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. 

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