Category: India cricket news (page 1 of 52)

Why did Tymal Mills go for so much at the IPL auction? Because he’s fit for purpose

Tymal Mills

Tymal Mills has been signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for £1.4m. In response, many have felt inclined to ask what Ian Botham, Viv Richards or Ian Austin might have gone for. This seems to us to be somewhat missing the point.

In the UK, the phrase ‘Twenty20 specialist’ still has a faintly pejorative hue. Some do indeed come to focus on the shortest format as a result of shortcomings in the longer ones while Mills himself had the decision made for him by his own spine. But no matter how you arrive there, as far as the IPL sides are concerned, a player who is 100 per cent focused on the finer points of T20 can only be a good thing. A desirable thing. A thing they’d pay money for.

It’s not just that Mills is likely to be available for the entire tournament, it’s more that T20 is his whole professional life. Last season he described how he and his Sussex team-mates would practise yorkers with a white ball for a period. Then, when everyone else moved on to bowling four-day lines and lengths with a red ball, Mills would just carry on bowling yorkers.

To ask why Mills should sell for over a million when he hasn’t even played Test cricket is to overlook why that’s a good thing. Ben Stokes sold for £1.7m  and while he is unarguably a better cricketer (if nothing else, he can bat) then Mills will surely prove the better investment. If Stokes’ adaptability is a key strength, then he is nevertheless pulled in many different directions. Mills doesn’t need to be especially adaptable. He can just focus.

Like Stokes, Mills has also profited by being two players in one. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he does possess two qualities that are always in demand in the IPL auction. Firstly, he is a left-armer and secondly, he can bowl at 90-odd mph. Combine those two qualities with his unwavering focus on Twenty20 cricket matches and then subtract Mitchell Starc from the auction and see the bids roll in.

For the record, had he been around today then Ian Austin would have sold for six weeks’ supply of meat-and-tatty pies and a year’s subscription to the Racing Post – but it would have been a hell of a bargain for whoever saw fit to splash out on him.


Bangladesh three long sessions away from Test series victory over India

Relatively speaking. Escape with a draw and that’s basically a win for the tourists, isn’t it? And being as it’s a one Test series, that would also mean a Bangladesh series victory. Again, relatively speaking.

Three sessions seems an awful long time when you’ve only got seven wickets left though. Three fifth day sessions. Three fifth day sessions with R Ashwin bowling at you. When you’re Bangladesh.

So, in other words India are seven wickets away from victory. In fact, being as most of you will read this on the daily email which won’t go out until mid-morning on Monday, check the scorecard – India have probably won.

It’ll be funny if they don’t though. All these big India tours this season and Bangladesh were the ones who stood the best chance of escaping with a draw.


Virat Kohli dealing in daddies and doubles

Virat Kohli (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

Virat Kohli (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

Is ‘supersizing’ still a thing or did it die out after that Morgan Spurlock film? We’re old enough now that we should probably research our knee-jerk cultural references to see whether they still apply. Let’s not bother and just assume that this one’s still current.

Virat Kohli had never hit a Test double hundred until July 2016. He now has four of them. His other hundred in that period, 167 against England at Visakhapatnam, was a mere daddy – an innings so mundane, we didn’t even write about it.

We were in McDonald’s in York about 20 years ago. We’ve a vague notion that the cooker had broken but can offer no defence beyond that. There was an American guy ahead of us in the queue. He was one of those touring Americans who likes to enjoy his trip by loudly proclaiming how much bigger and better everything is in his home country.

“You see how there’s a medium and a large on the menu,” he said. “In the US, everything is large.”

Another person might have seen this as a lack of choice, but he could only see merit in it. Everything’s bigger, you see. And bigger’s better.

Virat Kohli currently gets his hundreds from a possibly fictitious 1997 McDonald’s somewhere in the Midwest.


MS Dhoni is officially capable of scoring a fifty in a T20 international

MS Dhoni (CC licensed by Marc via Flickr)

MS Dhoni (CC licensed by Marc via Flickr)

Ah, bless. He’d made a few in club cricket, but this was MS Dhoni’s first fifty in T20 internationals. Hopefully this is a first step towards a successful career on the big stage.

Speaking after the game, Dhoni may or may not have said: “This was my first fifty in T20 internationals. Hopefully this is a first step towards a successful career on the big stage.”

Not to be outdone, England claimed some sort of record or other by losing eight wickets for eight runs.

Six of them were taken by Yuzvendra Chahal as he returned the third-best figures in T20 internationals.

Chahal almost certainly didn’t observe: “Hopefully I can be the next Ajantha Mendis.”


England will pray for nip or tail at the Champions Trophy

Still taken from Sky Sports

The early stages of England’s one-day cricket revolution saw the team transform from one that scored about 250 on average to one that score about 250 on average.

The difference was in the range. They went from making 240-260 and losing every game to making 100-400 and winning half the time.

In India, they made over 320 in all three matches, winning one and losing two. From purely a batting point of view, this seems to be further progress.

‘Consistency’ is a recurring press conference platitude. Another is that a team can bat well, bowl well and field well but needs to start delivering in all three areas at the same time.

Being as England’s win came in the match in which they made their lowest total, we can perhaps presume that their bowling on this occasion attended the shindig. Was there any reason why this match was different to the other two? Well, there was a bit of nip, wasn’t there?

After one match of this series, England dropped their best spinner and instead fielded four seamers. This slightly bizarre step left them a caricature of themselves with four of their five bowlers greatly more effective if the ball swung or seamed.

England don’t do extraordinary pace; they don’t bowl slower balls with a quicker one for a surprise; they don’t do weird knuckle balls and the like; and they chose not to do wrist spin.

The good news is that the next major competition, The Champions Trophy, is being played in the United Kingdom. British pitches – even the relatively tame ones produced for one-day cricket – tend to provide a bit of nip, while the climate tends to provide that unspectacular level of swing that is generally referred to as ‘tail’.

We’re going to stick our neck out here. If their batting really has achieved some level of reliability, nip and tail should allow the host nation to win more than half its matches at that tournament.


Why waste your best bowler in the final over?

The idea that England might try and bounce out Virat Kohli proved as wide of the mark as a Devon Malcolm loosener. They decided to pepper him with half-volleys instead. And it worked.

They adopted a similar method against Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, occasionally mixing things up with a surprise full toss. That didn’t work.

Eoin Morgan also gave Chris Woakes the final over and we’ve no idea why. After nine overs, Woakes had 4-46 and had looked England’s only halfway effective bowler. Bowling the final over, what influence could he have?

Even if Woakes taken four wickets in four balls in that over, he’d only have restricted India to 367. Had he bowled his final over a little earlier in the innings, even a single wicket might have resulted in a score less than that.

Teams routinely put their most effective bowlers on for the 50th over of an innings. Why? Unless it is the second innings and the chase is tight, the final over is the one in which you can least affect the outcome of the game.


Your team’s late barrage of sixes is bad news for them

Jos Buttler

A run doesn’t have a set value. That is a recurring theme of this website. The value of a run derives from the game in which it is scored and in all honesty can only accurately be gauged with hindsight. Up until the moment a match is finally decided, all we are doing is gathering evidence and sharpening the picture.

Yesterday, in the first one-day international against India, England whopped a load of sixes at the end. They hit one in the 22nd over and then three more before the 43rd over, before flapping, blamming and punting seven more from then on.

This seems pretty normal. For all that one-day cricket has changed, it’s still not the worst strategy to build some sort of a base before taking more and more risks as the innings wears on. However, the more sixes they hit in this late period, the more we became utterly convinced that India would win the game.

It was almost as if every six was worth minus six. As mishits and flat skimmers cleared the ropes, the value of a ‘maximum’ – and therefore the value of a run – became clearer. Each six seemed to bring with it the shadow of two others that hadn’t been hit earlier on.

In contrast, India had hit 10 sixes by the end of the 38th over. They knew they were there to be had.

Even at its farthest extreme, cricket is never exactly ‘most sixes wins’ – but it is still an indicator; a signal as to how easy it might be to score runs on any given day.

The brilliance of Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav was obvious and flaws in the touring side’s defence can also be found. But given their chance again, maybe the England batsmen would – in more ways than one – have aimed higher.


R Ashwin: Lord Megachief of Gold 2016

Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.

A nod for Ben Stokes’ relentless Test excellence (904 runs at 45.2 and 33 wickets at 25.81); a second nod for Virat Kohli’s performance across all formats, which included 1,215 Test runs at 75.93; and a third nod for the homicidal capybara Rangana Herath, who took 57 wickets at 18.92.

However, this year’s Lord Megachief of Gold is R Ashwin, a man who can’t so much as look at a cricket ball without winning a Test match for India.

r-ashwin-bowling-cc-licensed-by-james-cullen-via-flickr

R Ashwin bowling (CC licensed by James Cullen via Flickr)

R Ashwin took 72 Test wickets at 23.9 in 2016 and also scored 612 runs at 43.71 during his downtime, which he mostly likes to spend with a bat in his hand. He is a strike bowler who does the donkey work who also bats well enough that his side can field an extra bowler. If his captain is higher profile, it is Ashwin who India would miss most.

To repeat a point we made a few weeks ago, pit a team of 11 Ashwins against one comprising 11 of any other individual player and the Ashwin XI would surely come out on top after the two teams had come up against each other home and away.

We’ll come to the bowling in a second, because that’s the heart of the matter, but before we do that it’s worth closing this section by pointing out that only three Indian batsmen scored more runs than him in 2016.

How to take wickets

R Ashwin is not a mystery spinner. Mystery spin – in the form of the carrom ball – is just something he resorts to when necessary, or when he thinks the pitch suits that particular delivery. Once upon a time, mystery spin was something to aspire to, but Ashwin has transcended it. It is something he is occasionally reduced to.

Mystery spin is Plan B because Plan A generally works pretty well. Against England, Ashwin took 28 wickets, including three five-fors and that was far and away his least successful series of the year. In the West Indies, he took 17 wickets at 23.17 (while averaging 58.75 with the bat) and against New Zealand, he took 27 wickets in three Tests at an average of 17.77.

Expectations

In all honesty, 2015 was probably more impressive in terms of his returns with the ball, but that is arguably what’s so admirable. This has been a continuation; a meeting of already lofty expectations.

Ashwin took no wickets in the first 2016 Test innings in which he bowled (against the West Indies). In the second innings, he took 7-83 and India won the match. Even when he seemingly lets India down – such as when they drew the next Test – you see that he still took 5-52 in the first innings.

Like a badly-trained dog, he has never been down for long. A slow start in the first Test against England was followed by 5-67 in the first innings of the second. As a UK website, we focused on the England batsmen’s response to pressure, but that pressure didn’t come out of thin air. It fizzed down, out of R Ashwin’s right hand.

The series against New Zealand was pretty much relentless wicket-taking.

In a nutshell

As he skips around the outfield like a primitive robot inexplicably constructed out of wet concrete, you remember that R Ashwin isn’t actually flawless. Far from it. He is a trier. He is a ponderous and pondering man who has methodically hewn himself into the most influential cricketer around.

He is the nerdiest nerd who delivers the least fashionable style of bowling. He approaches the crease as if both his arms have been stuck on inside-out, indulges in a brief prance and then delivers the ball without the least bit of ceremony.

And it works.


Virat Kohli had power tools while Alastair Cook only had rusty manual hand-me-downs

Alastair Cook of England in action during Day Four of the Second Investec Test Match between England and New Zealand at Headingley Carnegie Cricket Ground, Leeds, England on 27 May 2013. Photo by Sarah Ansell.

England haven’t stagnated. They’re just worse at bowling and facing spin than India. And playing Test cricket in India involves bowling and facing an awful lot of spin.

So rather than howling about normality, now might instead be the perfect time to revisit the monumental achievement that was England’s 2012 tour. Reviewed through the prism of the last few weeks, we can better see that series win for the glorious aberration it truly was.

But back to stagnation

There was no point in the last few years when England were a better spin conditions side than India. If there’s been a significant change, it’s that England have been obliged to play Test cricket in India. They should be able to avoid that activity in the immediate future, so the side’s already on the up-and-up.

Yesterday we wrote about perceptions of pitch flatness. We’re less than delighted but not entirely surprised to have had our subtext made explicit. England lost ten wickets for 104 runs in 48.2 overs today. The last six wickets fell for 15.

But this doesn’t sum up the tour. You don’t lose a marathon by half-an-hour in the finishing straight. This last collapse was just the cracking of a side subjected to prolonged stress. The ‘lazy’ shots and apparent incompetence were just a manifestation of all that had gone before.

What had gone before?

Just an awful lot of being worse. India weren’t twice as good – as today’s result perhaps implies – they were just reliably better at almost everything, day after day after day. It wasn’t just the obvious elements, like spin bowling, it was also the related ones, such as bowling seam on Indian pitches.

Playing at home does confer certain advantages. A necessary reliance on spin bowlers is a major one that is always likely to make an India side more effective and an England side less effective. However, it’s hard to avoid concluding that this particular version of England has been more affected by this than most.

Every team is skewed towards some style of cricket or other, but the relative paucity of good spinners and turning pitches in the county cricket ecosystem means England don’t just struggle for bowlers, they also lack spin-adept batsmen.

Can you summarise this with some sort of reference to DIY?

If you need to saw through a floorboard, you can get the job done with a hand saw. It’ll take you a few minutes. However, if you have a circular saw, you can do the job in seconds. This is before you even get started on the plumbing, rewiring or corpse-concealing that necessitated the floorboard removal in the first place.

England set out for their winter tours with a plastic box full of hand-me-down tools and they made do. In Bangladesh, they managed to get some sort of a job done by improvising with pliers and adjustable spanners. Against India and their van full of professional equipment, they simply couldn’t keep up.


Zombies, ghosts and theodolites

A pitch’s flatness extends beyond its physical characteristics. No matter what its actual nature, the fielding side is going to struggle to accept that there’s anything there to be exploited when it’s 600-5 and this mentality only smooths the surface further.

By 700-6, a captain will be yearning for a combative bowler who will take it upon himself to shift the game from what by this point will seem a miserable path of inevitability. The problem is that any such player will quite obviously have had their exasperated “I’ve had enough of this” moment long before then.

You hit 700 and all options have been exhausted. Adrenaline and zest have run dry. There is nothing to call on. You’re standing around in Purgatory and the identity of the bowler matters to no-one but the person who is actually delivering the ball. With ghosts in the field, even they might feel somewhat detached from proceedings.

Throw in a batsman who’s by this point already seen everything the opposition can confront him with and even a theodolite wouldn’t allow you to detect an irregularity in the playing surface. That isn’t to say they aren’t there though. Better, fresher, more motivated bowlers can find things zombies cannot.

Karun Nair had a decent day. 303 is a fair knock, even against heat-wearied undead who’ve failed to take on enough carbohydrates.

Virat Kohli is an aggressive captain. We know this because he always tells us so. Today’s act of aggression was to punish the England fielders by making them watch Nair reach a landmark.

There is a case for saying that both India and England have played to about 90 per cent of their potential in this series. The problem for the tourists is that the home team’s potential massively outweighs theirs in these conditions.


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