As India’s tour of South Africa neared the end, newspapers all over the country couldn’t help themselves from gushing over the brilliance of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal with Sachin Tendulkar and Ian Chappell both discussing how crucial the spinners’ roles will be as India’s overseas season builds steam.
In other news, Steven Smith, the Australian Test captain, has laid down the gauntlet in the upcoming four-match Test series against South Africa while Eoin Morgan, England’s limited overs captain, exercised caution when talking about Ben Stokes’s return to international cricket.
The Indian Express talks about how MS Dhoni’s glittering career is coming full circle with the decisions he made early in his captaincy to phase out waning veterans possibly in line to happen to him as well.
And Kohli has batted like a maestro in the ODIs, led by example. A record-breaking 558 runs in six matches at a phenomenal 180.00 with three centuries is a massive feat, but Kohli’s batsmanship transcends numbers. It’s a lot about mindset, attitude and confidence; Kohli is in a `zone’ now, dominating attacks, blending solidity with exquisite shot-making. Of course, he has become a more rounded batsman technically with footwork, balance and a tighter game around the off-stump. His back-lift is a lot straighter, too. And the man with the gift of timing eased the ball through the gaps, toyed around with the field-placements with subtle and last-millisecond adjustment of his supple wrists.
Kuldeep and Chahal have exploited this flaw unmercifully and they’ve been both brave and shrewd in knowing exactly when and where to flight their deliveries. The first time I saw Kuldeep, I was impressed when he dismissed David Warner in the deciding Test of the 2016-17 series against Australia. It was courageous captaincy by Ajinkya Rahane in the tense circumstances, but the composure of Yadav soon changed it to a match-turning decision. That was another notable thing about Kuldeep bowling; he’s a rarity for his breed in that he’s much more accurate than the average chinaman bowler.
Time is a great leveller, however, and the old Dhoni is not the Dhoni of old. There’s a tangible decline in his contributions with bat, and the question he once asked of others is begging to be asked of him now. But the one whose decision matters, Virat Kohli, remains convinced he needs Dhoni for the 2019 World Cup in England. The incumbent India skipper Kohli, as tough and demanding as he is, often betrays the impression of being emotionally invested in his picks. His predecessor, notwithstanding murmurs of a bias towards a few Chennai Super Kings players, was detached. It makes you wonder how Dhoni would’ve audited his recent performances. To go back to the movie, would Dhoni 2018 fit in Dhoni 2011’s team?
Tendulkar also said the beauty of wrist spinners is that they can bowl even in unhelpful conditions and hence they can add a lot of value. “I firmly believed that the wrist spinners can add lot of value as they are not dependent on the surface. It is about what you do in the air and you have varieties bowling leg-spinners as well as googlies. Of course, during our days, bowling doosras by off spinners was common,” he said. Tendulkar also said when batters play against wrist spinners in shorter format like T20, they can get away with experimental shots like reverse sweep over point or short third man or scoop shots over the keeper’s head.
“Parents should give their children freedom and encourage them to play sport,” he said. “Not because we want to produce Olympic medallists but because we want to have a healthy and fit India. We love watching sport, but very few of us regularly engage in sporting activity. We don’t play. I want to make an effort to transform India from a sports-loving to a sports-playing nation.” Sports, he felt, had to become part of the curriculum in schools. “I’m hoping the right to play becomes a reality and sports become a part of the curriculum. I feel the right to education and sport will complement each other well.”
Toyana said the defeat exposed how much the Proteas relied on Hashim Amla, De Villiers, Du Plessis and De Kock for runs. “Losing a series 5-1 will lead to a few key questions being asked. We haven’t batted well and there weren’t enough partnerships in the top six. “To be bowled out for just over 100 and 200 at Centurion, a high-scoring ground, wasn’t good enough. It shows that those four senior batters have been key for us and we’ve depended on them. While the likes of Klaasen, Markram and Zondo are promising, they are still finding their feet.” Toyana was curious about whether the balance of the Proteas was right yet. He wondered if the all-rounder problem created by Jacques Kallis’ retirement years ago was close to being solved. “Going forward, the key will be how they balance the side with their all-rounders,” he explained.
Orthodox leggie Chahal and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep shared 33 wickets between them and literally bamboozled the South African batsmen. Wessels maintained that the Indian triumph did not come as a surprise to him. “I wasn’t surprised by India’s performance as I knew going into the One Day series (after Tests) they are going to be competitive and they are a good One Day team. South Africa had a depleted side and they lost players through injuries (in the series) and their play against spinners was not good enough. India was the better side,” said Wessels, who had also played for Australia when his native country was in cricket isolation during the apartheid era.
Sources said the Indian team management and CoA chairman Vinod Rai recently discussed the outcome of the Test series and it was mutually agreed that more Indians cricketers should be encouraged to spend time in the County Championship or play India A matches before the series begins. “One thing is certain. If the Indian team had spent at least 10 days in South Africa before the first Test, it would have made a lot of difference to the end result. The team is determined that each player gets enough time and exposure in England before the actual series begins,” a top board official told TOI on Saturday.
Morgan’s words were at odds with those of Trevor Bayliss earlier in the week, though the coach’s trepidation over Stokes’ availability was understandable considering his lack of competitive action. Morgan saw the all-rounder regularly before he went to Australia in January for the start of England’s various white-ball assignments, and has stayed in touch with him by phone since. He has a good idea over where his head is at: “It depends on how his body reacts. He’s been bowling indoors – it’s not the same as outdoors. It was a relaxed first 24 hours back for Stokes. After arriving at the team hotel just after 6pm on Friday he spent the evening in the team room, “chipping golf balls and talking crap” with the rest of the team, said Morgan, with Australia’s five-wicket Trans-Tasman tri-series win over New Zealand on in the background. “It’s as if he hadn’t been away.”
PCB mulls Malaysia as venue for NZ, Australia series (ESPN Cricinfo)
Pakistan have had a longstanding, mostly trouble-free association with the ECB, with the UAE hosting a major chunk of Pakistan’s home cricket since 2009 as well as the PSL. In recent years, however, the relationship has taken an occasional hit. In 2016, for instance, the eventually doomed Masters Champions League (MCL) nearly put the opening season of the PSL in jeopardy as the ECB refused to lease out the three stadiums in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah to Pakistan, arguing that the MCL had already locked in the venues. The PCB explored Doha as an alternative venue but ended up negotiating a settlement with the ECB which allowed the PSL to go ahead, side by side with the MCL.
Earlier in September last year, a workshop to finalise the five-year FTP from 2019 to 2023 saw the first draft of the FTP. The draft is to be presented during the yearly ICC meeting in June, where it will be signed by all member boards. The proposed FTP saw international matches moved backwards or forwards to make room for the Indian Premier League (IPL), while India were also granted series against the other top-ranked nations. On the contrary, Pakistan were given significantly less ODIs, 38, to which the PCB proposed an increase in the number of matches. The PCB, in its own proposed schedule, asked for at least 45 ODIs. An increase in T20Is and Tests will see Pakistan move for 121 international matches from the proposed 104.
Except for a couple a couple of swashbuckling cameos from veteran Stuart Broad, England’s tail had few answers when combatting Australia’s hostile short-pitched bowling approach in the Ashes. Dramatic lower-order batting collapses from the tourists were a running theme during the home summer, often sparked by the express pace of Australia’s quicks, which was a deciding factor in Smith’s charges regaining the urn. But while the Australians had the clear edge in bowling speed over their English counterparts, they will own no such advantage against South Africa, who possess a pace battery prepared to fight fire with fire.
Again, given when different types of bowling are employed, you could form a persuasive debate around spin being second-best. Maybe world-class players are more adept at scoring off the slower bowlers, employing an array of inventive shots along with the slog-sweep to anything full? What is apparent is that New Zealand’s opponents should bolster their spin ranks. This season, opposition spinners had taken 14 wickets from 49 overs at 27.64 with a RPO rate of 7.89, while the rest of the bowlers had taken 36 wickets from 112.1 overs at 30.5 at 9.80 RPO.