Saturday, June 3, 2017

India Face Pakistan in CT17 Opener at Edgbaston - Match Preview

India Vs Pakistan, Edgbaston - ICC Champions Trophy 2017; Match Preview

India and Pakistan, the bitter arch rivals will take on each other to start their campaigns in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.

For once the roles have reversed for the Asian giants, what with Pakistan having a settled coach in Mickey Arthur while India grappling with how tough a disciplinarian Anil Kumble is being, with the Indian superstars.

As India continue to refuse to play Pakistan outside of ICC tournaments, this clash comes as a relief for cricket fans from both sides of the border.

Edgbaston, which will host the crucial tie has had iffy weather conditions lately; with the Australia - New Zealand match having already suffered a washed out yesterday. But the pitch is a very good one for batting with scores in excess of 300 a regularity at this ground in the recent matches.

Both India and Pakistan have a strong batting line up but the difference is that this time, India have a bowling attack that matches that of Pakistan. With Umesh, Bhuvi and Shami during on all cylinders and Ashwin and Jadeja manning the spin department Indian bowling looks to be in a pink of health.

Their batting however is a concern this time with Rohit, Kohli, Dhawan and Yuvraj all having a mediocre IPL which ended just a few weeks ago. Dinesh Karthik looked good in the warm up match and he might play over Yuvraj. Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya will provide the finishing along with the evergreen Dhoni.

Pakistan batting will depend on Hafeez and Shoaib Malik both of whom love playing against India. They also have the talented Babar Azam and explosive Ahmed Shehzad in their ranks. Sarfaraz provides late hitting along with a couple of new players who stole the limelight in the warm up match against Bangladesh.

Amir, Junaid, Wahab and rookie Shadab Khan lend a menacing look to the Pakistani bowling attack and they will be keen to unsettle a tentative looking Indian batting line up.

Key Battles:

Virat Kohli Vs Mohammad Amir
Shoaib Malik and Hafeez Vs Ashwin and Jadeja

India vs Pakistan is a contest which is a money milking cow for the ICC and Star Sports has been promoting this match as #SabseBadaMoh. I just hope that the English weather holds up and we are treated to a spectacle by both India and Pakistan. One thing is for sure though, the ground will be packed, there will be noise, there will be passion in the air and a silent prayer on the lips of the millions who will witness this encounter!

Monday, April 3, 2017

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Mumbai Indians

Mumbai Indians have one of the most rounded squads for IPL 2017 and while other teams having been sweating over the injuries of key players, Mumbai welcome their leading batsman and captain Rohit Sharma; who is returning after a long lay-off. MI will be hoping to 'Hilao the Duniya' & pick up their third IPL title as they have also roped in the astute Mahela Jayawardena in their backroom staff!

Key Players - Mumbai captain and their batting mainstay Rohit 'Hitman' Sharma is scheduled to return from injury that laid him low late last year. They also have Parthiv Patel who is coming off a stellar year in domestic cricket. Buttler, Rayudu, Pollard and Pandya brothers shore up their middle order.

They have enough arsenal in their bowling tank with Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson and Jasprit Bumrah all set to rev up and scare the opposition batsmen away. Old timer Harbhajan leads the spin department along with Krunal Pandya. 

Injury Tracker - Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee were recently injured and it is not clear if they are available right from the start.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Rohit Sharma
He is one of the leading batsman in IPL cricket and has been a key figure for the Mumbai team over the years.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Asela Gunaratne
He is not a big name but has already established himself as a vital cog in the Lankan set-up. Capable of big hitting late in the innings, he also bowls clever slower balls to befuddle the batsmen. MI did a great job by aquiring him at this years auction.

My Prediction - Mumbai, as always, have a nice and settled line up with an array of players who can come in and fill up a position left vacant in case of any emergency or injury. Traditionally MI have been slow starters but once they get going it is almost impossible to stop them. I expect a top 3 finish from them in this, the 10th edition of the VIVO IPL.

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Royal Challengers Bangalore

Royal Challengers Bangalore, traditionally, have one of the most glittering line ups in IPL but for all their riches, they are yet to lay hands on the silverware in the previous 9 seasons. RCB fans would want to believe that IPL 2017, the 10th season of the Indian Premier League is where they get lucky finally!

Key Players - Bangalore side is studded with big names like Virat Kohli, Shane Watson, AB '360 degress' De Villiers, Chris 'Universe Boss' Gayle and it is their batting line up that makes them a force to reckon with. With the names mentioned above, the opposition bowlers are under pressure even before they step onto the field.

T20 specialist Tymal Mills has been added to strengthen their bowling while they already have Yuzvendra Chahal in their ranks who has been very successful for them.

Injury Tracker - Even before IPL 10 has commenced, RCB have been dealt severe blows with opener KL Rahul ruled out of the entire tournament while participation of Virat Kohli is also uncertain. Mitch Starc, who was hugely successful last year will also be missing from RCB colours this season.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Pick anyone from their top 3 and you will get bucketful of points. I would pick Shane Watson as the pick as he is likely to open in the absence of Rahul and will also bowl giving you points.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Yuzvendra Chahal
He has had very strong seasons with the RCB team and finally got picked in the Indian side for T20I's where he showed great composure against an attacking English line up. He will once again be their leading spinner and is bound to get wickets on Indian pitches.

My Prediction - RCB might finally break the hoodoo of not winning the title as they have smartly invested in good bowlers this time. Mills, Milne, Shamsi are now associated with them and with an ultra strong batting line up already in place; their bowling reinforcements might just have completed the final piece in the missing jig-saw puzzle for them. I think they will certainly go deep and have all the ingredients to pick up the trophy for the first time.

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Kolkata Knight Riders

Kolkata Knight Riders are one of the most consistent sides in the IPL with a huge fan following and the support of their fans goes a long way in scripting the fortunes of the side owned by the superstar SRK! They will be looking to add to their cupboard the IPL Trophy for a record 3rd time this year.

Key Players - Gautam Gambhir has been an inspirational captain for KKR and he along with Robin Uthappa have been instrumental in providing them with good starts. Although they will miss 'Dre Russ' big time but they have Shakib, Narine and the Indian spin sensation Kuldeep Yadav in their ranks for IPL 2017.

Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan will shore up their middle order as they have been doing for more than a couple of seasons now.

Injury Tracker - They will miss the services of their herculean all rounder Andre Russell as he is currently suspended by the ICC for violating anti-doping norms. Umesh Yadav might miss out on the initial stages of the IPL after being part of a long Indian season.
UPDATE: KKR have signed Kiwi explosive batsman and a handy seam bowler Colin De Grandhomme as a like for like replacement for Andre Russel.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Shakib Al Hasan
He can be a great pick in your fantasy team as he bats up the order and is also likely to bowl his quota of 4 overs in nearly every match. He is also in relatively good form coming off a successful series in Sri Lanka.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Chris Lynn
Lynn has shown in the BBL that he is a monster striker of the ball and if he gets enough opportunity, he can destroy bowling attacks on his own. With Russel missing from KKR's scheme of things this year Lynn might just get an extended runs in IPL 10

My Prediction - Kolkata Knight Riders have a decent squad but Gambhir and Uthappa are going through a rut and with talisman Russell missing too, I find it hard to see them getting past the league stage this year. They might finish 5th or 6th in my opinion.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Kings XI Punjab

Kings XI Punjab have had a wretched time in IPL finishing last in each of the last two editions of the league. Their big ticket players in Maxwell, Vijay, Miller and others have failed to perform consistently which has meant that the team has always been under pressure.

Key Players - Punjab decided to hand over the captains arm band to 'The Big Show' Maxwell for IPL 2017 and a lot will indeed depend on how Maxi goes right through the tournament. With Murli Vijay & Martin Guptill set to miss the initial games due to injury, Maxwell along with Miller and Morgan become the fulcrum around which the Punjab team will revolve.

Wriddhiman Saha and Axar Patel will be the key Indian players in their set up along with Manan Vohra who can give blistering starts at the top of the order.

Injury Tracker - Murli Vijay and Martin Guptill will both miss initial games due to injury. It is not yet clear when they will be available.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Marcus Stoinis
Stoinis is coming off a pretty successful Big Bash League season and played a stellar role for the Australia ODI team. He can fetch points in both the batting and bowling department and can be a great pick of he gets going.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - 'The Sharmas'
Mohit and Sandeep Sharma will once again shoulder the responsibility of opening the bowling for the Kings. They have thus far bowled superbly in pair both at the start and at the death.

My Prediction - Punjab have a lot of players who can boom or bust in a second and that's the exact reason why this team fails so often. Their batting looks good on paper but they look thin in the spin department to me which might come to haunt them. I think they will, unfortunately, miss the playoffs once again.

Read Other Team Previews by clicking on the respective Team Name:

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Gujarat Lions

Gujarat Lions played like long time professionals belittling the fact that they were new-comers the last time around and topped the league table. Although they failed in the playoffs, but their style of play left none in doubt about the talent and fire power that they possess.

Key Players - As if having Finch, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum was not enough they roped in the dangerous Jason Roy to their ranks. With Suresh Raina and Jadeja in the middle order along with Dinesh Karthik who is in the form of his life the Lions have a batting lineup to die for. Their bowling though, looks thin with no big names there.

Injury Tracker - Dwayne 'Champion' Bravo is set to miss the initial post of the IPL 2017. Reports suggest that star allrounder Ravindra Jadeja will also miss the start of the IPL. Missing two key all round players will surely have an impact particularly on their already suspect bowling attack.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Brendon McCullum
He can blast the opposition out and on a flat Rajkot pitch is likely to tee off right from ball one!

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Dinesh Karthik
He is having a dream run at the moment in domestic cricket and he could well turn out to be the Lions mainstay if the top order fails.

My Prediction - Gujarat Lions might have a dangerous top order which might carry them to the playoff stage but they remain a hugely unpredictable side especially on the bowling front. I think they will make the playoffs but won't go any further.

Read Other Team Previews by clicking on the respective Team Name:

Delhi Daredevils
Rising Pune Supergiant(s)
Sunrisers Hyderabad
Gujarat Lions
Kings XI Punjab
Kolkata Knight Riders
Mumbai Indians
Royal Challengers Bangalore

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Sunrisers Hyderabad

The reigning champions of IPL and they will look to defend their title under Aussie David Warner again. They have made some interesting changes to their squad and will be confident of reaching the knock out stages of IPL 10.

Key Players - David Warner led from the front last season and will be eager to regain that form after a poor test series against India. A lot will rest on the start that he provides and for their potent bowling attack to have a total to defend.

Mustafizur, Nehra and Bhuvi were brilliant defending small totals last year and this year they will have the young Afghani pair of Nabi & Rashid to fall back on, in the middle overs.

Dhawan and Moises Henriques were the others who played an important role in the Sunrisers team going all the way last time around.

Injury Tracker - There is uncertainty if Mustafizur will play in the IPL. Nehra, as always, remains an injury suspect.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - David Warner He might have endured a drought in the test series against India but remains a potent force in the T20 version and not having him in your team is at your own peril.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Rashid Khan, if he plays, can be a handful in a team already boasting of champion bowlers.

My Prediction - Though their win last year was not of Leicester City proportions but still it will be tougher going for them this year. I think they will struggle to qualify for the playoffs this time unless Warner can fire again.

Read Other Team Previews by clicking on the respective Team Name:

Delhi Daredevils
Rising Pune Supergiant(s)
Sunrisers Hyderabad
Gujarat Lions
Kings XI Punjab
Kolkata Knight Riders
Mumbai Indians
Royal Challengers Bangalore

Saturday, April 1, 2017

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Rising Pune Supergiant(s)

One of the two new teams, Rising Pune Supergiants did anything but rise in their debut season. Marred by injuries as they lost one superstar after another, they finished a lowly seventh among eight teams. They have enough depth and versatility this time to really be a strong force and a winning start might set them on their way in IPL 2017

Key Players - They took a big decision of replacing MS Dhoni with the red hot Steve Smith as the captain of their sinking ship. The other big decision was getting hold of the best all rounder in the game today, Ben Stokes. They also have Imran Tahir, Zampa and Rahane who will all need to step up for them at key moments.

Injury Tracker - Kevin Pietersen, Mitch Marsh and R Ashwin are all out with injury and although they seem to have enough cover as of now any more injuries might disrupt their campaign severely.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Steve Smith
He is the man in form and with him occupying the key number three spot, you would be a fool to not pick him in your team.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Rajat Bhatia
Not someone who will give you points by the minute but is surely likely to provide you with consistent points right through.

My Prediction - RPS seem to have enough ammunition to get them post the league stages of they can gel together. They will finish in top 3 in my opinion if key players like Smith, Stokes, Tahir and Zampa are available right through the season.

Read Other Team Previews by clicking on the respective Team Name:

Delhi Daredevils
Rising Pune Supergiant(s)
Sunrisers Hyderabad
Gujarat Lions
Kings XI Punjab
Kolkata Knight Riders
Mumbai Indians
Royal Challengers Bangalore

IPL 2017 Team Preview - Delhi Daredevils

Delhi Daredevils are a team that have not always performed according to the talent and potential they possess. Barring a couple of seasons early when Sehwag and Gambhir fired for them, they haven't reached the knock out stage of the IPL.

Key Players - With Duminy and De Kock both ruled out of the IPL 10, Delhi will have to look to their other foreign stalwarts to wade them through the season.

In Carlos Brathwaite, Corey Anderson and Chris Morris they have three of the best all rounders playing the game today. Amit Mishra and an in form Shreyas Iyer would be the key Indian players for Delhi. Indian test players Jayant Yadav and Karun Nair will also be looking forward to proving their mettle in the shortest format of the game!

Zaheer as a captain will have to at his inspirational best mentoring the young Rabada and Cummins along the journey. Dravid will have to give smart inputs and galvanise a team shorn of big names and hope that they can create magic on the field.

Injury Tracker - The Protea duo of De Kock and Duminy are both missing and this could have a huge effect on Delhi's fortunes this season considering that the two were their leading performers last season.

Fantasy Cricket Pick - Amit Mishra
On turning Indian pitches, Amit Mishra is likely to play all the matches and is bound to give you a bucketful of points right through the season.

Fantasy Cricket Wildcard Pick - Shreyas Iyer/ Rishabh Pant
With De Kock out, Iyer and Pant might open the batting which means that they will surely get you points if they get going.

My Prediction - Delhi have found the going tough and are constantly fighting for scraps and with some of their key men already on the injury roster, they might struggle once again. I think that it would be a miracle if this team finishes any higher than 6th spot once the league phase is done with.

Read Other Team Previews by clicking on the respective Team Name:

Delhi Daredevils
Rising Pune Supergiant(s)
Sunrisers Hyderabad
Gujarat Lions
Kings XI Punjab
Kolkata Knight Riders
Mumbai Indians
Royal Challengers Bangalore

Sunday, January 29, 2017

India Look to Keep T20 Series Alive in Nagpur

India vs England, T20I at Nagpur; 29 January 2017 - Match Preview

England, a mediocre side as far as shorter formats of the game were considered till the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015; turned it around in a spectacular fashion as they underwent a total change in personnel and mindset after another disastrous campaign at another global event.

How close they ran a strong Indian side in the ODI's before dismantling them in the opening T20I is a testament to their success.

Jason Roy and Sam Billings gave them a whirlwind start in pursuit of a modest Indian total before a calm Root and aggressive Morgan killed it swiftly. That their best players in this format; Buttler & Stokes, weren't even required shows how much progress they have really made.

But credit must also go to their bowlers who restricted India to a below par total as they displayed variety and finesse. Tymal Mills bowled well over 90 kmph but had enough skill and courage to try slower balls which befuddled the Indians. Moeen Ali kept it tight in the middle overs while Jordan provided short ball therapy to the Indian batting line up.

India must look to get rid of KL Rahul; at least in the short term as he looks woefully short of form and with Rishabh Pant waiting eagerly in the wings this might be the perfect opportunity to blood him in.

Chahal was brilliant in the opening game but Nehra and Bumrah were all over the show in their opening spells giving width and pitching the ball either way too full or short. India might also want to consider bringing in the experience of Amit Mishra in place of Rasool who bowled quite a number of short balls in his debut game.

The second T20 match today in Nagpur is crucial for India as they look to keep the series alive and a loss today will severely dent their confidence going into a tough series against Australia.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Young Sri Lanka Face a Strong South African Side in Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka vs South Africa, 1st ODI; Port Elizabeth - Match Preview

Sri Lanka were battered and bruised by a strong Protea unit as they slumped 0-3 in the test series but a young Lankan side played manfully in the T20I's that followed to give Sri Lanka their first ever series win in South Africa in any format as they won 2-1.

Now we come to the five match ODI series and with the Champions Trophy looming on the horizon, thus is an ideal opportunity for both sides to get their squads in order.

South Africa again appear far stronger on paper with quality players like Amla, De Kock, De Villiers and Faf du Plessis in their side not to mention Duminy and Rabada as well. Sri Lanka will be led by the veteran Upul Tharanga and he will be keen to showcase his captaincy skills against a tough opposition after he led Sri Lanka to the title in the recently concluded tri-series in Zimbabwe which also included West Indies.

Sri Lanka will hope that Dickwella will continue his stellar run and that the extremely talented duo of Mendis and De Silva convert promise into something substantial. Chandimal was the pick of Lankan batsmen in ODI cricket last year and he would want to continue his good form. South African bowling seems a bit light on paper as compared to their batting unit and Sri Lanka will want their batsmen to concentrate on building a long innings and put them under pressure in the slog overs.

I would also want Sri Lanka to play both Vandersey and Sandakan who can do the dual role of tying the batsmen down as well chip in with wickets in the middle overs.

South Africa will miss the pace of Lungi Ngidi after he was injured in the field in the last T20 so Parnell and Phehlukwayo might both get in along with Morris who returns from injury.

This South African side is a beast and they blanked the Australian's 5-0 recently at home in ODI's so it won't be easy for Sri Lanka but if the Lankans put on show the same grit and determination that they displayed when playing the T20 format then they have the calibre to surprise their much fancied opponents.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

India look to tame England on Republic Day

India vs England, T20I at Kanpur; 26 January 2017 - Match Preview

So after the three match ODI series that saw bowlers from both camps getting murdered; the India England cricket caravan moves on to the most destructive format of the game with Kanpur set to host the first T20 of the three match series. With scores of week over 300 a norm in the recently concluded ODI series, this promises to be a run fest as well with both India and England boasting of some massive strikers of the cricket ball.

England will hope that Jason Roy can continue to provide blistering starts while also silently praying that Jos Buttler gets into his groove as he is their most dynamic player who had the ability to improvise by playing highly unorthodox shots. They will also welcome Joe Root back to the side who missed the last ODI due to a niggle. With players like Stokes, Jordan, Plunkett and Ali in the side they have the personnel who can bat right down till the very end.

India's batting flourished in the ODI series and though it still seems to revolve a lot around Kohli the trend seems to be changing with the recent form of Yuvraj and Dhoni welcoming for team India. With home boy Raina back in the fold and young KL Rahul looking to get runs under his belt after a failed ODI series the Indian batting looks strong on paper.

Amit Mishra gets a look in as both Ashwin and Jadeja have been rested for this series with the Aussie tests looming on the horizon and he must be keen to show that he is good enough to play for India on a regular basis. Pandya is a bowler to look out for as he seems to have gained a yard or two in pace but still lacks in control a wee bit. Bumrah, with his slingy action and accurate yorkers, will be the man for Kohli in the death overs.

England have loads of bits and pieces players who are good enough to destroy the opposition with either bat or ball in hand. Tymal Mills is a quick bowler coming off a decent showing in the BBL and he might get a look in. Adil Rashid might miss out as he has the tendency to leak runs.

With an early start to the T20 match, dew is not likely to be a factor and spectators can sit back and enjoy all the action unfold between two teams that will go toe to toe in a breathless format.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

End of an Era - Mahi steps down as India captain in ODI's & T20I's

Mahendra Singh Dhoni dropped a bombshell on the cricketing fraternity by announcing that he was stepping down as India captain from the shorter formats of the game with immediate effect. It was a typical Dhoni decision; which catches everyone on the outside off their guard but one which he probably has taken time to think over in his head numerous times. He has taken the decision at an opportune time giving Kohli ample time to ready the troops for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup to be held in England.

The rise of Indian test team under Virat Kohli means that Indian cricket team will not be thrown in turmoil following this decision while it will also allow Virat to captain while he has MSD on the field to help him out during periods when the going gets tough. Dhoni was also not the same free flowing batsman in the last couple of years as his performances in front of the wicket dipped and he struggled to kill games off as he did earlier with aplomb. With the burden of captaincy off him, we might be lucky enough to witness the most destructive of phase Dhoni yet. He is still the quickest behind the wickets and his speed is something that I am amazed at so that is not a problem at all.

He gave this Indian team it's spine and belief, brought glory to the country's shores and played in a way that was the best for the team. It was under him that the Indian cricketers shed the mentality of going for personal glory rather then putting India first. He has been a pioneer with his captaincy and out of the box decisions which left most cricket pundits scratching their heads in disbelief. He never shied to take tough decisions but was also considerate and understanding so as to give full backing to a player he thought deserved more.

He is, without any doubt the greatest captain India has ever produced and India were lucky to have a guy with such temperament and tactical nous to lead them at a time when stalwarts like Sachin, Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman bid good-bye to Indian cricket. I hope that he shines brighter then he has ever shone just like the candle which spreads the most light when on it's last breath!!