Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tendulkar will always be a legend but India need to move on!

Some people call him a national treasure, some call him their idol and a few even call him God, but to me he will always be known as the greatest batsman in my lifetime of cricket. 

The date was 15 November 1989, this day was a very special day for Indian cricket. A young boy from Bombay made his way to the crease in the toughest of circumstances. To start your career against the arch enemy in their own back yard must be one of the toughest starts a cricketer could ask for.

Back on this day no one could have predicted what was to come over the next twenty four years. He has countless records to his name, but the one that sticks out in my mind is him being the first player to score a double century in a ODI. What is great about Tendulkar is that he seems to take joy in every shot and every century. 

On many occasions it could be said that Sachin carried India, he has seen it all in Indian cricket. Throughout the early to mid 90's he had very little support from a fledgling Indian side which struggled. Tendulkar kept this team afloat with his class. Playing with the likes of Kapil Dev, Ganguly, Dhoni and Virat Kohli he has gone from the kid of the side to father figure. It is hard to imagine the pressure that this one man has had to deal with but as with everything nothing lasts for ever.

Over the last five years Sachin has enjoyed a good run of form, helping India to world cup glory and raising the team to world number one in test cricket. This probably was his last hoorah. The last year and a bit have been slightly tougher for the little master. It is evident that like Dravid before him, his seeing of the ball is getting slightly slower. 

The announcement that Sachin will retire after the West Indies series comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen him play. The only surprise is that it had not come slightly earlier. The state of Indian cricket is the healthiest it has ever been, with many young players in the system. 

The man that I predict will be given the first opportunity to replace the great man is Rohit Sharma. A very similar type of player, he know deserves a long run in the test side to prove his quality. No one is expecting him to do exactly what Sachin did but they want him to make his own name. If Rohit does not succeed there are plenty of others waiting in the wings for their chance. 

I could go as far as saying with Dhoni and Kohli at the helm India have the best side they have ever had. These two names mentioned above are the two players who now carry the mantle of Sachin. They ironically grew up watching Sachin the superstar, now they call him bhai or paji.  

Its with a heavy heart I say that Sachin Tendulkar retiring is a good thing for Indian cricket. He has given me so many good memories that I am sure I will treasure for a life time but I think it is time to keep these as good memories. Lets hope that the last few games of his career will highlight his whole career. Goodbye Sachin, have a great retirement in what ever you do. 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Who is the greatest cricket captain?

There has always been a debate as to who is the greatest cricketer or best ever captain. So here is my opinion as to whom I believe should get the title of the greatest ever captain. This man being current Indian captain M.S Dhoni. Below is a list of the best and my opinion of them. Hansi Cronje and Mohammed Azurhudin were left out the list as they have been disgraced for match fixing. 

Every country has had at least one great captain and some having two that could argue that they are the best. Off the top of my head I would name the following captains in a list of greats:

10: Michael Vaughn: He was the England captain in the famous 2005 Ashes. Like many of the other captains on this list he had the aid of a fantastic side and in particular a fantastic player in Andrew Flintoff. It has to be said that he built on the foundations laid by the previous captain Nassir Hussain. The foundations had been good but it is clear to see that he was a good captain and will go down in history as one of the England's greatest. It was a close call between Vaughn and Strauss for the number 10 spot.

9. Arjuna Ranatunga: People may be surprised to see his name on such a list but his tenure as Sri Lanka captain changed the perception of Sri Lanka as a cricketing force and as a nation. His country were not ranked in the top tier of cricket nations when he started off as captain but he guided them to a world cup title and established them as a cricketing force.

8. Nassir Hussain: In my opinion he started off the 2005 Ashes victory. England didn't always perform on the pitch under his stewardship but what he did off has made England one of the best teams over the last ten years. Working closely with Duncan Fletcher he put down the blueprint for a new aggressive England which the side are still benefiting from. He unlike most on this list did not have the great side around him but still in my opinion is England's best captain over the last twenty/twenty five years. 

7. Stephen Fleming: Similar to Hussain he did not always have a great team to work with, but it was evident that he was a great captain  I believe New Zealand have missed Fleming since his retirement and have not fully replaced his captaincy. He is one of the youngest and longest serving captains in world cricket after being appointed at the age of 23. 

6.Clive Lloyd: The reason he may be low on the list of all time best captains is that I have never seen him play. His record as captain is really good, he oversaw West Indies dominant period in world cricket. Under his reign The West Indies went on a run 

5. Rikky Ponting: One of the best players to have graced the cricket pitch, he guided Australia to their period of dominance. Winning back to back world cups as captain and keeping the side at number one in test cricket. His record of captain has to put him up their with the best. His innings in his first world cup final as captain will be one that will last in my memory foe ever. 

4. Saurav Ganguly: There will always be a debate in India over who has done more for India out of Ganguly and Dhoni. The simple answer is that both have changed Indian cricket. He was the first real captain to go toe to toe with the Australians. The side he captained probably was the best ever India have had. If India had won the world cup final that Ganguly's side lost he may have been top of the list. He was once described by Yuvraj Singh as a leader of men. The only reason that I have placed Dhoni higher is that he exceeded the great heights of Ganguly.

3. Graeme Smith: The South African had been identified as captain from a relatively early stage of his career. Being captain from 2003 onwards he has overseen a dramatic change in South African cricket. South Africa are currently the most feared team in world cricket. The protection that Smith has provided for his players have allowed the rest of the team to flourish. 

2. Steve Waugh: Some of the things which Waugh has achieved as Australia captain are truly remarkable. A record 16 straight test wins still is the greatest achievement ever recorded in cricket. He also guided his country to a world cup victory. He did push Dhoni very close to being the greatest but the iconic match winning innings in the world cup final swings it his way.  

1. M.S Dhoni: Under his captaincy he has guided India to a world T20 trophy, world cup victory and to world number one. He has a remarkable gift of never feeling pressure. He also is a great thinker of the game, knowing every situation. The fact that he turns losses into easy wins makes him very unique. There has never been a captain to win so many games for his side. He has every accolade in the book and the worrying thing for his rivals is that he is going strong. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Who is the real England T20 captain?

The captain of a T20 side really is not as important as a captain of the longer formats, but the man given the responsibility is likely to become the long term vice captain in ODI and test cricket. The current man in charge is Stuart Broad.

He has been in charge for a year and a half now, unluckily for him though England play very little T20 cricket so he has had little time develop his skills. There is no doubt that Broad is England's most important bowler in limited overs cricket and given his age he will be the leader of the bowling unit for years to come, but there is slight doubts over his captaincy credentials.

What Broad has going in his favour is that he is young, which will mean he can be the captain for a long time to come. He is a player who is always in the side in all forms of the game and he has ample experience for a player of his age.

However I believe there is also a downside to his leadership. He seems to be an angry man. His press conference before the this summers T20 series sums him up for me. He refused to answer a good question from the press in regards to resting of the squad, branding the question as stupid. Call me old fashioned but this is not how I expect an England captain to react to a simple question. Not sure how the other players would react to this.

He has also shown many times on the field that he is a hot head. On many occasions we have seen him angrily throw a ball at a batsman or swearing his head off after he has bowled a bad ball. This over aggressive nature then rubs off on the rest of the team. One key player for England in the shorter formats is Jade Dernbach, he is a naturally aggressive person, it would be hard for someone like Broad to reign him in when he himself is over aggressive.

The third and final issue I have with Broad as captain is that he does not play within the spirit of the game. Again I could be accused of living in the dark ages but I feel the majority of international captains currently are very fair. Look at Jayawardine, McCullum, Dhoni and Clark they all have shown examples of honesty and fairness over their cricket careers. One such example being Dhoni calling Bell back when Bell stupidly got himself out. 

The other man up for the job is Eoin Morgan, he has captained in both ODI and T20 games when the captains are absent. For me what I have seen of him as captain is very impressive. His latest outing as skipper is the ODI series against Australia this late summer. 

The only downside to have Morgan as captain is the fact that he does not get into the test side. So Broad may be favoured as he could be a long term leader of all the sides. There are plenty of positives for Morgan to become skipper, he in my opinion is unlucky not to have cemented his position in the test side. He is a better batsman than Bairstow in my opinion so a recall to the side could be on. 

His batting is often said to be second only to M.S Dhoni in a run chase. This is because Dhoni is a thinker, he understands situations in cricket matches and has the calmness, confidence in his own ability. Albeit Morgan is a lesser version of Dhoni, Morgan still posses these same qualities. He is a calm man when on the field or whilst batting. He has the ability to lead the team from the front and he thinks about inventive field positions. Add his brilliant fielding to this he is for me a better choice as captain.

I would also put Joe Root in the same category as Morgan and honestly believe he will one day lead England but he needs to cement his place in the side before he is even considered. It is clear to see that England have backed Broad to lead in the future but I feel that Morgan is the man England should be looking at. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

India trying out all options before South Africa tour

"Change can be very tough for any sports team, its all about the way you handle it." Those were the wise words of Ravi Shashtri at the time Rahul Dravid and V.V.S Laxman retired. The last two years have seen India go through a massive change both on and off the pitch.

The selection committee has to be praised, they have realised mistakes of the past in keeping big names in the team despite poor form. Sehwag, Gambhir Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan have all felt the full force of this policy. New players have been a hit, the main two being Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikar Dhawan.

Apart from the series loss against England, India have been very dominant at home and very poor away from it. This massive change in form can only be explained by poor preparation in the run up to these tours. It seemed that India were packing in matches meaning that they could not fully concentrate on one series. For example during the period that the England team went home for Christmas, they played a ODI series against New Zealand. 

There seems to have been a change in mentality for the upcoming tours of South Africa and England. India last played in June a tri-nations series against West Indies and Sri Lanka. The next year sees a comparably light year ahead with slightly more space between big games. 

The fact that India finish the last test match against South Africa on the same day that they are scheduled to play a ODI match against New Zealand is slightly puzzling. This indicates that either India will be sending a team minus all their test players or this match is in doubt. 

The gaps in the fixtures has allowed India to prepare fully for the upcoming year, with many India A games being played. Players such as Dhawan and Pujara were sent to experience South African conditions in the India A tour in July. 

Others such as Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Zaheer Khan have been picked for the A team for the upcoming A team series against West Indies. The squads that have been picked for India A seem to be either giving fringe players a chance to impress as well as a second chance to those who had been culled before. 

Not only does this give team India the luxury of resting all the established stars, it allows for every person who is in and around the squad to be given a fair chance. I feel the current idea from the BCCI gives India a better chance to succeed in what will be one of the hardest years. It seems that if Dhoni succeeds in the tour of South Africa and/or England he will go down as the undoubted best captain in the history of modern cricket.  

Friday, 9 August 2013

England will win the Ashes but Australia will take all the positives

After three Ashes tests the score stands at two nil to England. Considering this score and the fact that one test match had been rained off it may seem on first glance that England have had it all their own way. To think this would be wrong, it could be argued that Australia with a bit of luck could quite easily have been two one or even three nil up.

Before the first test match every person had written off this Australian side as being one of the worst to tour England. This criticism and the Darren Lehman factor probably was the reason for Australia performing so well in the first test. This was a test match which was only won by fourteen runs. There were parts of this game where some of the so called best bowlers in the world struggled to bowl out tail-enders.

The second test was a write off for Australia, the match where they most likely lost the whole series. I can imagine that the heavy loss of the first test played on Australian minds whilst it had the opposite effect on England. This was a match that was played only a few days after the first loss. Imagine if Australia had scrapped through the first test, England would have had the added pressure on them.

The third test saw Australia dominate from start to finish. The only good point for England in this match is Kevin Pietersen. His century and England’s unsporting behaviour in delaying every ball meant that England beat the weather to avoid an inevitable loss. Australia actually had KP out before his century but failed to review the decision, much to the annoyance of Watson. 

If this ball had been reviewed it could be argued that England’s first innings would have finished on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday morning. This meaning that Australia would have had more time to put on quick runs and bowl England out again, even with bad light on the Sunday and rain all day on Monday.

As I write this on the end of day one of the fourth test match, Australia is once again in a strong position. They have got England down to nine wickets. The bowling is Australia’s strong point, there is a group of young bowlers who could worry any batsmen in world cricket. Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Faulkner head the list of young bowlers guided by the more experienced Siddle and Harris. Add to the list Mitchel Johnson who can’t make the squad. All these bowlers and Nathan Lyon make up a very decent attack. Ashton Agar in my mind will come back into the side one day as a batsman only, he can be a similar player to Steve Smith.

Believe it or not Australia actually can take some positives from their batting line up. With the return of Warner and addition of Khawaja they have a team full of potential. It seems that Khawaja has all the shots in the book, he is just waiting for that one innings to kick start his career. England also have some positives to take from this series.

The first being that they will probably win, the second is the form of Joe Root and Ian Bell. They also have some serious questions to answer, the first being how they have not totally put Australia to the sword apart from one match on their own turf. The second being the form of Jonathan Trott, it seems the Aussies have worked him out. The third and probably most concerning is that James Anderson seems to be carrying the bowling a little bit. Without him I feel the series would be very much closer. Whatever happens in the last two tests it seems that the Ashes series in Australia will be very much closer. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

"DRS has not worked well" Flower - India vindicated?

There was a time when every person in the cricketing world laughed at the BCCI and Indian cricket team for not using the decision review system. Even I had a few questions for the ICC in not implanting the system for all test series. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I was one hundred percent wrong over this issue.  

On tour to England a few years ago English commentators Nassir Hussain and Ian Botham both laughed every time an Indian batsman was given out wrongly. The famous words from Hussain were "India do not want a fair game Rahul you have to walk." I may suggest that under the current decision review system which is being used a bad decision like that would not be over turned. 

This Ashes series will go down in history as one of the most controversial, both sides have suffered bad decisions. The only consolation for the teams are that these decisions are balancing themselves out. The review system will now always be tarred with the image of Stuart Broad standing his ground taking full advantage of the two reviews or the awful reviewed decision to give Kawajha out. 

It is likely that both England and Australia will now scrap DRS for the next series starting in December with England coach Andy Flower joining the debate. He does not state in his interview that they will scrap the idea totally but states it needs better umpires. Until a new system comes in which is fairer I do not believe India will ever sign up. In the mean time other nations may join them in not using the flawed system.

So much controversy has been caused by the technology aid that it has now overshadowed what has been a fascinating series. Quite frankly Australia can count themselves very unlucky not to have won a game by now. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Can David Warner save Australia?

After enduring the worst season of his life David Warner now has a chance of redemption. He is being heavily tipped to come back into the side after new coach Darren Lehman talked up his batting abilities. 

Australia need one of their batsmen to step up if they are to avoid a  five nil whitewash. All of this puts extra pressure onto David Warner, he is one of their better batsmen on paper, but has been seriously off form. The incident with Joe Root will also serve as either an extra burden to manage or a motivation. 

Australia wanted Warner to go away and build back his form, he seems to have done this albeit after one game. His 193 runs may mask his recent failures, but all will be forgiven if he is to make an impact in the Ashes. 

I personally do not agree that Australia's batsmen are the worst in their history, they are just facing a good bowling attack in conditions that not many of them have played in. Bring these same players back in a few years and they will be better for this experience. 

In Clarke, Watson and Warner they have genuine batsman who could destroy any bowling attack, Usman Khawaja is a good batsman waiting to be unleashed. He has shown his talent in patches, he just needs that one big innings to make his name, this is a similar problem that Ian Bell and Steve Waugh faced early in their careers. The lower order could also be considered as one of the best batting tails also. With Agar looking like a genuine batsman, Steve Smith capable of building innings and Haddin holding them all together they could be very dangerous if an actual batsman clicked. This is not even mentioning Siddle who has a few half centuries, Starc who scored big verses India, and Pattinson who nearly brought home the first game. 

Australia may have lost the second test badly, but if they actually can win a toss and then play to their best standard England could be unsettled. Lets just hold back on all those five nil predictions. I have said from the start that it will either be four nil or four one. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

England hit the final nail in cricket's "spirit of the game" coffin

The first Ashes test showcased the very best of test cricket, a big story was written every day. There were two main issues which have arisen from the match, the first being that DRS failed throughout the match for both teams, the other issue was Stuart Broad's decision not to walk off a blatant error from the umpire. 

My views on the DRS situation can be read here. The issue of Stuart Broad staying at the crease is one which is rather disappointing but yet not very surprising. Over the last few days I have been hearing many things saying that his actions are not in the spirit of the game. 

In my opinion the spirit of the game has been something which has slowly eroded over time and has now seized to exist. The death of this started with Australia. Mark and Steve Waugh were some of the first players to stay at the crease when they knew they were out. Since this time these unwritten rules have slightly changed to you only walk on obvious nicks. What has happened recently is that players such as Broad have decided never to walk. 

Sledging was the next thing to chip away at the spirit of the game. Again the roots of this will probably be traced back to Australia. This is something that all international teams now incorporate. Other obvious things to effect this would be the time where many players were spotted trying to tamper with either the ball or pitch. Match fixing will also get a mention as simply being not cricket, but it all happens and is another area where the spirit of cricket is attacked from. 

England seem to feature as much as Australia in the list of teams breaching the spirit of cricket. Notable incidents would include England captain Paul Collingwood not calling back the New Zealand batsman he knocked down and ran out. I could mention Broad senior (who somehow has been appointed a match referee) knocking down the stumps with the bat in anger after he had been given out. From all of this it is clear that the spirit of cricket is dead, so each team now has a free for all to do what they like as long as there are no rules against it. 

On another note, I would like to highlight quotes taken from Graeme Swann in regards to players not walking when they are clearly out. His quotes came from a warm up match between England and Sri Lanka where Dilruwan Perera decided not to walk where the umpire missed the wicket. Some snippets of his quotes (taken from the guardian website) are: 

  •  "I wanted to kill the batsman because he was cheating"
  • "When people looked at the replays, it would have looked appalling on behalf of the batsman and he would have been shown up"
  • "If you know your out then you walk off the field."
  • "He was out and cheated in my view."
Well Swanny we all live by our words, lets see if you come out in the press this time around and echo the same words. I do not think so, the fact that England won by a margin less than Broad's extra runs makes his un-sporting behaviour acceptable. I believe that anything goes in this series and neither team can now complain about any future decisions in the series. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Darren Lehmann factor will make the Ashes series closer

Just weeks before the first Ashes test, the Australian cricket board made the wise decision to get rid of Mickey Arthur as team coach and replace him with Darren Lehman. In my opinion this was necessary to make Australia a bit more competitive in the series. 

Arthur was always the wrong fit for the Australian job, as a South African he was never accepted by the players or fans. His authoritarian methods made the players feel like they had gone back to school. This was highlighted in the disastrous tour of India where four players were suspended from a test match for disciplinary reasons.

It can be argued that the Australian cricket board also didn't trust Mickey Arthur by allowing the captain to be part of the selection committee. This resulted in players not being able to confide in Michael Clarke in fear of being dropped. 

With the appointment of Darren Lehmann the captains selection rights have also been dropped. This means that Clarke is now free to concentrate on his own performance aswell as team building. His methods seem to be more relaxed and more accepted by the players. He was a fighter as a player and will be hoping to install some fight into his new team.

His old school methods seem to be focused on making the team feel as if they are playing against the whole world. There is nobody who could install this seige mentality as well as Lehmann. The knowledge he amassed while playing in one of the greatest international sides will be passed onto the current side.

The effect of appointing a new coach can make teams play better, this can be witnessed in football when new managers come in. If the warm up games are anything to go by the Aussies are slowly coming back into form. The bowling is their greatest strength, they should cause England some trouble. 

If I were to predict then I would say  England will still win the series but it will be alot closer than it would have been in Arthur had ket his job. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

New look India set to dominate cricket:

When India won the world cup a few years back many people put this down to the team playing on home soil. They answered the critics in fine fashion not losing a game in the champions trophy victory.
The win is special for two reasons, one being that the last time the team played in England they had been embarrassed by being whitewashed.  The other reason being that many of the big names in Indian cricket had previously retired. The team was void of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhjan and Zaheer Khan. This is a lot of experience lost from the squad.

The replacements for these players were the stars of the show, Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar all stepped up. By bringing in these new players India have also gained in the field and now can be classified as one of the best fielding sides ever to have graced the game of cricket.

The skipper MS Dhoni has to go down as one the greatest captains to have played cricket. He has guided India to world number one in test cricket, world cup wins in ODI cricket as well as T20 and now the champions trophy. He is a key part to India’s success over the last six years, not only is he a great captain he is very underrated as a batsman and wicketkeeper. He could make the Indian team on his batting alone.
India has always had a star studded batting line up but they have never put together a consistent run in non-subcontinental conditions like they did. The form of Shikar Dhawan has played a part in this, the way he played against a swinging ball is unlike most Indian batsmen. Many a player before him has struggled to play in English conditions.

In the bowling department India now have three genuine bowlers who can trouble any batsman. In particular Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed a lot of promise. He showed the reasons why many people such as myself think he will one day become a bowler who could one day compare to Dale Stein or James Anderson.

One day cricket has suffered in the last few years as there has not been one dominant team, but this Indian team are in a good position to dominate for a long time. The experienced players in the team are Dhoni, Kohli and Raina. The later two being under the age of 28, meaning that they could actually play for another possible eight /nine year. The future for Indian cricket is very bright. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

India v West Indies my thoughts

Today I made my way to the Oval to watch a match between tournament favourites India and many peoples dark horses to win the competition the West Indies. These are two teams who I have tipped for the tournament. 

Going to the ground there were serious questions asked over the weather. The majority of the crowd seemed to be Indian, resulting in a very good atmosphere. The tone of the match was set early on by the very impressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He bowled a fantastic spell taking the wicket of Chris Gayle as well as giving away very few runs. What was better for India was that Kumar was being backed up from the other end by all the other bowlers. Yadav and Sharma bowled quick, Ashwin and Jadeja frustrated the batsmen. 

Apart from a few flashes from Gayle, Pollard and Sammy at the end the West Indies did not show much with the bat. India also demonstrated why many people have dubbed them the best fielding side in the competition, stifling many chances for the West Indians. Credit has to Raina who as usual seems to give it his all for the side, often sprinting from one of the pitch to the other at the end of each over.

India's batting started off very different to the West Indies, Rohit Sharma and Shikar Dhawan once again showing they are the partnership for the long term. Sharma can count himself to be given out on review and Dhawan was given a lifeline by Roach, who we all cheered on for the rest of the match. The moustached opener went on to score a century after a rain delay. 

The only issue I had with DK and Dhawan batting was that they could have gone a little quicker in the chase. They could have finished the match off before the rain delay, but they did the job so I shouldn't complain to much. 

Below I have included a few pictures which I have taken today:

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Champions Trophy starts next week with no clear favourite:

Considering the number of big sporting events taking place this summer it is no wonder that a competition such as the Champions Trophy gets forgotten. The other sporting events which will take prominence are England v Brazil and the U21 European Championships in football, the Lions tour in Rugby, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the small matter of the Ashes. Even the latest transfer rumours seem to be taking precedent over this competition. This tournament also comes instantly after the New Zealand ODI series, which probably doesn’t help build the profile for the Champions Trophy.

Despite the lack of publicity and anticipation surrounding the Champions Trophy it should actually be a good competition. It is a mini version of the world cup, with only the top eight ranked teams being invited to take part. This may be a little unfair on Bangladesh who could rightly feel that they are a match for any of the top eight sides.

Unlike past international cricket tournaments there is no stand out team. An argument could be made to support any of the eight teams winning the competition. England playing at home should be able to use home advantage to their favour. They also have one of the better bowling attacks to make best use of these conditions. The best bowling side are South Africa with Dale Stein and Morne Morkel leading their attack. The batting line up is pretty good as well but like England they lack consistency outside of test cricket.

Many people have called the current Australian side one of their worst in their history. I do not buy this argument. They have the bowlers to trouble any batting line up, their young side could be a surprise package. The current world number one side in ODI cricket are India, the world cup winners will fancy their chances. They now have a genuine swing bowler (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) who can swing the ball both ways. In my opinion if he progresses then he could become another James Ander/Dale Stein. The only problem India has is that they do not do as well in English conditions. The same can be stated for Pakistan who always has good bowlers and inconsistent batsmen.

An outside shot of winning the trophy is the West Indies, the current world T20 champions are packed with talented players. They have Gayle, Pollard and Bravo in their ranks, three players on red hot form from IPL 2013. They won the Champions Trophy the last time it was held in England. They are a team that could win the tournament or go out in the group stages. When considering winners of the tournament Sri Lanka cannot be discounted, they have a habit of making international finals. If one team were slightly below the rest it could be New Zealand, but they have special players who could win a short tournament like this.
My biggest concern about the competition is the weather, we have not had many good days recently and this could put a real dampener on proceedings. If I were to predict a potential winner I would have to choose the West Indies but as stated above it will be a guessing game.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Spot fixing scandal the only blip on the best ever IPL:

This season of the Indian Premier League will stand out in my mind as one of the best as well as one of the most controversial. The early pace was set by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, but as soon as they were installed as favourites they spectacularly fell away. It is no surprise that their batting centred team did better at home in Bangalore where the boundaries were shortest.

As with most IPL seasons Dhoni guided his team to the playoffs, once again proving he is a great captain. His record as captain probably excuses the poor performance in the final by his Chennai side. The West Indies are always very well represented through the tournament, this year these players were the stars of the show. Dwayne Bravo ended the season as the leading wicket taker, Pollard came into his own towards the end of the tournament almost single handily guiding Mumbai to the title. The other big West Indian provided the most memorable moment of the competition, Chris Gayle’s 173 not out will be remembered for a long time.

The season also saw many endings, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist will not return as players and there are doubts that we will ever see Muralitharan either. Sahara Pune Warriors also ended again, their owners have cancelled the contract to bring them back next season. This season also saw Delhi Daredevils go from top of the league last season to a bottom of the table battle, probably due to injuries to key players such as Kevin Pietersen. The rebranded Deccan Chargers were many peoples favourite to be at the bottom of the league at the start, they surprised many by qualifying strongly.

It was also a season to showcase two potential future Indian captains in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. In my opinion the Mumbai captain showed off better captaincy credentials and could overtake Kohli when the call has to be made.

The coverage of the IPL in England has been brilliant, ITV4 showing that cricket can work on channels other than Sky Sports. They only complaint with the coverage was their decision not to show cricket on one the other ITV channels when British Touring Cars was being shown. It is clear that the popularity of the competition has increased in the UK, and the sport is now on a par with NFL.

The only negative to come out from this seasons Indian Premier League was the spot fixing scandal. This is something that will rock the sport and seems much deeper than what has already been revealed. Some famous names have been caught this year, with Sreesanth claiming he has been framed. The arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan an alleged associate of Chennai Super Kings will bring Indian cricket to its knees, as he is the son of the head of Indian cricket. The on-going story has many chapters still to write, lets just hope it does not implicate too many big names. 

Despite the shocking spot fixing news that came out towards the end of the competition I will remember this season for many good reasons. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Rohit Sharma is India's future

Watching this seasons IPl it is evident that Rohit Sharma is a man on a mission. His aim is to cement his place in the limited over squads and to make the step up into test cricket. It is a little surprising that a player with his ability has yet to grace test cricket, especially as he is now twenty six years of age. 

For many years people have dubbed Rohit as the next Sachin Tendulkar, this unfair comparison may have affected his past performances resulting in him being in and out of squad. It seems that Sachin is now very close to calling it a day in all forms of cricket and a possible replacement for him could be Rohit Sharma. The poor form of the other openers (Sehwag & Gambhir) resulted in him being drafted into the openers role for the last ODI series against England. This was a very interesting move, as  he was given the  chance after the much fancied Rahane had failed.  

In limited overs cricket I see him being an opener, this suits his game very well. I feel he is ready for test cricket and a position at either number four or five should be an option. This season Rohit has seemed to mature as a player, taking over as captain of Mumbai Indians in place of Ricky Ponting. When he was appointed as the captain I was unsure if he could handle the demands of the position, especially for Mumbai the most glamorous side in the IPL. Although he has not had too many tests of his captaincy he seems to be calm and confident with his decision making. 

Other than being a good batsman and captain he is also a stand out player. His batting form has also shown consistency, him having the sixth highest average in the IPL this season. Out of the other five players above him in the list only Chris Gayle has played as many innings. One could argue that his form has been more consistent than Gayle as the West Indian has his average inflated by that one big innings of 175 not out. 

Below is a table showing his career:

Highest Score
Strike Rate

The above table highlights both his huge potential as well as his inconsistent form. It shows that he can score quickly as well as heavily, the batting average in ODI cricket shows there is space for improvement. 

If I were to do a straw pole of Indian cricket fans I am pretty sure that most of them would say that Kohli is the best young player. I do not disagree with this statement but feel an argument could be made to support Sharma's case.  It all bodes for exciting times for Indian cricket, taking many back to the early days of the last great group of players. Comparisons of Sharma, Raina, Kohli, Pujara and Dhawan could be made to Sachin, Ganguly, Sehwag, Laxman and Dravid.

There could be another argument in the future about the next captain. Right now vice captain Kohli is a shoe in for the role, but if the selectors go against his overly aggressive style then again Sharma or Raina are an option. Like Tendulkar he oozes class when batting, the only issue is if he can handle the pressure. The future for Rohit Sharma looks very positive, it is all in his own hands as to how much of a name he could make. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Delhi Daredevils are IPL's unlucky team

This years IPL seems to have been one of the best yet, nearly all the matches played so far have been very close. There has already been two super overs, both involving Chris Gayles team RCB. He has also smashed the record for the fastest century as well as the highest ever T20 score.

It has also seen Pune Warriors bottom of the group once again, there problems seemed to have started with appointing Angelo Matthews as their captain from the start. Him being captain resulted in probably their two best allrounders sitting on the side, Steve Smith and Luke Wright. There has also been two hatricks, one for Amit Mishra and the other for Sunil Narine. The biggest surprise for me is how Delhi Daredevils went from being the best team in last years group stage to being one of the worst this. 

In the IPL it is very hard to turn around a bad start, this is exactly what the Daredevils had. They started the tournament without their star bowler Morne Morkel, their premier Indian batsman Sehwag and one of the best batsman in the world Kevin Pietersen. They also got David Warner and captain Mahela Jayawerdene off relatively poor international form. 

Somehow Delhi have clawed themselves back into a position where they could scrape through to the next round. They have to win every game from now and hope other results go their way. I still think they can do it, although it will now be a shock for many if they manage the feat. 

I have been saying this from the start that on paper Delhi have as good a squad as CSK. The balance they have with world class talent is amazing, its a shame they have mainly been off form. Teams like RCB or Sunriseres do not have the balance they do. They are either a batting side or bowling side, this is a reason why CSK have been so successful in the past because they have the best all round team. 

In my opinion if Kevin Pietersen had been there we would be looking at the table very differently. Same could be said if Morne Morkel, last years leading wicket taker had been playing from the start. The spinning option in Shabaz Nadeem is not bad either a very underrated bowler who could be a good answer for India one day. 

I do not believe that Delhi will win the competition this season but feel they have been the most unlucky of all the teams. To lose on a super over is all ways hard, it is even harder when you haven't won a match before playing it. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Kevin Pietersen to call it quits on international cricket after the Ashes?

Kevin Pietersen to call time on England after the two Ashes series:
For an English cricketer there is nothing that comes close to winning an Ashes series. This was evident with the open top bus parade after winning the 2005 Ashes. If England were to be successful in the back to back series against the old enemy, Kevin Pietersen would claim his fourth and fifth Ashes series win. He and Ian Bell are the only surviving members of the victorious 2005 team, making them two of the most successful English cricketers in recent times.

The first reason I believe he will retire from international cricket is that he would have proved many fans wrong, if he were to win another two Ashes series. Despite being one of England’s most consistent performers over the past eight years he has had a love-hate relationship with many supporters. This could be attributed to two reasons, one could be that many dislike the fact that he is not actually English and the other reason is many people believe he has a big ego. Watching many of his interviews I do not believe that he is egoistic, I also see a player very proud to represent England.  

Another big factor in his decision could be the Indian Premier league. At the age of thirty three he still has plenty of good cricket left in him. Possibly another four-five years at the top level. These years may be spent maximising his earning potential in lucrative short tournaments. In India he is a superstar, and if he were allowed to play the whole of the Indian Premier League he would gain more money. If he were to continue his international career he would not be able to participate in the whole tournament. There are many other competitions that he could pick and choose after if he were to finish with international cricket.

The demands of International cricket mean that players will spend many months away from families for long periods of the year, including most Christmas’s. This is something that Pietersen like many other players have complained about in the past. This added to the fact that after the Australia away series the next fixtures include long trips away to West Indies and India. These are places that he has already made history with England, therefore has not much else to prove.

In the past Kevin Pietersen has tried to stop playing one day internationals, but this forced him to retire from the twenty20 side also. This original retirement has now been retracted after the long and drawn out arguments with the ECB. This included his exile from all international cricket which had been imposed on him. I am in no doubt that currently his sole focus is the Ashes series, but he must be considering calling it a day after. Kevin Pietersen place in the England test team has not only seen them win three Ashes series but also seen them rise to number one in world cricket. If he were to retire he would obviously finish as a player who could have achieved a lot more in terms of records but definitely a very successful player for England. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Will Bopara get anymore chances?

Whatever the sport there are always a few players who never seem to fulfil their true potential. One such example of this is could be Ravi Bopara. It seems that he has been around for a long time now despite only being twenty seven years of age. Bopara should just coming to his peak in cricketing terms, but has he played his last international game?

There had been a time when he was the talk of English cricketing as a potential star of the game. The Essex allrounder has played thirteen test matches and eighty three one day internationals. These figures indicate that he was never an established player in the England team.  His three centuries in thirteen tests is not really bad going, many other players would like this conversion rate in test cricket. This should have been the start that established him in the side.

The problems all started when Bopara made his Ashes debut, he failed pretty badly in that series and was subsequently dropped from the test side. It probably was the right decision at the time to axe him from the side, although Eoin Morgan his replacement in the side only did slightly better.  Since this time Ravi Bopara has been in and out of the side. Normally drafted in again after some other player has failed. The only question is if Bopara will get another chance to play test cricket? He had to drop out the squad last summer for personal reasons and saw his name drop down the pecking order. Now Joe Root and Johhny Bairstow are both ahead of him as well as Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and James Taylor. These same players also have pushed Bopara out of the one day side.

What was surprising is that Bopara had been selected in the squad for the upcoming Champions Trophy. Many people believe that he has had too many chances. Alistair Cook once stated that Bopara had more talent than he did, the difference probably is in mentality.

I personally believe that he is good enough to win back his place but I do not see it happening. So this probably means that Ravi Bopara could be added to the long list of players who did not fulfil their potential, the other names on this list include Mark Ramprakash and Graham Hick. These two players were rated higher than Brian Lara at youth levels, with Ramprakash outscoring the West Indian legend in a youth world cup. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

It's Michael Clarke's time

The rise of 'Pup' the boy from New South Wales has not been as straight forward as many would assume. Today Michael Clarke has been named Wisdoms cricketer of the year, this names him the most inform player of the last calender year. It comes as no surprise that he has won this award as he had an unbelievable year. 

The now Australia captain made his début as a fresh faced twenty three year old in India, where he scored a century in his first test. Since this time he had been ear marked to be a future skipper of Australia.  A mark of his special abilities is the fact that he broke into the great Australian team at the age of twenty three. Others such as Stuart Law, Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge all had to wait for their chances. At this time Clarke had the world at his feet, he was the poster boy of Australian cricket, the young guy in amongst all legends.

He was catapulted into a new lifestyle, one which can be hard for a young sports star. Everyone knew who he was, celebrity girlfriends also were part of his new life. This was something that would later play a big part of his cricket future. In 2010 a split with model fiancée Lara Bingle meant that Clarke went home from a tour of New Zealand stating personal problems. This is something that the tough Australian public did not like. 

On his return to New Zealand he put all issues aside and made one of his most focused centuries. Leaving the team suddenly had a lasting affect on Clarkes perception. He was roundly booed by the home crowd when he once temporarily took over from Ponting. He had also been publicly criticised by many former players also. 

There had also been a public spat with team mate and Australian darling Simon Katich as well as the accusation of Clarke hiding away lower down the order at number five. This accusation is something that still is labelled with Clarke, only recently moving up higher in the India series.  

The Aussie public is a tough crowd at the best of times, but 'Pup' seemed to have made enemies of most of them. This was a sharp contrast from his start to international cricket where he was unanimously praised. He also had been treated for some cancerous spots on his face. At the same time Clarke had a little dip in form, with many people stating that some other person should be considered as the future captain. The signs were not looking good for Australia, him being in a team that lost three ashes series, many people called for radical change. This in many ways sums up the life of a sportsman, it is how you overcome these adversities which defines you.  Michael Clarke is definitely a fighter, he has once again changed these perceptions of him, leading from the front. 

Unfortunately for him his peak has coincided a downturn in Australian cricket. This was always going to happen when some of the all time greats retired all together. What is more unfortunate for Clarke is that captains get defined by their team, he is battling hard to change this. As a captain his record will be compared to former captains. This is unfair because him having a weaker team does not make for a fair comparison. In many ways this is a greater test of captaincy than past captains Ponting and Waugh, these guys had great players in their side so very few decisions had to be made. Clarke on the other hand does not have this luxury to fall back onto. 

Michael Hussey is the latest player to retire, leaving the bating very dependant on Clarke just ahead of the ashes. Since being named captain 'Pup' has definitely been one of the worlds best players, he has always had natural timing and stroke play, but a new focus has been added. He scored four double centuries in the last calender year, a feat that no other player has ever achieved.  

The 'Old Enemy' are looking very very strong and any bad loss could bring calls for wholesale change in Australian cricket. 

The challenge ahead for Clarke and his boys should be one they see as an exciting opportunity to win against the odds. Contrary to most English media's opinion the Aussies have a good team, they are young and untested but are packed with potential. You do not have to go back that far when an Australian team touring England arrived with mostly young and in experienced players shocked England. This had been Steve Waugh's first Ashes tour as a captain. 

Being written off pre ashes should work in the favour of Australia, as they have no pressure. They will need a bit of luck as well as fighting spirit, this is something that Clarke will instil for sure. It will be a defining summer for this Aussie side and a defining moment for the new captain. If he is to be successful in the summer it will only add to his story, the full circle of being liked. 

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