side. Karthik earned his way back to the Test side after Wriddhiman Saha suffered an injury. However, Karthik has failed to replicate his white-ball form in the longest format of the game. He has scores of 0, 1, 20 and 0 in the four innings that he has played in England.

It won’t come as a huge surprise if India do go with Pant in the third Test. After scoring tons of runs in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, Pant went on to have a tremendous IPL 2018. The swashbuckler also had a decent stint with the ‘A’ team, and he can be an option that India could explore.

Fantasy booking – How about Pant, the opener? The management can give him the license of playing his natural game and that can upset the rhythm of England’s new-ball pair. Even if the left-hander could manage a quickfire 40-50, it might push the England captain Joe Root outside his comfort zone.

Is the Kuldeep Yadav experiment worth persisting with?

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Playing the young left-arm wrist spinner at Lord’s was a mistake and Kohli admitted it. Kuldeep only bowled nine overs in the match and was taken for 44 runs. To add to that, he also bagged a pair in the match. Unless it turns a lot in Nottingham, Kuldeep will end up making way for one of the pacers. India can also look at Jadeja – who brings more experience and control. The all-rounder can also give India some handy runs down the order.

Lord’s Test Report Card – Turn Away, Indian Fa…

Almost nothing went right for India from the moment they stepped foot at the Home of Cricket for the second Test against England. Virat Kohli’s men fought tooth and nail against the hosts before going down by 31 runs in the series opener at Edgbaston. However, at Lord’s, India’s batting fell apart in both the innings as they suffered an embarrassing innings-and-159-run defeat to give England a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.

The visiting side was bundled out for just 107 in the first innings before a brilliant 137 not out and 93 from Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow respectively gave England a 289-run lead. The story was no different in India’s second essay as James Anderson and Stuart Broad shattered their batting line-up to bowl them out for 130.

Here’s Cricketnext report card of the Indian players:

M Vijay – Rating: 0/10, Verdict: Very Poor

Vijay has been a pale shadow of the batsman who had some tremendous overseas outings in the past. He hardly made an impact in the first Test and things only got worse for the 34-year-old as he became the sixth batsman to register a ‘pair’ in England. Ravi Shastri had spoken about wanting his openers to play 20-25 overs but that hasn’t happened till now. The Tamil Nadu opener was outclassed by Anderson on both occasions. In the first innings, he looked clueless against Anderson’s outswinger and got his off-stump knocked over. In the second, he went nowhere with his footwork and ended up edging it to the keeper. With Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw making waves in the ‘A’ team, time seems to be running out for Vijay.

KL Rahul – Rating: 1, Verdict: Very Poor

This could have been the tour where Rahul could have established himself as India’s next multi-format player, but after his century in the first T20I, he seems to have faded away. The Karnataka batsman played a couple of gorgeous shots in this Test but failed to carry on. In the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, he was given the opening slot after having batted at No. 3 in the first game. But he too fell to Anderson in both the innings, edging one to the keeper in the first, while getting trapped plumb in front in the second. There’s no doubt over Rahul’s talent or potential but he will have to come up with a solid game plan to survive against the English seamers.

Cheteshwar Pujara – Rating: 3, Verdict: Poor

The No. 3 batsman was unfortunately run out in the first innings on his comeback Test. He showed signs of grittiness in the second dig where he faced 87 deliveries before getting knocked over by Broad. Pujara has never looked comfortable against incoming deliveries and he was found wanting once again. His average in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) is far from impressive. If India want to bounce back from these two defeats, they will require much more stability from Pujara.

Virat Kohli- Rating: 3, Verdict: Poor

The only reason India were able to give England a tough fight in the opening encounter was because of Kohli’s resilience. There have been talks about India’s over-reliance on Kohli, and when he failed at Lord’s, the Indian batting fell like a pack of cards. The captain did manage to survive the much-awaited battle against Anderson, but instead, was dismissed by Chris Woakes. Did Kohli underestimate his Royal Challengers Bangalore-teammate? We are not sure about that but he did go for too many shots against the right-arm seamer. He batted with a lower back pain in the second innings and could only score 17. He is confident of regaining full fitness ahead of the next game, and India can ill afford to lose Kohli the batsman.

As a captain, Kohli opted to play two spinners despite making his intentions clear of bowling first if he would have won the toss, which didn’t happen. The English batsmen looked fairly comfortable against both R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, scoring around four runs per over against the spinners. Maybe Umesh Yadav would have been a better option.

Ajinkya Rahane – Rating 2, Verdict: Poor

It was at Lord’s, in 2014, where he scored a brilliant century and helped India pull off a memorable win. Fast forwarding to 2018, Rahane has looked completely out of touch in this England tour. He is constantly making the mistake of poking at deliveries which are pitched outside off, and has paid heavily for it. Even in this Test, he was caught in the slip cordon in both innings, making 18 and 13 runs respectively. Rahane has been India’s most trusted overseas batsman, and is someone who can hold the middle-order together. His constant failures are only going to add more pressure on Kohli.

Dinesh Karthik – Rating 2, Verdict: Poor

Having got a spot in the side in the absence of regular wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, Karthik has done nothing to justify his inclusion. In Birmingham, he was bowled for a duck in the first innings and also failed to make an impact in the second. It didn’t really change much in the second Test where he was unbeaten by inswingers from Sam Curran and Stuart Broad respectively. However, he looked a bit more comfortable behind the stumps, taking a flying catch to dismiss Bairstow. With Rishabh Pant around, time might be running out for Karthik, and it won’t come as a huge surprise if India do decide to play the former in next Test.

Hardik Pandya – Rating 5, Verdict: Average

Pandya is no Kapil Dev, but he wasn’t as bad as his teammates. He didn’t have the worst of Test matches, scoring 11 and 26 in two innings. Doubling up as the third seamer, he did play his part by picking up three wickets. He also shared a 55-run association with R Ashwin in the second innings.

R Ashwin – Rating 5, Verdict: Average

Ashwin didn’t make any impact with the ball, but he was the only one who showed the stomach for a fight in the batting department. The 31-year-old top scored in both the innings (with 29 and 33*). He was the only one who played most of his shots on backfoot and looked decent against the English attack. Rather than reaching for the deliveries, he waited for the ball to arrive and reacted accordingly. He wasn’t too defensive as he pounced on every little scoring opportunity. In the process, he also became the fourth Indian to complete the international double of 3000-plus runs and 500-plus wickets.

Kuldeep Yadav – Rating 1, Verdict: Very Poor

He only bowled nine overs in the entire match and was taken for 44 runs. The left-arm wrist spinner found no assistance from the pitch and that allowed the England batsmen to score freely against him. He was slightly quicker through the air but that was still not enough to outfox any of the batsmen. Kuldeep also bagged a pair in the match.

Ishant Sharma – Rating 3, Verdict: Poor

The right-arm pacer wasn’t as bad as his figures (1 for 101) suggest. He had no other option than to look for wickets after India’s abysmal show with the bat. When he came to bowl on the third day, it was quite sunny, and the conditions weren’t as favourable. However, he did bowl some poor deliveries down the leg side, and India will hope for a much better performance from his senior paceman in the remaining matches.

Mohammed Shami – Rating 5, Verdict: Average

He was hands down India’s best bowler in this game. The 28-year-old seamer bowled long spells and got enough movement off the pitch. He didn’t allow Keaton Jennings, Joe Root and Jos Buttler to score big and ended the match with figures of 3 for 96. If Shami manages to stay fit throughout this series, India will look up to him whenever they’re in need of quick wickets.

*Rating chart: Very poor 0-1, Poor 2-4, Average 5-6, Good 7, Very good 8-9, Excellent 10.