Sunday, November 6, 2016

India England 5 Match Test Series Billed Up As #ScoreToSettle; Can They Live Up?

The last time England toured India (in 2012) for a Test series it was billed as a revenge series after India had plummeted to lowly depths of a 0-4 loss in England just months prior to the beginning of that series. England, then, grounded India into dust at their home with Cook, Trott and Pietersen playing the key roles in negating India's spin threat. England came unscathed with a 2-1 victory against a strong Indian side in their own backyard. India visited England again in 2014 and were bashed comprehensively once again with Kohli having a horrid tour as India capitulated against both the swing of Anderson and the guile of an unsuspecting Moeen Ali. England were victorious again by a 3-1 margin.

So much for a brief history between these two sides and more look ahead to what promises to be a mouth watering clash of 5 tests between India and England. While India are coming off a convincing win over the Kiwi's in which Ashwin and Jadeja played key roles, the English are coming off a loss to Bangladesh where they had a tough time negotiating the Bangla spinners.

This series is definitely going to be defined by how the English batsmen can cope with the dual threat posed by Ashwin and Jadeja and in Cook, Root, Bairstow and Stokes they do possess the batsmen who can take it to the Indian spinners. I also feel that England would be better served by dropping Gary Ballance and playing the dynamic Jos Buttler as Buttler is a much better player of spin bowling having played in the IPL in India. A left field choice can also be Sam Billings, who in my opinion uses his feet brilliantly and can slot in the crucial number 4 position.

Coming to the English bowling combination; with Anderson out at least for the first test, England can go in with Woakes, Broad, Stokes, Moeen and Adil Rashid. Root will also have to roll his arm over on a regular basis if the main bowlers fail to make an impact. The cooler conditions that will prevail in India in November and December should certainly help their fast bowlers in the morning session and also to stay fresher for longer periods of time. They also exploited reverse swing brilliantly in Bangladesh and will be looking forward to getting some of that in India as well.

India on the other hand looks quite a settled side apart from the opening position where quite a few of their first choice openers are injured but in Vijay and Gambhir, India has two brilliant openers with excellent records behind them. Indian bowling should feature two spinners and two fast bowlers but they might go in with three spinners if the conditions demand the same. Hardik Pandya might get a debut as he has improved greatly since he first began and he will hope that he can bag his chances and create an impact straightaway.

This will be series that will certainly show where these two teams are placed right now and there are a lot of questions that will probably be answered by the time dust settles on this long 5 match series. Will India retain its number 1 position in Test Cricket? Can Cook and co plot India's downfall in India for a second time running? Is Ashwin really as good as his figures up until now suggest? I am really looking forward to this series but not with a tag line of #ScoreToSettle; just sit back and relax and enjoy good cricket between 2 good and improving young sides!!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Rangana Herath all set for a Captaincy Debut!!

Rangana Herath to Captain Sri Lanka for the first Time against Zimbabwe in Tests

Rangana Herath, the amiable slow left spinner will captain Sri Lanka for 1st time at an age of almost 39 and it could not have happened to a nicer guy! I wish him all the very best as he leads the Lankans against the Zimbabweans in a two match test series starting today!!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Zealand and India to begin the ODI series Fight at Dharamsala

India blanked the Kiwi's comfortably in the three match test series; riding high on stellar performances by R Ashwin, Virat Kohli and Pujara; among others who also made notable contributions at important junctures. Now the focus shifts to the shorter formats of the game and the excitement starts at the picturesque locale of Dharamsala which is all set to host the first ODI of the five match ODI series between India and New Zealand.

MS Dhoni returns to lead a side high on confidence but also a side which will have plenty of new faces from the one which we saw in the test matches. Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara are all missing while Raina will miss the first ODI with viral fever. The injuries to Dhawan and KL Rahul has opened up a slot at the top of the order and Ajinkya Rahane might well get an opportunity at the top of the order.

The spin department might not miss Ashwin and Jadeja much as Amit Mishra and Axar Patel are there to give cover and will be eager to perform and show that they are quality too. The fast bowling will be bolstered by Jasprit Bumrah who will be aiming to get his pin point yorkers working in the death overs.

Over all, this Indian outfit might be missing some regular players from the squad but still bears a very strong appearance and the Kiwi's will have to play out of their skins to emerge victorious in the ODI series. They will need Williamson and Taylor to fire in the batting department and hope that the returning Corey Anderson along with Neesham and Ronchi will do the job in the middle order.

The Kiwi's have plenty slow bowling options as they showcased at the World T20 earlier this year and I feel that the ODI's will be a keenly contested series. If the tracks are batting friendly than I don't see India beating New Zealand with this squad as the Black Caps have an explosive batting line up but if the tracks assist the slower bowlers and are sporting enough then it will be a fun series which will see various mouth watering battles over the course of the next month or so.

Who do you think has an upper hand in this ODI series? Any scoreline predictions?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

DilScoopExit - Dilshan Announces His ODI & T20I Retirement

Tillakaratne Dilshan, one of the most flamboyant cricketers of recent times has announced his retirement from ODI and T20I cricket at a ripe age of 39. He was a gifted stroke-maker and did all that was asked of him on the field. He is the inventor of the famed 'Dilscoop' and his booming cover drives were a treat to watch. Despite his age, he remains one of the best fielders in the Lankan side. With Sangakkara and Jayawardena already hanging their boots in the recent past, Dilshan's exit will surely leave a big hole in the Sri Lankan side.

He will play his last ODI against Australia on the 28th of August in Dambulla and will finally bow out after playing the two T20I's scheduled for early next month against the same opposition.

He was a brilliant batsman, a canny off spinner and combined with his panther-like reflexes anywhere in the field, he was every captains dream - Dilshan you will be sorely missed! Thank you for all the memories, All the Best for your future!!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kusal Mendis - The Rising Superstar of Cricket

I first saw Kusal Mendis play when he made his debut against the West Indies late last year. He did not have a special debut but from whatever little I had seen about this young man convinced me that he would go on to represent Sri Lanka for a long time in all the three formats of the game. Crisp straight drives, steely flicks, venomous cut and a free flowing youthful technique made him a joy to watch.

He occupied the vital number 3 spot left vacant by one of the all time test greats, Kumar Sangakkara and has left his own indelible mark by first playing a couple of attractive innings on the recently concluded tour of England. Lahiru Thirimanne, another young man with oodles of talent but one who has failed to make the cut at the highest level made way for the young Kusal and he has grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

On a treacherous Pallekele pitch which afforded assistance to both the spinners and the quick bowlers, playing against the number one ranked team in test cricket and facing bowlers like Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, this 21 year old batsman played the innings of a lifetime as he lifted Sri Lanka from a precarious position to power them to a huge score. Considering that the Lankan first innings ended at a meagre 117 followed by 203 by Australia in their first dig and Lanka managed 177 (without Mendis's contribution of 176) and finally Australia in the last innings who were bowled out for just 161 - Kusal's 176 stands out like a beacon amidst havoc all around. He showed tremendous self confidence and assurance during his stay and got his runs at a fair clip. Yes, there was some luck involved here and there but on a pitch such as the one that the match was being panned out on, that is expected.

He reached his hundred with a slog swept six off the Aussie number one spinner, Nathan Lyon and did not celebrate like he had brought the house down. Measured and focused, he held his arms aloft and got back to doing his job again. The numerous post match interviews that followed displayed the same calm demeanour, and that was, for me, the hallmark of a great in the making. We see young men today celebrate like there is no tomorrow even after reaching a small milestone and here was this 21 year old kid having just led his team to a monumental victory displaying extreme maturity after having played one of the best test innings ever.

I hope that he can carry on from here and go strength to strength and delight cricket fans all over with his fluid technique and crisp strokes. At a time when Sri Lanka are struggling to find their feet as they cope with a slew of retirements of their all time greats, young men like Mendis and Sandakan must bring a smile to the Lankan supporters on whom the onus now lies to carry forward the legacy of the tiny island!

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