India Vs. West Indies

There was a time when India Vs. West Indies was a keenly awaited series especially in India. When West Indies team was a champion team and India was just about rising. There was Lara Vs. Tendulkar and West Indian pace attack Vs. Indian spinners.

Sadly this time around there is hardly any hype about the tour. India play 5 ODIs, 3 Tests and 1 T20 in the tour with no other tour matches.

The schedule is tight nd the interest is quite low with many of the Indian tops stars giving this tour a miss. Suresh Raina captains the young Indian ODI and T20 side and most of the youngsters in the team are pushing for their place in the regular side and for them this series is a great opportunity to do that.  New coach Duncan Fletcher will have his task cut-out. Test side would be more regular with stalwarts Dravid and Laxman along with Dhoni and Zaheer returning to the side. Tendulkar will be missed and this will be the 2nd West Indies tour he would be missing after the first one in 2006. Regular opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir will also be missed and Murali Vijay and perhaps Abhinav Mukund can make a strong claim as a backup opener for future tours. Indian pace attack will have a chance to bowl on different pitches than sub-continent to prepare for bigger series ahead. There is plenty to look forward to for the die-hard cricket lovers.

As far as my prediction goes India should win the lone T20 and should win the ODI series at least 4-1, anything less should be considered as a failure. As far as tests goes anything less than 3-0 should not be acceptable to the Indian fans.

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IPL 4 – Status Update

IPL 4 is set to be played 6 days after the conclusion of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The tournament is now about 4 months away, however due to the various controversies neither the no. of teams, the players, no. of matches, format anything is known to the public and not even to the players and team owners. It was supposed to be a 10 Team event when 2 new teams Pune and Kochi were added last year in much publicized team auction.

Later due to the ownership issues and various non-cricketing reasons Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were suspended from the IPL and the Kochi team was always on the brink of suspension due to its various ownership issues. At one stage it looked there would be just 7 teams and an eighth team would be added after a fresh round of auction. However as things stand today Kochi is back in the fold and so is Rajasthan Royals based on the court order. Punjab team is likely to be there as well as their case is similar to the Royals. Thus it would be a 10 team affair.

Player auction which was supposed to be held in November had been postponed to January and now it seems may further gets postponed to March, i.e. during the ICC World Cup. As the BCCI is yet to clear off the court cases.

No one is sure about the format, the no. of matches either and would a round robin home-away format will be followed or a changed format of 2 groups would be followed is yet to be decided. The teams are not sure about the exact playing dates as well. The Player retention rules are even more controversial with teams having a choice of up to 4 players to retain from their existing team, but then they lose half their auction limit of 9 Million $. It seems not all teams are in favor of retention however Mumbai Indians and Chennai Superkings are quite keen on it.

As of now it seems Mumbai have decided to retain Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga  and either of Keiron Pollard and J P Duminy. Chennai have decided to retain Dhoni, Raina, Murali Vijay and Albie Morkel while Bangalore are keen only on Virat Kohli and Kolkata are keen only on Chris Gayle and not even their very own Ganguly. Delhi are sure to keep Sehwag with them and possibly Ashish Nehra, Dirk Nannes and maybe Gautam Gambhir too. Rajasthan have opted for Shane Warne, Watson and possibly Yusuf Pathan. Deccan Chargers have decided not to retain anybody while Kings XI Punjab are still awaiting for court ruling to decide anything. There are clearly no takers for veteran players such as Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble and so on. The teams also do not have a fixed strategy and things are quite muddled at the moment.

Unless and until clarity comes from the court regarding status of various teams and BCCI decided upon the format of the game and auction dates and rules nothing can be sure.

Although one thing is sure, BCCI is hell bent on hosting the IPL 4 by hook or crook.

Cheteshwar Pujara- The New Big Hope

Finally the call came. Cheteshwar Pujara has been drafted in the team for first test against Australia, beginning 1st week of October, at the expense of Yuvraj Singh. Cheteshwar Pujara, son of former cricketer Arvind Pujara has been waiting in the wings since couple of years now and at 23 he is the new big hope for India in Cricket especially Tests.

In the days of IPL and T20 cricket where hitting every ball out of the park is the fashion and scoring a quick fire 40 is important, the art of patient batting, building an innings, playing strokes and rotating strike is waning day by day. The art of batsman-ship as we all know is not easy to be found, especially amongst the new lot of Indian cricketers.

In Pujara we have a young player who is perfectly suited for the longer format of the game. He has got the technique and the temperament to build innings, play patiently, see out a hostile bowler and concentrate on occupying the crease. He is the new age-Dravid we all are looking forward to. He has played domestic cricket for Saurashtra since last few years and have scored massively, won respect for his team and has won respect amongst the opposition players. When selected to play for India A and emerging players tournament he has been consistently performing with the bat against West Indies, England, Australia and has even shown good leadership skills. In past he has played in Under 19 World Cup as well. His domestic record speaks for itself and his not so successful stint in the IPL with Kolkata Knightriders could be the blessing in disguise, which has allowed him to concentrate on the ‘real’ cricket.

We have seen youngsters such as Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay but none of them have so far cemented their positions in the squad. Raina, who has recently replaced Yuvraj Singh is still a suspect against hostile quick bowling. Rohit Sharma has all the potential but has never converted it to results on field. At this juncture when the senior players like Sachin, Dravid and perhaps Laxman have about couple of more years to give to Indian cricket we need few solid batsman who can take up the roles vacated by the seniors in near future. Pujara is that big hope. Pujara’s talent, ability, temperament shows that he is too good a player to fail at the big stage  but then once can never say that about any player. Pujara is too precious a player for the future of Indian Cricket in long run.

Inclusion of Pujara in the team does not guarantee that he would be in the playing XI, however being in the same dressing room as Sachin, Dravid and Laxman would do a great deal to the youngster and I am positive that given a chance he would prove his mettle.

All the best wishes, Cheteshwar.

Young Indian Stars of IPL 3.0

At this midway stage of the tournament it would be nice to compile of list of star players of IPL 3.0 so far, especially Indian players who have played better than expected and won games for their team or rescued the team and performed consistently for their team.

Listed below are some of the Indian stars who have performed superbly so far,  yet the common factor amongst them is that NONE of them are chosen to represent Indian team for World T-20 which begins right as the IPL ends.

Chennai Super Kings clearly have Murali Vijay as their brightest star. From nowhere , this ‘made for test match‘ player has come and played few remarkable innings to shock the oppositions out of the game and have made selectors thinking that why he is not a part of the Indian team of World T-20 . Indian Captain Dhoni has also been a pillar of strength for the team and has put his full faith in Vijay and allowed him to open the innings and deliver the goods.

Delhi Daredevils has some of the strongest batting lineup with Sehwag, Gambhir and Warner firing, but it is Amit Mishra who has delivered consistently with his slow leg spin and fooled quite a few batsmen with his turn and bounce and his clever wrong ones. He would surely be feeling unlucky about not getting selected for World T-20. Another bowler to watch out from DD camp is Umesh Yadav who has shown pace, which none other Indian bowlers have shown so far.

Another slow bowler who has impressed is Pragyan Ojha for Deccan Chargers and has been taking wickets by the bundle and also being a miser with the bowl although his team has been a failure as a collective unit.

Naman Ojha and Siddharth Trivedi have been a revelation for Rajasthan Royals. Naman Ojha is not the best of wicketkeeper but he is an explosive batsman and certainly worth considering as a backup option for Dhoni rather than Dinesh Kartik atleast in T-20s. Siddharth Trivedi has been a clever bowler, consistently amongst the wickets and the last over he bowled against the Deccan Chargers to deny them an easy victory was an example of his cool and sharp mind.

The Mumbai Indian youngsters namely Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayadu and Shikhar Dhawan have really been the real surprises and under the leadership of the ‘Master’ they have blossomed to be a real India prospect in near future. Also R. Sathish has done whatever is required from him quite well, hopefully these youngsters would continue to perform with same intensity as the tournament approaches its end.

Bangalore Boys Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey have also taken a huge load of batting upon them and delivered consistently for their team.Manish Pandey could have almost made it to the World T-20 team but for the selector’s preference over Rohit Sharma, who can bowl a bit too. Uthappa has been good in patches and not very consistent although it seems he is getting his form back.

Other notable perfromers are Manoj Tiwary for the KKR team and Manvinder Bisla for the Kings XI Punjab, although their collective team effort are not good enough for them to be in real contention.

There have been other good performances in IPL from established Indian stars like  Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and of course the one only Sachin Tendulkar. But its clearly the young stars that have outshone the senior players.

As I wrote above, none of them are in the squad which flys to west indies for world t-20 but the good things is that all of the above star performers are young and with their experience of IPL in their resume, they would only get better. Good for Team India.