The IPL drug: RCB

I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to write an article a long time ago about the woes of RCB but I was being painfully optimistic and kept putting it off. “A line up like that can’t carry on losing… and losing… and losing.” “It’s just a bad run, all teams go through it.” Yet here we are, match 34 of 56 with a star studded RCB having played 8 games and lost 7. Yet RCB fans are high as ever, ready and rooting for the express pace of Dale Steyn. Virat Kohli has created a high like no other, one that has kept RCB fans hooked.

I spent the last three months in Bangalore and I was lucky enough to see a few RCB games. The atmosphere was like nothing I had ever seen before. I’ve been to my fair share of World Cup games, Champions Trophy games, bilateral series’ in the UAE, England, Sri Lanka and even India. I’d seen the big rivalry of India v Pakistan but this was something else. It was electric. Chinnaswamy stadium was on fire, a sea of red engulfed the stadium. It was the 7th match, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians and I could see no blue. Silence fell over the Stadium as Hardik Pandya hammered a six out of the stadium. He wasn’t their man. It didn’t matter what he had done for India, he was wearing the wrong shade of blue right now.

Then came AB De Villiers. A deafening roar errupted from the ground “ABD… ABD…”, louder than any I had heard before, like a clap of thunder “ABD… ABD…”, louder than MS Dhoni walking out just a few weeks before at the same stadium during the India v Australia series. What country was I in? Had I landed back in South Africa? Every ball, every run, every boundary, every maximum was fuel being added to the fire that was Chinnaswamy. Nothing else mattered. It was like a fix.

It was entirely forgotten that only the week before, RCB had been toppled over with 10/11 players not even reaching double figures.

Next came the Kolkata Knight Riders. Match 17 of the IPL. RCB were 4 losses in and yet to get their first points on the table but still a passionate fire blazed at Chinnaswamy. This was the day. RCB batted first and the sea of red burned bright in the Stadium. A 108 run partnership between Kohli and AB and the stadium was in a state of pure ecstasy.

205 on the board. It was going to be RCB’s first win… That was until Big Muscle Russell walked out. 42 of his 13-ball 48 came off maximums. A spectacle. He bludgeoned the ball straight back over the bowler each one going further than the previous. Silence in the stadium and the fans were once again put on a spiraling comedown.

A lot of questions are surrounding RCB right now with who is running the show. Is it Virat Kohli? Is it Ashish Nehra? One thing is for certain, the RCB fans are still hooked but how long will it last?

Risk and Reward

So for the past few months I’ve been working with a coach who has really helped me a lot with my game. Funny about the timing of these things but he was just talking to me last week about how cricket is a game of risk and reward. When making your decision about what shot to play or whether to play at all, consider whether the risk of getting out is greater than the reward you could get for playing that shot. Granted most games have a certain element of this but cricket is brutal. Once you’re out, you’re out. There are no second chances as a batsman so you have to play the odds if you hope to have a long and successful career. Considering this, it is beyond me why Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft ever even considered the concept of ball tampering. Was the risk of a ban or tainted reputation worth a series win in South Africa? Was the risk of casting a shadow over the whole nation and the game itself worth a win over the #2 ranked Test team?

Steve Smith and David Warner have brought into question every game that they have ever played. Every time Mitchell Starc has taken a wicket using reverse swing can be questioned. Did they really win the Ashes without cheating? Why would Smith put his own reputation at such risk when he was considered one of the four best batsmen in the world? What exactly was worth more than the risk of not just their reputations but the monetary value of captaining IPL franchises and BBL teams potentially being stripped away?

Were the rest of the team playing dumb? Did they not wonder why the ball was suddenly reversing? Did the bowlers not question the appearance of the ball? They surely must know the difference and be able to tell if a ball has been tampered with? And if the captain and vice-captain know then why doesn’t the coach? Had he instilled such fear and unyielding drive that losing was simply not an option? Or did they really have the arrogance to believe they wouldn’t be caught?

It’s a real shame when senior and respected players like Steve Smith allow the manipulation and use of young players to alter the game. What kind of example does this set for a team? For young players hoping to make it to the national side?

Normally I like to pose a question and come out with possible answers or solutions to the problem but for the life of me I cannot understand how they thought they could get away with this with umpires regularly checking the ball and the number of cameras around the ground and one question keeps sticking in my mind, how was the risk of all this greater than the reward?

Ashes Breakdown

I’ve had enough of reading about England’s tragedies and how they’ve lost the Ashes and how ironic it was that their only hope of holding onto the urn in the driest of cities was rain.

I’m having some deja vu as I write this, I’ve written about home advantage before on multiple occasions and I stand by the premise that home teams should be allowed to prepare pitches to their advantage. It’s not as though a perfect pitch could have won the Ashes single handedly regardless of which Aussie village cricket team turned up to play England. It’s an advantage that each team has a right to. However when you hear statistics such as Australia haven’t won an Ashes in England in 16 years, it does make you wonder is it really too much of an advantage? Or are there other factors at play…

A team that have the world #3 ranked Test batsman (Joe Root), the #1 ranked Test bowler (Jimmy Anderson), the #5 ranked Test all-rounder (Mo Ali, this could have also included #3 ranked Ben Stokes had he not been busy with other ‘matters’) and yet they still can’t even compete. Yes Steve Smith may be the top ranked batsman but Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are not even in the top five Test bowlers. England even sit two spots above Australia in the ICC Team rankings and it was only last year that Australia embarrassingly  lost 3-0 to a rebuilding Sri Lanka side. So how is it that England were steam-rolled so badly?

One of the potential factors contributing to England’s poor performance down under is everyone comes to English county cricket to benefit from our outstanding county system. With Mohammed Amir playing for Essex, Kumar Sangakkara playing for Surrey, where do the English players go? The best players in the world come to England so it doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else. They have become very accustomed to facing bowlers on their own pitches, very few of the players participate in the IPL (granted it is an entirely different game) but they don’t get much practice on the types of pitches they have been playing on in Australia.

Another of England’s biggest issues if that they have no venom in their bowling right now. They have skill, technique and quality but they are just missing that extra bite. That speed and aggression that would have come with Ben Stokes. Stokes bowls on average a similar speed to Stuart Broad but somehow has an edge that Stuart is missing (that something probably didn’t help him in Bristol but would have done wonders down under).  England suffered a double blow as Steven Finn was ruled out from injury too. Players like Tymal Mills and Liam Plunkett have really upped England’s overall average pace in T20s but they are not Test bowlers. Having Mark Wood could have also really helped England especially somewhere like the WACA however I do think it’s been a great opportunity for young players like Tom Curran to make a name for themselves..

On the topic of bowlers, Moeen Ali. This is a point in itself. Moeen Ali reminds me of the old Ravindra Jadeja. For some reason he’s kept in the team regardless of his poor performances. He will have a long run of bad scores and as a one-off hit 50 and take a fifer before going back to single figure scores and full tosses. Using the now third ranked Test bowler is not helping my case but England have persisted with him long enough. It has come to the point where they are using Dawid Malan, their number 4 batsman who is barely a part-time bowler for Middlesex games let alone for England. Malan’s economy rate at the MCG has been much better than Ali’s and since he hasn’t produced any magic with the bat why are England persisting with someone who is so ineffective. He has been unable to hold up an end or dry up the runs like Nathan Lyon and has put even more pressure on the seam bowlers (as if they didn’t have enough work on their backs).

Lastly, England seem to be struggling with their mental game more than their physical. Vince, Stoneman and Malan all relatively new/unsettled players in the top 5 or the batting order which may have contributed to Alastair Cook looking as though he would rather stay in than score runs. Joe Root seems too burdened by captaincy and his inexperienced team and the fact that Cook hadn’t looked like himself until this innings here in Melbourne (the highest score and first man to carry his bat at the MCG). Even when England had gotten themselves into good positions they wasted their opportunities just as Sri Lanka had been doing against India with Johnny Bairstow coming in too low or rash shots from Ali. It seems as though once their concentration breaks they really struggle to get back into the zone. Even this innings, had Cook not been there to steady the ship, England could have been 150 odd runs behind instead of ahead. However with Cook finding his feet it could alleviate some pressure from Root and give the team the boost they need to potentially come away with the next two wins.

Book Report #1: Wounded Tiger


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I had been looking for a new book for a while before I came across Wounded Tiger. My usual go-to reads are Dan Browns and Phillip Pullman novels. I love delving into an adventure with Robert Langdon and being absorbed by tales of mystery and secrets. For some reason however this time I felt the need for a change and followed my vacant clicks through Amazon in search for my next read.

Somehow I stumbled upon this book without realising it had been selected as Wisden’s Book of the Year 2015. The history of Pakistani cricket had always been of interest to me and somewhere along the way through these endless India v Sri Lanka matches I had dozed off. I had stopped watching games or following scores and it seemed like fate that I should come across this extraordinary tale to reignite my fire.


I was born to bleed blue. There was no question about it and regardless of ones knowledge of partition or history, being Indian instantly means that you firstly love cricket and secondly support anyone BUT Pakistan. It had been drilled into me until that fabled (because I’m sure I’ve referred to it in over 5 of my previous blog posts) 2015 World Cup quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan where I somehow found myself unwittingly supporting Wahab Riaz and the men in green. I had gotten so emotionally invested that when Rahat Ali dropped Shane Watson on 6, I felt my heart sink. Apart from India, no other sports team had ever made me feel like their loss was my loss and this stuck with me for a while. It stayed with me and on July 17th 2016 I found myself once again in unwavering support of Pakistan on day 4 at Lords at the re-birth of Mohammed Amir. As Pakistan did their push-ups and salutes I once again found myself in awe of this incredibly dogged team.

It seems to me that somehow Pakistani cricket is destined to continue even if the world were to end. From a country younger than my parents, the team have survived a journey through terrorist attacks, match-fixing scandals, the mysterious death of coach Bob Woolmer, becoming nomads and countless accusations of ball-tampering and yet somehow have also produced some of the greatest players to grace the game. I needed to know how and why.

I have managed to ramble on for 400 words without once discussing the mastery of Peter Oborne’s book. I won’t give away the story, in fact this post can hardly be called a book report. My sole purpose for writing this is to try and make you read it. (You’re more than welcome to borrow my copy, but i’ll definitely be wanting it back).

I admit it was a challenging read for me. To digest the horrors of partition, it’s impact on both countries and the game and to try and comprehend the complexities of Pakistani cricket in it’s cultural and political context. I found it difficult to try and wrap my head around the extent to which external factors and deep-rooted prejudice and condescension has continually tried to keep cricket in Pakistan down, from the Rana-Gatting incident to the kidnapping of umpire Idris Baig by the touring MCC team.

However, Peter Oborne allowed me to travel with him on a journey not just through the history of cricket but a history of Pakistan through the lens of cricket. He narrated the stories of AH Kardar and Fazal Mahmood who helped shape not only the cricket team but the nation. He charted Pakistan’s first win in England and how it was orchestrated by a man who refused to let the political and social chaos of partition stop him from playing cricket. A man who could have been killed on a train were it not for the legendary Indian CK Nayudu who protected Fazal Mahmood from Hindu fanatics with his cricket bat.


AH Kardar and Fazal Mahmood

It tells the story of how young boys were picked out of street games and thrown into an international team, of how Wasim Akram asked his captain how much money he would need to bring on tour not realising international cricketers were paid. It helps us comprehend an almost magical realism where a 12 year old plays first class cricket and a ball can be released at 100+ mph. The book wanders a bit in the middle but Wounded Tiger takes the story far beyond Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ and the heroics of the 1992 World Cup. It doesn’t just paint over the cracks or chisel out new ones, Wounded Tiger gives a full account of both glory and grievance of the team from their astounding victories to their bewildering defeats.

Wounded Tiger feels very unburdened given the extent to which Oborne covers an entire country’s past in under 600 pages. It intertwines fact with anecdotes to create a dynamic picture and continues to surprise and entice you to read just one more page. Oborne states that writing on Pakistan cricket “has sometimes fallen into the wrong hands . . . carried out by people who do not like Pakistan” and this book gives us a chance to revise how we see Pakistan through stories including that of the legendary Lala Amarnath who was born into a poor Hindu family in pre-partition Punjab and adopted by the Rana family who sponsored his cricket education in Lahore.

Unable to (with good reason) continue a straight narrative to cover such a vast history, Oborne adapts to a thematic approach to cover topics such as reverse swing, the emergence of women’s cricket, Shoaib Akhtar (aka the ‘rawalpindi express’), Misbah-ul-Haq and lastly Pakistan’s Age of Isolation. The post 9/11 era that has left Pakistan using homes from home.

This book covers it all, it delves into the introduction of the doosra, it covers the history, politics, war and geography of Pakistan, it exposes the opportunity costs of continued social ostracism from India and the terrorist attacks that have forced Pakistani cricket away from their rich and vibrant history and through a cast of heroes and villains allows us to try and better understand this nation under siege.



How Do We Pick Our Team?

The Women’s World Cup Final. Possibly one of, if not the most heartbreaking matches I have ever been to – and I’ve been to my fair share of games. It came as a shock to me just how much my heart had invested in team India and their incredible rise from the qualifiers to the ICC WWC Final. Somewhere along the way from Smriti Mandhana’s opening century against the hosts to Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171* against the reigning champs they won me (and a whole nation) over.


It’s not that I specifically supported England as I’m sure you’ve seen my bias towards the men in blue and lack of article on the Champions Trophy Final. However I knew very little of the women in blue, I had never seen them play live and as a player myself in England I had seen friends develop into fantastic cricketers through the club and county system.

Naturally I admired the dedication to the game that I saw from the England Ladies, not only from the current players in their drive to succeed but also from ex-players like Charlotte Edwards and Isa Guha who had gone on to commentate and Lydia Greenway who put her expertise into developing the next generation of players though the ‘Cricket for Girls’ Academy. These names were household names to me. I had played BUCS cricket for Nottingham University against the likes of England opener Lauren Winfield and through default came to support England.

I started writing without an end goal but whilst thinking about why I had initially leaned towards supporting England and then changed, I wondered how people pick their teams?

What reason did I have to support a country that I had only visited twice? Is it genetic? Does supporting India run in my blood? If I pricked my finger would I genuinely bleed blue? My parents support India and I am 1000% sure my children would support India.

I was lucky enough to be born to watch the fabulous five of Indian cricket. A golden era of batting which included ‘The Little Master’ and ‘The Wall’.  A legacy that will live on forever and players that will be talked about from generation to generation. I felt part of that legacy. The same must have applied for those who lived through the magnificent swing duo or Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis or the unyielding West Indies pace quartet.


But what if someone didn’t have that connection to a team as I initially didn’t with the Indian ladies before the Women’s World Cup?

I started thinking about my second favourite team and when India weren’t playing what reasons I had for supporting one team over another. Up until two years ago it was Sri Lanka over everyone else and one man in particular was the reason. The man with 12,400 Test runs to his name and over 14,000 ODI runs. Kumar Sangakkara. The man I, and it appears also Smriti Mandhana, idolise. A pleasure to watch at the crease he makes batting look like second nature. As if it came as naturally to him as breathing. His cover drives flowed seamlessly as if they were a part of him. Since his retirement (and Mahela Jayawardenas) I found myself supporting South Africa and in particular AB de Villiers.


During the 2015 ICC World Cup Final at the MCG I found myself faced with two teams who I neither supported nor identified with and immediately found myself rooting for the underdogs, New Zealand. I had hoped for India to make it to that final as I had flown out to watch it but it wasn’t meant to be. New Zealand were coming in off the back of a game that was fit to be a final. Had the tournament ended after that emotional New Zealand v South Africa semi-final I couldn’t have argued. Both teams had poured their heart and soul into the game and you couldn’t have asked for a better game and for that reason I was rooting for them to win. Plus I always find myself rooting against the Aussies anyway. Maybe I am part British after all.

In simple terms, there’s no science behind it, no genes, no picking the best team by stats it’s a purely emotional decision and one that I only made a few weeks back for the women in blue, the under dogs led by the incredible Mithali Raj, but one that will last a lifetime.

The Rise of Women’s Cricket

It’s been a while since I wrote an article but I’ve been extremely absorbed in this Women’s World Cup and have been thoroughly amazed by the sheer amount of support and hype it has generated that I almost forgot to write… almost.

12 years ago on April 10th 2005, India played Australia in a Women’s World Cup final at SuperSport Park. Was anyone watching? Did anyone know it was going on? Mithali Raj didn’t think so. My reason for not knowing is that I was 12 myself so I had no idea. However I could have named every male cricketer playing for India – and most likely every other team at that time (and probably most of their stats) so I have no excuse.

This year however, I, along with my ladies cricket team and 26,000 others have my ticket ready to watch two of the most exciting ladies teams go head-to-head to a sell out crowd at the home of cricket. Women’s cricket has been on the rise the past few years. Last year Sky Sports dedicated a whole week to promoting women’s cricket from visiting local ladies clubs to broadcasting the England v Pakistan ladies T20 games live but even I could not predict such an incredible explosion in popularity this tournament has brought.

The opening game of England v India was a sell out and over the course of the past month, 47,000 tickets have been sold. Viewership in both India and England has increased by 50% in comparison to 2013 whilst in both South Africa and Australia it has increased by roughly 300% (no that is not a typo). From a game that was dominated by three teams (England, Australia and New Zealand) for as long as I can remember, to becoming this internationally competitive and truly absorbing sport on the cusp of a professional revolution.

This series, 12 players from seven teams averaging more than 50 so far (double that of 2013) and almost double the number of innings have passed the 250 run mark from 2013. The series as a whole has improved dramatically since it’s last appearance and in particular one team have stepped up to the plate. Mithali Raj’s ladies have taken it upon themselves to show the world what they’re made of. For a country where cricket is followed as a religion, where the men’s team could barely step out of their house without being mobbed, and where a champions trophy final ticket against Pakistan could fetch over £1000, the ladies have found very little support.

At the beginning of the tournament Raj was asked who her favourite male cricketer was and she shot back “Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer?”. Since then, India have played at the only two sold out games, toppled the reigning champions and favourites of the tournament and set themselves up for a third and final packed out game at Lords against the hosts, England.

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Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami have become household names, they’ve put the Indian Women’s team on the map and have been backed up by a hoard of youngsters this tournament. Mithali Raj has finally been able to come out of her shell and play unburdened by the weight of a whole team. The fearless Mandhana and talented Deepti have taken responsibility and the upcoming final at Lords will be one to remember not just for the players but for the spectators too.

Women’s cricket is on the up and I hope this momentum continues past the tournament and the ladies continue to build their presence in world cricket.

Has India vs. Pakistan lost it’s significance?

It was cold, crisp morning. Blurs of blue and green filled the streets as fans made their pilgrimage to the holy grail of cricket matches. The game every fan dreams of being at, India vs. Pakistan.

The skies were grey but the atmosphere was far from it. The thundering sounds of dhol drums and chants flooded the stadium with a sense of nationalism. Armies of supporters filed into the ground pumped up and ready for one of, if not the most, historically intense clashes in cricket. Fans danced around the ground in vibrant dhoti kurtas and delicious thalis were being made at every corner. It was a morning to savour. Unfortunately the cricket was not.

The fierce rivalry that once existed between these two nations in every aspect of life may still exist off the field but it no longer exists on it. These matches still sit on a pedestal  for fans as the match to win but even for the players it has become just another game. We saw no heated rivalry as Rohit Sharma picked up the ball from his feet and handed it back to the bowler. We saw more celebration from the crowd than the fielders as Pakistan stumbled to 164 in an almost ritualistic collapse. Emotions on the pitch seemed to be about as cold as the rain that kept stopping play. There was more rivalry between these two nations and Australia in the 2015 World Cup knock-outs than between each other on Sunday.

It all began well for Pakistan, they won the toss and put India in to bat on an overcast morning. With rain expected on and off through the day a revised target could well go in their favour. That’s about as far as their success went for the day. It seemed as though they forgot they were supposed to be playing an international cricket match that day. Their fielding was sloppy with point extravagantly diving over the ball and back-up fielders forgetting to back-up. Their field placements were defensive but their defences were weak. Pakistan’s leading wicket taker since 2015 wasn’t brought into the attack until the 9th over and both Wahab Riaz and Mohammed Amir couldn’t finish their overs. Their batting was worse and even though India fielded almost as badly at times, it looked as though a 4th XI club cricket team had turned up to the wrong venue and were told they would be playing first-class county cricket.


Given the vast difference between the two playing nations, it begs the question, is it still more important to thrash your oldest rival or have good competitive cricket even if your team sometimes doesn’t always come out on top? Cricket is not like many other sports. It’s rare to find a whole stadium clap the opposition for an incredible innings or an exceptional bowling spell. People appreciate the sport for the sport. Why do people remember the 2005 Ashes in particular? Because it was one the most competitive Ashes series (thanks mostly to an injured Glenn McGrath). Does anyone enjoy talking about the 2013/2014 Ashes when England were white-washed? When people think of India v Pakistan they think of GOAT vs. GOAT. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid facing Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. India have moved light years ahead in regards to their fielding and bowling they’ve become a well-rounded side and currently seem to find much fiercer competition against the likes of Australia than Pakistan.

Pakistan have talent. There is no doubt the nation was born for cricket. They play in the UAE, their ‘home away from home’ and yet still manage to produce some of the best fast bowlers in the world. Their domestic cricket is decades behind that of England and India yet on a good day they’re competitive as any. Only today Hasan Ali picked up three wickets and Pakistan reduced the world number one ODI side to 219/8 from 50 overs. South Africa seemed to be struggling and Pakistan looked well and truly like an internationally competitive side. Pakistan have a long way to go and the PCB should take this as a chance to reflect and look at their domestic cricket, learn from it, and come back stronger in 2019 ready to once again make this match the GOAT vs. GOAT.

Champions Trophy Team Preview – India

Team Combination

India will be coming into the tournament as favourites. This will be Virat Kohli’s first big competition as captain and as defending champions, India will be expected to go deep in the tournament. India’s squad is relatively unchanged from the previous Champions Trophy and includes the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja who were top run-scorer and leading wicket-taker respectively in 2013.

This is arguably India’s best limited overs bowling attack in recent history, with three out of four of India’s pace bowlers featuring in the IPL’s top ten wicket-takers. The reliable Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s place in the XI is likely to be under contention with Umesh Yadav’s pace and Jasprit Bumrah’s variations. Yet as leading wicket taker in the IPL, the selectors will have a hard time keeping Bhuvneshwar out, especially as he took three wickets in each of the the warm-up matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh.

India’s batting line-up is much more fixed. It’s so jam-packed with quality top-order batsmen and power-hitters that Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik may struggle to find a spot in the starting XI even though Rohit Sharma has been unable to score and Karthik retired on 94 against Bangladesh today. India haven’t played an ODI since their series at home against England in January but they will feel confident with such an established team going into the competition. Their biggest potential issue may be a lack of confidence coming in from the IPL where only Dhawan made the list of top 10 run-scorers.


Shikhar Dhawan batting against Pakistan at Edgbaston (Champions Trophy 2013)

Opponents and Key Tactics

India will start their campaign in an eagerly anticipated game against Pakistan at Edgbaston, followed by games against Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively at the Kia Oval.

India hold a big psychological advantage over Pakistan when it comes to major competitions. They have dominated Pakistan in ICC events,  winning 11 out of 13 games, and playing off that could work to their advantage even though both wins for Pakistan came in Champions Trophy tournaments. India should aim to bat first – which would be good for Virat Kohli given his lack of form in the IPL as it would allow him to play without the added pressure of the required rate – and set a big total for Pakistan. Both Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will play key roles in this game given the location, and if India can pick up a few early wickets they will be well on their way to the play-offs.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka are coming in as one of the least favoured sides. India should aim for a big win here, should qualification come down to net run rate, given that their third game will come against a strong South African side. Sri Lanka’s main issue is their brittle middle-order batting and India would do well to put pressure on them from the outset by bowling first. India will hopefully be confident after a win against Pakistan and with the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, they should feel comfortable chasing down any score against this Sri Lankan attack and in particular Lasith Malinga, whose career ODI bowling average jumps from 27.77 to 42.28 against India, as they have done so many times before.

South Africa:
This will be India’s biggest challenge in the group stages. ICC’s number one  ranked ODI team have a strong and settled side. South Africa’s biggest weakness is the tournament itself. They have a history of poor chases and if India can set a big  total as they did in the 2015 World Cup they will have a huge advantage. The last thing India will want to do is allow Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers  and that explosive middle order free rein with the bat. South Africa’s bowling attack will be a big concern for India in early summer English conditions, especially if Kohli struggles to play off  his 4th and 5th stump, but if the top-order can find some rhythm in the first two games they will be in with a big chance.

Recent ODI performances:

India have had some close games against New Zealand and England with the most recent series going in their favour 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. However, both series were played in India and the last time India played outside of their home country was in August against the West Indies. This may be a problem for India given how early in the English season this tournament is.

The last time India played an ODI in England  was in 2014 where they won the series 3-1 with  some comprehensive wins. Kumar and Rahane did especially well in Edgbaston and Raina should feel unlucky given his IPL performance and success in 2014. Even though this was almost  three years ago, the visitors should feel comfortable coming into the tournament  having won their last series in the host country.


Ravindra Jadeja celebrates a wicket against England in the Champions Trophy 2013 Final at Edgbaston

Predicted outcome
Team India are serious contenders to defend their title. They have match-winning players and have a knack for ICC tournaments. If the team can find some momentum in the first game and can adjust to the conditions quickly they’ll be well on their way to their third title.

Probable XI

1. Rohit Sharma
2. Shikhar Dhawan
3. Virat Kohli (c)
4. Yuvraj Singh
5. MS Dhoni (wk)
6. Kedar Jadhav/Dinesh Karthik
7. Hardik Pandya
8. Ravindra Jadeja
9. Mohammed Shami/Bhuvneshwar Kumar
10.Jasprit Bumrah
11.Umesh Yadav

Misbah and Younis: Is It Really Time To Say Goodbye?

Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan; the heroes that Pakistan deserved, but no longer the ones it needs right now.

The curtain is finally coming down on the respective careers of Misbah and Younis. The men who have led Pakistan through thick and thin, through the few highs and the many lows of Pakistani cricket are finally bidding farewell. These two men have carried a nation on their shoulders for best part of the last decade. They have paid their dues and served their country with all their heart and soul.

Misbah was the light that shone in the darkness; the beacon that led Pakistani cricket to safe shores from dangerous waters. He took a team that no one else believed in and dragged them to the top. Misbah took Pakistan to the summit of Test cricket, to becoming the number one ranked team in the world. Could any other man have achieved the seemingly impossible? After being dropped aged 36, and having played just 19 Tests, he took over a nomadic team in 2010 from which Younis had been banned from playing, Shahid Afridi had been fined for biting into a cricket ball, and three players – including disgraced former captain Salman Butt – were serving time in prison for spot-fixing. In spite of this, Misbah brought them the Test mace.

Misbah put his team before anything else. His career tells the story of a man who put his nation before his own personal success. It was his duty to lead Pakistan and he did just that. He played whatever role they needed from smashing sixes to get Pakistan down to needing 6 off 4 in the 2007 T20 World Cup final to scoring consecutive 99s against the West Indies in his final Test series. He is the highest run-scorer in ODI cricket to have not made a century, having scored 5122 runs with a top score of 96*. The ageless man has made 37% of his Test runs since turning 40. In the last three years he has scored over a third of his career tally of runs and it looks as though he could go on if he wanted to.


It will be a severe shock to the system when not only Misbah leaves, but also the great Younis Khan. On April 23rd, Younis made history as the oldest man and the first Pakistani to join the exclusive 10,000 Test runs club as only man to achieve this with more centuries than fifties. Since Saleem Altaf, Pakistan’s team manager, threatened to drop him in India in 2005 he has been a rock for Pakistan, and for the next decade Younis held a Test average of 60.41.

Younis holds a number of accolades, from being the only player to score the Grand Slam of centuries in the eleven countries that have held Test matches, to leading Pakistan to the T20 World Cup title in 2009 (achieved just weeks after Pakistani cricket had been devastated by the terror attacks in Lahore), but it’s his fourth innings runs that have made him so special to Pakistan. The rearguard specialist holds the most number of centuries in fourth-innings totals and has scored 1465 runs when chasing at an average of 50.52. His ability to not only absorb pressure but also thrive under it have made him invaluable to Pakistan, and he will be desperately missed not only by the players but by the fans too.

A new leader won’t change much for Pakistan. In fact they’re going to realise just how much they have relied on these two giants to get them where they are today. Pakistan don’t have it easy being a country that’s ‘home’ is away from home but they don’t help themselves. After their win against England in August at the Oval, only one player – Sami Aslam – played a first-class match before their next Test against the West Indies in October. As much as we like to imagine it, Pakistan are no fairytale team. They have their magical moments but have their flaws like everybody else. Now they will need to work harder than ever to fill the shoes of Misbah and Younis as they play their final farewell Test against the West Indies.

This article was first published on TimeChor:

IPL 2017: Imperfectly Perfect.


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IPL and I have had an on and off relationship for a number of years now. I was in love with the new and exciting model of T20 cricket for the first few years and then it went downhill from there and finally hit rock bottom for me with the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals spot fixing scandals. Why watch cricket when you know the game is being manufactured?

A lot of people were angry and lost interest. Myself included. All the players were just redrafted or put up for auction into other teams and new franchises came up as if it was any other year. To me it seemed like they were trying to fix something that was already broken. I doubt I would’ve gotten back into it had I not been living and working in a tiny village in the south of Nepal with intermittent electricity and a few random Indian channels that came and went as they pleased. It may have been the lack of Netflix in my life or TV in general but I really got into it (fully getting behind the Gujarat Lions – when we had electricity) and this year I was counting down days!!

T20 cricket has grown over the years and sometimes I hate to say it but not least because of the IPL. It has played a huge part in the development and success of other leagues like the Big Bash and though I may prefer the Australian counterpart for their introduction of a women’s tournament, nothing comes close in success or class to the IPL.

Even in it’s 10th year it continues to grow and develop. This year, an 18 year old from Afghanistan, Rashid Khan, held the purple cap and currently sits third in leading wicket takers and up until today’s double header and hat-trick fest, was third in best bowling figures. Where else (except for the T20 WC every two years) would players from associate nations get the chance to play with and face the top players in the world?

Where else would you find such a huge platform (with the first three matches of IPL 2017 reached 185.7 million viewers) for one day players like Andrew Tye and Lockie Ferguson to develop their bowling prowess and most importantly, where else would you find the likes of Sunil Narine opening the batting alongside Gautam Gambhir?

Apparently KKR’s winning opening partnership of 2014 needed a re-vamp. An understandable selection of Chris Lynn kicked off KKR’s campaign with a 10 wicket win over the Gujarat Lions but even once Lynn got injured, it was too late to go back. Gambhir had already tasted the power of a hard-hitting accomplice. He wanted to continue with a more dynamic partner. It seemed the BBL had some impact as Narine walked out alongside his captain not for the first time this year. He smashed boundaries of Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron before being dismissed for 37 off 18 balls. He played his role perfectly getting KKR off to a flyer chasing 170.

Is there still room for as many specialist T20 batsmen when your bowlers can do this? Will players need talents in both the bowling and batting department in coming years? (I’m sure Chris Gayle will have something to say about that remark over the next few games as he approaches his 10,000 T20 runs).

Of course the game has its flaws. Do players take it less seriously when they’re not playing for their country? The number of loose balls and dropped catches over the past 13 games has been unreasonable from the standard of players in this tournament. There have been double overthrows and no-balls followed by wides. Andrew Tye might’ve finished on debut with 6/15 had Ravi Jadeja not dropped a catch today and more than one of the overall results would have come out different over the last week.

However it is early days. The teams are still finding their balance and gelling together and it may not be perfect I still strongly believe that this brand of international cohesion will bring the best and brightest out of each and every country and I can’t wait to see what else this tournament has in store…