Posts Tagged ‘Virat Kohli’


Shridhar Pandey

Only a couple of days away from the beginning of the Test series between India and England, I realize that I have never before looked forward to a Test series with such desperation as this one. There is more than one reason behind the excitement. Whatever the score-line might read at the end of four test matches, one can rest assured that both teams will have some interesting challenges coming their way. Though this series has been constantly billed as the “revenge” series, I believe that would not affect the teams much, for they have far bigger issues at hand to deal with.

As far as the English line-up is concerned, the return of Kevin Pietersen will surely boost the morale of the side but they cannot afford to get carried away. Of late their middle order mainstay Jonathan Trott has not been able to keep up to the high standards he has set for himself over the last couple of years. Injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have given them more reasons to worry about. Nonetheless, flamboyant KP is always a force to reckon with. If he can successfully put his frailties against slow left arm bowling behind him, the English supporters will be in for a delight.

Yuvraj and Pietersen make comebacks in to their sides and their form will be watched closely by fans and selectors. Pic: NDTV

To add to that, they have not yet gotten to taste the kind of spin bowling they are about to face in the upcoming Test matches. I would not bother myself going into the details of the reason behind that (that sure is worth another story in itself). But that does bring me to an over-hyped issue about the fragility of English batsmen against spin bowling. This is not the first time they are touring the sub-continent. Neither is this the best spin attack that India has had in the recent times. So give them a break. They know what they are doing. In case they aren’t, they better do!

The Indian outfit, on the other hand, will take on a serious opposition without Dravid and Laxman for the first time in years (no offence meant to the Kiwis). This series shall prove to be the litmus Test for the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer. Gambhir will have to prove that he is not just good for small innings and that he can go on to score some big runs as well. Sehwag will have to make his followers believe that he has not lost his touch while Zaheer’s fitness will be tested once again.

Pujara and Kohli showed promise in the series against New Zealand. If they continue their form into this series, England sure would get a run for their money. Yuvraj has given the selectors reason enough to select him for the no. 6 spot. For some reason, he has not been able to do justice to his talent. By now he should have been a permanent member of the Indian test line-up. Ashwin will be the one to watch out for. He has done extremely well in home conditions. He might prove to be the eyesore to most English batsmen.

Inclusion of Harbhajan in the squad renders the equation pretty interesting and open to speculations. It would be interesting to see if Dhoni leaves out Harbhajan from the playing eleven to include Ojha. If he doesn’t, it would be a huge injustice to poor Ojha who did very well in the New Zealand series. Dhoni himself has a few questions to answer as far as his batting goes. A batsman of his mettle batting at no. 7 is always a huge advantage to any side provided he is in good touch – or at least in the kind of form he is in the limited overs cricket.

Moving on to the last and certainly the most talked about issue of late – would Sachin Tendulkar announce retirement after this series or maybe after the series against Australia? All these speculations have gained some credibility after Sachin himself hinted that he cannot keep playing forever (contrary to what I had been thinking for the last 16 years). He has always been known to hit back hard whenever he has been criticized. Now is one such time. How well does he come back will be a key factor in determining how long he keeps playing from now on. Though there is still some part of me that believes he would keep playing till eternity!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

There are few instances that beat the experience of waking up to the sight and sound of waves splashing against rocks along the coastline. What didn’t help was the showers that followed, adding fuel to our fears of rain playing spoilsport this tournament.

Nevertheless, the appeal to walk along the beach while it rained was tempting enough to get us ready within ten minutes, and park aside thoughts of rain persisting. The present was too valuable to let go of.

We checked back to the hotel café after witnessing sunshine (much to our relief) to order coffee and tea. Unfortunately, for Goutham and Suneeth, the coffee turned out to be an indigenous version of Ragi-Malt! So much for rounding of a fine morning!

Chamara’s Lasith Verdict

We stopped by Pizza Hut for brunch (thanks to a delay – yes another one – in the taxi arriving at our resort) and realized that we were supposed to head to Premadasa and not P Sara stadium, as we’d most certainly assumed, for the warm-up game between India and Pakistan.

The taxi driver, Chamara, told us that he was another Sangakkara fan who rated Nuwan Kulasekara better than Lasith Malinga, calling the latter an actor whose only concerns were centric around colouring his hair. It was an interesting comment given the cricket fan’s perception of Malinga in Sri Lanka – you could’ve got away if you’d thought he enjoyed a Warne-like image among the public.

Rohit Sharma’s Visa

We made it to the Premadasa by the second over of the Indian innings. Gambhir, who we’d assumed wouldn’t play after reading the reports that suggested he was injured, didn’t last for too long – Umar Gul the predator who disturbed his furniture. Sehwag, with his idiosyncratic ‘just-another-game-in-the-park’ approach was victim to a brilliant catch taken by Shahid Afridi off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal.

The entry of Rohit Sharma prompted Triyambak to scream “Who gave this fellow his visa to enter Sri Lanka?!”, something that got most of us in to chuckles. The scorecard at the end of the innings would suggest otherwise, but certainly Rohit’s tryst in the international circuit, highlighted through frequently packed zip-code resembling scores with the odd show of class, would’ve irked other cricketers who’ve been shown the door after a single failure.

The picturesque R Premadasa stadium.

Kohli’s purple patch doesn’t seem to show signs of crashing in to a dead end, and along with Hashim Amla, he’s been having a remarkable set of two years in the International Circuit, notwithstanding the formats.

Unfortunately for us, the Indians lost their way during the second half of Pakistan’s innings and made heroes out of Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik – batsmen whom international bowlers, in general, would’ve fancied for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Cricket Shop

Goutham had got in touch with a few Gray Nicolls cricket gear dealers prior to the trip to check if he could procure gear in Sri Lanka. And a box of Kookaburra cricket balls to take back home so that the CECC boys could get accustomed to bowling/facing the Kookaburra in line with their preparations to tour Sri Lanka later this year.

We zeroed down on a pretty popular shop (through internet ratings) called The Cricket Shop, located at Urban Colombo. We chanced taking a couple of tuk-tuks – envisaging options of a cheaper ride, as compared to a taxi from the Premadasa.

The route to The Cricket Shop seemed a detour, given that the drivers had little idea of the location we were talking about. Suneeth’s concerns over the rate the driver would charge us fell to deaf ears – both parties being unable to understand what the other was saying. The only word the driver seemed to know was “No Problem.” To add to that, the other tuk-tuk had taken a different route, and Suneeth seemed certain that this was a game to rob a few foreigners off their cash.

Suneeth was in half a mind to get down and call a cab, but we figured any adventure (or mis-adventure) was an experience worth shouldering. Fortunately, we made it there eventually and ended up paying 600 Sri Lankan Rupees for the ride.

In discussion with Rila Mohamed, Director – Administration, The Cricket Shop, Colombo.

The Cricket Shop, at St Anthony’s Mawatha (Mawatha means ‘Road’ in Sinhalese) seemed the one-stop-solution for cricketers, ranging from amateur to pros, for procuring gears. The very purpose of our visit there, as mentioned earlier, was to check out Gray Nicolls gear. The cheapest Gray Nicolls willow was priced at around 45000 Sri Lankan Rupees, with a top end willow costing close to 70000 LKR.

The shop had an impressive range of display spanning Kookaburra, Stanford (SF), Puma, CA, Gunn & Moore, and SS – a fast moving brand since Sangakkara and a few other Sri Lankan crickets started endorsing it.  The shop Proprietor and Director, Rila Mohamed, was a very friendly man who took time off to explain in detail how he imports bats from India and why SS has become the brand being sought after by youngsters.

He boasts of photos and autographs from some of the best players from around the world, while mentioning that since most of the players are sponsored by manufacturers themselves, they stop by in case of an urgent need to procure a quality willow. Trust, he says is the factor that brings most cricketers back to The Cricket Shop.

Our hopes of buying a box of Kookaburra cricket balls went for a toss when we discovered that a single piece cost close to 14000 LKR. Maybe it’s time we believe in our players and understand that they, after all, can spontaneously adjust to the demands of the Kookaburra cherry when we get here.


Goutham Chakravarthi

17th September 2012

Colombo

Nearly four years have passed since I last visited this glittering island. The lack of multiple security checks at military checkpoints, a facet that seemed a norm back then, immediately stands out. One thing that hasn’t change is the warmth of the locals and the smiles on their faces.

Photo

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFP

A cyclist rides past a cut out of Sri Lankan players in the capital Colombo. © AFPFrom the airport to the beachside restaurants in the south of Sri Lanka, it’s all about the ICC World Twenty20. Seaside resorts are abuzz with cricket fever, and even the cab drivers tell me they are keeping an eye on the weather forecast, praying for the rain gods to show mercy for a month.

“I want West Indies to win and I believe they have a good chance,” Abhishek Bharathkumar, an Indian national and a former age-group captain for Tamil Nadu, who is here in Sri Lanka on vacation with his family, said.

In addition to home favourites Sri Lanka, India and West Indies are also seen as favourites by the locals to win the trophy while Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga appear to be the fans’ picks for the stars of the tournament.

Sangakkara is extremely popular amongst the locals here, understandably so.

“Kohli is my favourite player from outside of Sri Lanka. But Sangakkara is my favourite though and his three awards only prove that he is among the best in the world,” says Haroon, a shopkeeper at the airport.

Teams, stats, clubs, T20 leagues are all part of routine conversations with cab drivers and at family dinners.

The locals are also excited by the unearthing of unconventional talents Dilshan Munaweera and Akila Dananjaya, and the expectations for them to deliver are high. Sri Lankans are extremely confident the two players discovered at the SLPL have what it takes to succeed; many of them want both players to be included in the playing XI instead of warming the benches at this year’s T20 World Cup. With Sri Lanka known to offer unorthodox talent, the world will wait with equal interest to see if Dananjaya and Munaweera can use this platform to launch their careers similar to how Angelo Mathews did during the 2009 edition of the tournament in England.

The wickets here seem to be no longer inclined to help slow bowlers or batsmen who thrive on slow, low tracks. Well rounded attacks like Pakistan’s are expected to succeed and progress beyond the Super Eight stages.

“Wickets these days offer some nip to even medium pacers. I think Thisara Perera will be the player of the tournament if we go on to win the cup,” says Cathy, who is a waitress at the wonderful beachside restaurant Loon Tao in Mount Lavinia. She believes teams with allrounders who can bowl medium pace are at an advantage.

A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.A large contingent of tourists meanwhile are keen on catching the action at the India-Pakistan warm-up game on Monday. However, the overselling of World Cup tickets still lingers as a prime concern amongst many of them.

“Ticketmaster, who are handling the ticket sales for the ICC, found that in the first few days of sales certain ticket outlets had access to the ‘blocked’ ticket database, and some of those tickets were sold to the public,” cheif executive of the Sri Lankan cricket board Ajit Jayasekara said, explaining the issue to Island Cricketrecently.

“When this computer glitch was noticed, they took remedial steps and offered alternative seating to those few people who had bought tickets from that database. The actual number is minimal and did not have an effect on the overall ticket sales.”

Even with several warm-up matches out of the way, It is hard to pick a favourite to win the tournament. The wickets will certainly have a significant say in outcome of the series, and should the wickets have nip and pace, it will be a very open tournament. Three sub-continental teams made it to the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup played in the sub-continent last year, and it is hard to see others challenge them should the wickets turn out to be slow turners.

Pakistan possess an impressive bowling attack, however, the chasm between sides shrinks to a blur in this format. Teams like Bangladesh can pose a formidable threat; both Pakistan and New Zealand will be wary of them, as they are in the same group.

The mood is festive. The most open WT20 tournament is upon us. Sri Lanka is the place to be right now.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there.


Shridhar Pandey

It would probably be very easy to get carried away following India’s win in the first Test match against New Zealand in Hyderabad. It sure would take a brave-heart to find shortcomings out of such an emphatic win. But let us not forget the consecutive 0-4 drubbings India has had over their previous two Test outings. At the risk of being called a cynic, I would like to take this opportunity to point out a couple of areas where the Indian team still needs to pay due attention. Before that, let us have a look at the various positives that can be drawn out of this victory.

Cheteshwar Pujara justified all that was being said and written about him so far. He, no doubt, is a class act. During entire course of the Test match, he never looked like an enforcer; neither did he look like a mere survivor. He completely looked like one who belongs at that level. He might not be as aesthetically pleasing as Tendulkar or Laxman; but to call him complete (at his own level) won’t be an understatement. Virat Kohli’s half century was like a breeze of fresh air. He must be very disappointed with himself at the way he threw his wicket away for he is one player who always likes to be in the thick of things.

Taylor has an uphill task in preventing a whitewash in Bangalore. © AP

Pragyan Ojha bowled like he always does – right on the money. He may not have been successful every time he has been given a chance, but I, for some reason, get the feeling that he is someone who has not always got his captain’s backing. Ashwin yet again showed that he is a lethal weapon on a track that provides some assistance. Though he is just seven Tests old, he has shown a lot of promise. Once again, his real challenge would come when he moves out of his comfort zone and goes to countries like South Africa, Australia or England. He did not fare very well in Australia the last time he went there, but that would have been a bit too much to expect from a spin bowler who had played just three matches before that – all in the subcontinent.

There were two aspects of Sehwag that could be seen in this match; one impressed and the other disappointed. First, his slip catching was exceptional. Let us hope that he pulls off similar catches when the pace bowlers are in action. Second was his batting which was not very impressive. Though he did hit a few of his trademark boundaries on the off side during his short stint, he did never resemble the Sehwag of past.

Moving on to the pace bowlers; though they did not get much chance to bowl or assistance from the pitch, they failed to impress in whatever opportunities they got. Their Kiwi counterparts did a much better job in comparison. Zaheer Khan, who has been India’s bowling spearhead over the last few years, went wicketless – that is certainly not a good sign. Umesh Yadav did manage a couple of scalps. But his overall bowling was by no means impressive.

Suresh Raina failed to hold on to another life given to him. He is doing his chances no good. This season may prove to be his last on the Test arena if his performances continue the same way. He cannot find a place in the Test side just by virtue of his good fielding skills. The overall Indian fielding was a real pleasant surprise though – maybe the injection of young and fresh legs would have done the trick.

To sum up, a pessimist might be successful in finding out weak links in however good a Test side. But taking nothing away from the Indian team’s performance, I would like to conclude with this: they not only need to keep up the good work, but also need to focus on a few other key areas if they are to do well in South Africa in 2013 and win back the coveted no. 1 Test ranking.


Muthukumar Ramamoorthy

Ah! A Test match again for the Test match lovers of India. Strangely for the first time without the greats – Dravid and Laxman – the legends that guarded the Indian test middle order batting line up along with Tendulkar for more than one and half decades!

It was a wonderful day to start the tour in a beautiful ground. The little grass on the pitch that indicated more the monsson than any assistance to the Kiwi pacers, the all-green quick outfield and well built new-look Hyderabad ground was all a pleasure to watch with Dhoni winning the toss and electing to bat – a perfect wicket to bat on. A lot must have been discussed before the test match to identify the right player to be groomed in filling the no 3 and no 5 positions and also the playing XI also.

Looking at the wicket, it was right choice to have had the regular opening pair to open the innings. Sehwag and Gambhir did get off to a good start despite some trouble from the seamers. Both the seamers were initially giving enough trouble to the batsmen although both the openers did punish the odd loose ball with ease.

India’s indiscretion in getting out to poor strokes seemed an extension of the one-day series from Sri Lanka than that of early season rust. Gambhir started off with that and followed by his opening partner Sehwag who seemed to be set for another 100 in his own style. It was glad to see those ‘confident trademark Sehwag boundaries’ before he got out. That must have boosted the confidence in him and also the millions of fans who are desperately looking for a big score from him after sometime in Test Cricket.

Like me, most of us would have for sure expected what we saw when Gambhir walked back. The number 3 slot – the Dravid slot! Pujara came in as no surprise choice to bat at number 3. From the very first ball that he faced, it seemed obvious that he was sent and set to make it big today. With Pujara settling down slowly, it was anticipated a big stand between him and the little master Sachin would unfold. However to the disappointment of the nation, Sachin was undone by a beauty of a delivery that nipped back a bit to knock back his middle-stump.

Then came Kohli who is fast becoming Mr. Dependable and Mr. Flexible to bat at no.5. Kohli started off with his typical wristy shots. It was pleasure watching Kohli playing those forward drives with so much ease. It was a very well scripted 50 from the young man who could have easily converted and tasted his maiden Test hundred on Indian soil.

It was a perfect come back innings from Pujara which could potentially cement his place in Indian test team as No.3 batsman

With Kohli, Pujara carried on to bat unleashing all the shots as he raced from 50 to 100 at run a ball. For what we know him more as a strong on-side player, he showed his class in those back-foot guided punches, square cuts and cover drives on the off-side too. Pujara’s eloquence was as impressive as his temparament as he laced pretty drives and cuts that laced the green turf. With his maiden Test century in the very first match after returning to the international side after more than 18 months, definitely Pujara did justify his recall and played with his head to cement his place in the side – not just in the side but also the batting position for the near future at least.

Another debate in the team selection is the choice of Raina ahead of Badrinath / Rahane. Raina continued his poor form once again. It wasn’t the usual Kiwi side on the field with few dropped chances costing them dear. However Pujara was lucky to be still in with umpire denying a caught behind appeal. The Kiwi captain did make his spinner Patel sweat a lot who doesn’t seem to have succeeded enough except taking the wicket of out-of-form Raina. So with Dhoni looking solid in the crease, and with a well set determined Pujara, I am hoping for a 450 plus total on board although half the side is back in the pavilion.