Category: India cricket news (page 1 of 54)

Jason Holder starts to play how you always imagined he would

India failed to chase down 190 against the West Indies and there were a couple of prominent reasons for this.

Firstly, MS Dhoni hit India’s slowest half-century in 16 years – although ‘hit’ seems an entirely inappropriate word to use for an innings of 54 off 114 balls. MS Dhoni bobbled India’s slowest half-century in 16 years. He was there until six balls to go too, so his soporific knock actually took in much of ‘the slog’ .

Another reason for India’s low score was Jason Holder.

When we first caught sight of Holder, we thought ‘ooh hell’ or something along those lines. Two metres tall, a seam bowler who could bat, we had visions of Curtly Ambrose as an all-rounder. After watching him play, he came across as more of an Angus Fraser/Chris Tavaré character.

While that would be many people’s dream cricketer, it was nevertheless an interesting contrast to one’s expectations. He was clearly a committed cricketer, but a labouring one to whom results didn’t appear to come easily.

For a long time the effort-plus-raw-ingredients-equals-results equation didn’t really add up for Holder, but the final part has been increasing in value for a while now. He took 5-27 against India and if he’s still coming on second or third change in Tests, here he was opening the bowling.

There’s more to come. Albeit probably in the form of a self-destructive diktat from the West Indies Cricket Board.


Peak Pakistan

Virat Kohli makes the least of his reprieve off Mohammad Amir (via ICC)

Scrape into a tournament through being ranked eighth in the world, throw in a few debutants, win the thing.

Quite often you get to play Pakistan. Occasionally you have to play Pakistan. India suffered the latter.

How in blazes?

If we were to imagine that winning a cricket tournament involved repeatedly writing the word WIN on a piece of paper, then Pakistan do not issue their players with pens.

The Pakistan approach is to take a whole bunch of magnifying glasses and then throw them into the air hoping to hell that the sun’s rays strike them at such an angle and at such a moment that the refracted beams scorch the letters into the page without incinerating it. This normally results in a lot of broken glass, but not always.

Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman who made a devilishly effective hundred in the final, made his one-day international debut last week. Shadab Khan has played five first-class matches. Pakistan also managed to shrug off dropping the finest one-day batsman in the world in the time it took Mohammad Amir to walk back to his mark. Somehow it all worked out and India were not just beaten but positively monstered.

How do you win a one-day tournament in 2017?

The narrative ahead of this competition, at least in the UK media, was that modern one-day cricket is all about hitting sixes and making 400 on flat pitches. This storyline coloured perceptions to such an extent that the national team felt hard done by when they were asked to play a semi-final on a used pitch.

‘That’s not the way one-day cricket is supposed to be,’ they seemed to say, as if there were an official diktat about such things from the governing body. ‘Make the version of the game that we’re good at the only permissible version,’ they added.

But it turns out modern one-day cricket can be many different things.

In the end, the team that won the Champions Trophy was the one that cobbled together the most effective bowling attack, as is so often the case.

Pakistan may well have aspired to build their game around heavy run-scoring, but that never really became an option. A friend of ours maintains that using moisturiser makes your skin “lazy”. Similarly, we wonder whether Pakistan’s bowlers have actually benefited from knowing the value of a run.

Which isn’t to say the Pakistan batsmen didn’t switch it on in the knockout stages, despite suspicions that they lacked the switch, let alone a power source. The truth is that the team – the unit, if you will – did a lot of things well. This was a three dimensional win.


Video: Virat Kohli dropped off Mohammad Amir… Virat Kohli caught off Mohammad Amir

Virat Kohli makes the least of his reprieve off Mohammad Amir (via ICC)

Pakistan often lunge enthusiastically towards the ridiculous in the firm knowledge that this is their best hope of rebounding to sublime cricket – but even for them this moment was something else.

There is a strong argument that Virat Kohli is the finest one-day batsman there’s ever been. He is not a man you can afford to drop in the final of the Champions Trophy.

Oh no, turns out you can.


Nine things to watch out for when India play Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final

There are all sorts of India v Pakistan previews out there, but this is currently the only one on this website that goes up to nine.

1. Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling action

Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling action (via ICC)

Evidence, if it were needed, that the “hey, what’s that over there?” bowling ploy can work just as well at international level as it can in the back garden.

2. Jasprit Bumrah’s name

We’ll literally never tire of it. This is why.

3. Hasan Ali

Who’s been taking all the wickets and not going for runs? Hasan Ali, that’s who.

4. Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali plays a textbook wild hoick (via ICC)

No-one has scored more runs at a lower strike-rate in this Champions Trophy. Not too many people have scored fewer runs at a lower strike-rate either. Yet Pakistan are still in the final, so can anyone really quibble with his approach thus far?

5. Virat Kohli’s anger level

Misfield by team-mate – angry. Lack of effort by team-mate – very angry. Hugely pleasing individual or team performance – positively enraged. Never mind measuring bat speed or the distance covered by fielders, what we’d really like to see is some sort of videogame-style graphical representation of Virat Kohli’s fury levels; a sort of gradually filling bar that turns red and glows once it’s completely full.

6. Virat Kohli more generally

He’s only been out once in the entire tournament. For a duck.

7. Kedar Jadhav’s right-arm filth

Kedar Jadhav’s round-arm shod (via ICC)

This is quite simply what cricket’s all about. Please give him a bowl in the final. Please. Apparently Jadhav doesn’t practise his bowling much in the nets. You’d never guess.

8. Fakhar Zaman

Most teams are keen to groom players for major tournaments in the hope of maximising what they get out of them when it matters. Pakistan pick debutants and see what happens. Zaman has so far made 138 runs in his 117-ball one-day international career.

9. Pakistan pakistanning

Whether it’s a feeble batting collapse, a crazy four-over whirlwind of wicket-taking that decides the match, or Mohammad Hafeez suddenly deciding he’ll bat like Shahid Afridi, you’ll know the moment when Pakistan start pakistanning and it will be (in)glorious.

 


India v Bangladesh goes pretty much exactly how everyone expected

Rohit Sharma tonks one (via ICC)

Rohit Sharma tonks one (via ICC)

Who would have thought this match would turn out exactly as everyone expected it to? What were the odds on that? Extremely slim, you’d have thought, what with the extraordinary wealth of alternative outcomes.

Tamim Iqbal played a good innings and there was reasonable support from one of Bangladesh’s middle-order stalwarts, but  they ultimately fell short of the mythical ‘par’. India’s top three then chased down the target.

It was all as predictable as the punchlines in one of those new sitcoms where they seem to have spent so much time trying to mimic the style of an old sitcom that no-one’s actually found a minute to write any jokes.

India will play Pakistan in the final. It seems unimaginable that it won’t pan out exactly how the group stage game did. Pakistan’s fabled unpredictability will make people think that this won’t happen, so Pakistan will of course feel moved to prove everyone wrong by ensuring that it does.


Sri Lanka force Virat Kohli to use the other knife

Knives (CC licensed by David Harris via Flickr)

Knives (CC licensed by David Harris via Flickr)

Imagine you have a good knife and a really shitty knife. You regularly use both, but the shitty one’s kind of shitty. It can cope with cheese and maybe a courgette, but you’d never risk it on an onion or something like that.

One day you want to slice a tomato. Tomato slicing is not a task you entrust to a shitty knife. That’s how you lose a finger. So you pick up the good knife, you position it on the tomato and apply pressure.

You’ve done it a thousand times before, it’s always worked perfectly, but on this occasion the blade fails to penetrate the skin. Instead it slips back towards your hand and gouges into your fingers. ‘Brilliant,’ you think. ‘The good knife’s gone all shitty. What the hell am I supposed to do now?’

There’s nothing you can do. You set what was once the good knife aside (because for some completely inexplicable reason you’ve never invested in a nice whetstone, so it’s basically blunt forever) and you instead grasp the shitty knife. The shitty knife has just been reinstated as the best knife.

You then proceed to mash the tomato to useless pulp.

Point is, from time to time you’re going to find yourself in a position where something that you routinely rely on suddenly lets you down and you end up having to use the back-up thing as the main thing.

This is what happened when Sri Lanka doled out the hammery to Ravindra Jadeja.

Jadeja went for 52 runs in six overs and Virat Kohli was left thinking: “Wait… what?” – or something along those lines.

He was then forced to make the exact opposite bowling change to the one he’s been conditioned to execute whenever he’s been confronted with an instance of bowler hammery in the past. Instead of bringing Jadeja on, he took Jadeja off.

So what happened? Well, Jadeja had become father to a baby girl earlier in the day. Even if the skiver didn’t show up for the debilitatingly intense bit, that kind of a thing can seriously blunt a man for pretty much the whole of the rest of the day.


Video: Yuvraj Singh goes nuts against Pakistan

It’s nice to see that Yuvraj Singh’s nuts-at-the-end-going capabilities are largely undiminished because going nuts at the end has always been very much his thing.

For their part, Pakistan’s end-nutsiness is largely irrelevant these days because they can’t reliably manoeuvre themselves into a position where it would be appropriate to deploy the long handle.

As an England fan, we can offer hope that there may one day be an end to the familiar ill-timed run-outs and forlorn trying-to-raise-the-run-rate catches in the deep. Don’t ask us when though. All we’re willing to say is that it could happen.


India and Pakistan resolve to fulfil fixture obligation despite Abdul Razzaq’s retirement

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

The cliché is that cricket is a religion in India, which has always seemed to us to greatly overstate the importance of religion in a country where such things are basically ten a paise.

Pakistan’s pretty keen on the sport too. It’s good to find things you have in common.

As an outsider, matches between these two teams are a delight. They’re shorn of the tension borne of having any real preference who wins and yet are riddled with zillions of reminders that what is happening is A Big Deal.

And the fixtures are so rare too. You can’t often say that about international cricket.

If we’re to go digging for a cloud beyond this lovely silver lining – which of course we are – it comes in the form of team selection. No Stuart Binny for India and quite inexplicably no Azhar Mahmood or Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan.

The latter (again) announced his retirement from international cricket two days ago, which must rank as a particularly magnificent effort even by Pakistani standards.

The show goes on though. Our in-depth preview is that India have the better recent record but Pakistan have been in Birmingham for slightly longer, which surely must count for something.


Ben Stokes or Sunil Narine?

Ben Stokes played a handy innings yesterday.

With his team, Rising Pune Supergiant, chasing Gujarat Lions’ 161, Stokes made 103 not out, batting at five.

Cricinfo said that Stokes “owned the MCA Stadium” – although their use of the past tense implies that he’s since sold it or perhaps had it confiscated.

What people want?

This knock would, on the face of it, seem to be what the IPL is all about: big name players making big scores in dramatic fashion. Yet to us, it’s almost the least interesting thing about the competition.

Throw enough decent players together and ask them to play enough T20 cricket, and you’re going to get a few head-turning innings. Without remotely wishing to diminish what was clearly a magnificent example from Stokes, this sort of thing seems almost inevitable. It’s how the competition’s set up.

We find the shadier corners far more interesting; the areas where well-paid coaches are ferreting around trying to eke out an advantage. Because while Stokes won a match for his team, his only other batting contribution of note has been a fifty in a losing cause.

So what else has been happening?

So far this IPL, the storyline that’s had us most intrigued has been that of Sunil Narine the opening batsman.

This is interesting for a kick-off because statistically speaking Narine isn’t any kind of batsman whatsoever. He has never made a fifty in any of the major formats – not even in domestic one-day cricket.

He is, in essence, a pinch hitter.

Narine’s team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, started the tournament with the relentlessly straight-hitting Chris Lynn, a man who’d scythed through the Big Bash League scoring at 177 runs per 100 balls and averaging 154.

Lynn started the IPL in similar style, making 93 not out off 41 balls in his first match and 32 off 24 in his second. Then he got injured.

Cometh the hour, cometh the spin bowler

Lynn was the fifth-highest run-scorer at the Big Bash. His replacement was the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the same competition.

What’s most interesting is that the move has sort of worked. It certainly hasn’t been a failure. Narine still doesn’t have a fifty to his name, but he made 42 off 17 in one match and 34 off 17 in another.

These are handy starts. They give his team-mates time and the risk is low as the loss of Narine is, on the face of it, not the greatest blow to a team’s chances.

Narine doesn’t hang about and this is handy because – odd though it sounds – the first six overs of a T20 innings do typically feature a surprising amount of about-hanging. Even those openers who are big-hitting by reputation will often play themselves in and this is something of a wasted opportunity considering the number of boundary fielders during the first Powerplay.

In conclusion

In a T20 game, a couple of extra boundaries in the first Powerplay could easily prove the difference between victory and defeat. At the same time, a whirlwind innings from one of the world’s greatest players could be the fat man bombing your lilo, trampolining you out of the water.

Who knows which kind of match the next one is going to be. Teams kind of have to bear both in mind.


Virat Kohli is basically livid about beating Australia

Virat Kohli must be the dictionary definition of hard-to-please, for no-one on earth is an enraged by their own success as he is.

When Kohli makes a hundred, he’s angry. When his team wins a series over Australia – even though he’s not actually playing – he’s positively enraged.

We’ve done detailed analysis of a grainy video posted to Twitter to prove that second point.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Kohli’s initial reaction to series victory is something that could, at a push, be construed as pleasure.

virat-1

It isn’t long however before that emotion starts to make way for something else.

virat-2

The eyebrows are starting to harden. The jaw is tighter. The fists are starting to clench.

virat-3

By this point it’s unmistakeable. Virat Kohli is decidedly pissed off about winning a Test series against Australia.

virat-4

This is where he ends up.

Livid.

Absolutely sick to the back teeth, the front teeth and tonsils of experiencing sporting success against his rivals.

Someone is going to pay for this positive outcome.

Big time.


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