No one expected a team led by batting stalwart Steve Smith and having fine wicket-keeper-batsman Jos Buttler and top all-rounder Ben Stokes in the line-up to finish at the bottom of the Indian Premier League points table. But inconsistency, poor support to fast bowler Jofra Archer in pace bowling, Stokes striking form late, Smith’s poor show, and most of the Indian talent disappointing pushed them to the bottom.
Smith and coach Andrew McDonald admitted that the team played inconsistent cricket in the tournament. The team was particularly poor at Dubai where it lost five of the six matches.
“We started well with two wins, we won two before this one but we were inconsistent in the middle we didn’t take enough responsibility,” said Smith after the last league game, against Kolkata Knight Riders, that saw them not just crash out but finish even below Chennai Super Kings.
“Not sure why was that. It wasn’t due to conditions but we played inconsistent cricket, lost the key moments in the games here. We had opportunities in a couple of games but played inconsistent cricket in criticial moments,” said coach Andrew McDonald, most probably referring to the game against Delhi Capitals which RR seemed to have in the bag only to lose by 13 runs.
To start with, Rajasthan Royals were never really sure about their opening combination in the early phase of the tournament. They tried as many as five combinations with five batsmen — Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Steve Smith — before zeroing in on the Uthappa-Stokes pair for the last six matches.
Buttler opened initially but was sent down to strengthen the middle-order as it showed weaknesses.
The team was short on Indian talent. Just three of the India players could feature in all 14 matches while Riyan Parag played 12 matches with nothing to show with the bat or ball, except an unbeaten 42.
That apart, the Royals never had a pace bowler to support Archer. There were as many as seven pace bowlers tried besides Archer but they could get just 21 wickets while Archer alone got 20. This is despite the fact that they bowled double the number of overs than Archer did. Archer bowled 55.4 overs while the other pacemen together delivered 123.2 overs
Neither young fast bowler Kartik Tyagi, who ramped up good pace but got nine wickets in 10 games, nor the experienced Jaydev Unadkat, who got four wickets in seven games, could keep run-flow down. Both conceded at close to 10.
The biggest disappointment, however, was Smith, who averaged under 26 and could make just three half-centuries in 14 games.
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UPCOMING ASHES WILL BE ‘VERY INTERESTING’ SERIES: IAN BOTHAM
Former England all-rounder Ian Botham feels that the upcoming Ashes will be a very interesting series as both England and Australia have some ageing players on their side.England and Australia will lock horns in five-match Ashes, beginning December 8 at the Gabba. “Who knows, this series could decide which side goes on to win for the next two or three years. Both sides are soon going to lose key players because of their age. There are a lot of players who are playing, if you like, for the last dance in Ashes cricket,” Sydney Morning Herald quoted Botham as saying.
“It comes to us all, I am afraid, and we all want to have great memories when we get out there, but you are judged, if you are an English player or an Australian, you are judged on your performances in the Ashes. That is why this is going to be a very, very interesting series,” he added.
Earlier, Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket team had said that the side is hoping that the discovery of the COVID-19 Omicron variant does not affect anything in the upcoming Ashes.
“We’re obviously hoping it won’t affect anything. There are going to be changes to those border controls in terms of our families being able to travel and we clearly hope that’s not going to affect us. But we are in the hands of national and local governments,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Giles as saying.
DID NOT HAVE ANY SECOND THOUGHTS ON STAYING WITH RCB, HAVE RENEWED ENERGY: KOHLI
India Test and ODI skipper Virat Kohli has said that he did not have any second thoughts on staying with Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for the next three editions of the tournament.
RCB revealed its retained players ahead of the mega auction and they were — Kohli, Glenn Maxwell and Mohammed Siraj. “The journey continues, I have been retained by RCB. When I was contacted, did not have any second thoughts at all. It has been an amazing journey over the years, three more years with the franchise that means so much to me. I believe the best is yet to come and I have a special feeling about what is to come next season onwards,” said Kohli in a video posted on the official YouTube channel of RCB.“Our fan base is amazing, management has been amazing with me and all other players. Renewed energy and a different version of me on the field. But I will be there with my heart and soul for RCB,” he added.
Midway through the IPL 2021 season, Kohli had announced that he would not be leading the franchise from 2022 onwards. Kohli, who has been with the team since inception was retained for INR 15 crores. Maxwell, who was signed by the team last season, remains with the Bold Brigade with a tag of INR 11 crores. Siraj, who has been with the team since 2018, will carry on with RCB for a sum of INR 7 crores.
Speaking about the retained players, Mike Hesson, Director of Cricket Operations, RCB said, “The player retention process has been pretty robust and exhaustive. We’ve got an exceptional bunch of players but the key for us was to ensure we have a sizeable auction purse going into the IPL Mega Auction. We had many good players whom we considered and were happy to retain, but that would have taken away our flexibility from the auction to get a balanced squad.”
“We look to retain as many players during the auction as we build the perfect squad for 2022 and beyond,” he added.
DHONI GETTING RETAINED IS GOOD SIGN FOR CSK: COACH M.P. SINGH
Former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s childhood coach MP Singh lauded Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for retaining the wicket-keeper batter ahead of the mega auction of the upcoming season.
CSK has retained Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Moeen Ali for the upcoming IPL. Speaking to ANI, MP Singh said, “CSK retaining Dhoni is a good sign for the franchise as no team would ever want to lose their champion player and that’s Dhoni for CSK. It is a player’s personal choice also that whether he wants to get retained or not. Overall, it’s a good decision.”
The coach was present at the event in the national capital where KFC assured support to the Indian Deaf Cricket Association (IDCA) for the World Cup 2023.
“It feels great to see that KFC will be sponsoring the deaf cricket in India. We have seen the players struggle from the beginning and now we can see their bright future. These players are currently preparing for the Champions League in Hyderbad, followed by Champions Trophy in Qatar and World Cup 2023 in Dubai,” said MP Singh.
Have self-belief that we can go upwards from anywhere: Ajaz Patel
New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel on Wednesday said that the BlackCaps are pretty confident about playing against India in the second Test of the ongoing two-match Test series in Mumbai.
The second Test of the two-match series will be played at the Wankhede Stadium from December 3 to 7. Skipper Virat Kohli will return to lead the hosts. New Zealand’s Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz put up a gritty performance to ensure that the visitors walked away with a draw at Green Park, Kanpur.
“For us, it’s still going into a game with the possibility of taking the series. We know the history of playing in India and we know how difficult it has been in the past. The beauty of our team at this moment is that we don’t look in history too much and we look at the present. For us, we have a sense of self-belief that we can go up from anywhere and recently we were able to take away the World Test Championship (WTC) from them,” said Ajaz Patel during a virtual press conference.
“So for us, now it’s just about playing the best cricket possible and everyone contributing. It’s not just one individual who comes to the party, it does take a team effort and that’s what Test cricket is all about. We are playing some very good cricket and we are confident at this very moment,” he added.
New Zealand managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India after a gritty performance from their lower-order batters, ensuring that visitors walked away with a draw. The Kiwi spinner also said that playing at Wankhede stadium is a nostalgic feeling for him, as he grew up in Mumbai and has his family in the city.
“It’s a bit emotional. When we landed in Mumbai yesterday and earlier when I used to land at the airport, I used to go to my family or friends but this time it was different, as this time I was with cricket, representing New Zealand. I have been at Wankhede earlier also for some IPL games, thanks to Mitchell McClenaghan. I have bowled a few times during the practice sessions, so yes, it’s cool as well as nostalgic at the same time,” said Ajaz Patel.“It’s a special moment for me. My family have never seen me play in person. So, it will be the first time they will be in the stands, it is a great feeling,” he added.
SHREYAS’S BODY LANGUAGE IS HIS STRENGTH, ISHANT’S ALTERNATIVE WILL ALSO HAVE TO BE FOUND
At present, the most talking point in cricket is Virat Kohli’s inclusion in the second test and question arises that who will be out in the playing XI for Mumbai Test. It is indeed a tricky question as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s bad times are getting longer. Especially Rahane because his performance has declined significantly since the Melbourne Test. Even this year his average has come down to below 20 runs per innings.
As for Shreyas Iyer, I had said about him three years ago that one day he will be a part of the Test team. His body language is so positive that looking at him it seems that he will go a long way in the Test team. I also want to say for him on this platform that he will become the captain of Team India one day. I had predicted the players like Sehwag, Gambhir, Saurabh, Dravid, Yuvraj etc. at the time of playing for India A and their result is in front of you.
Actually Shreyas Iyer has scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket as well as his batting has been excellent in IPL. Seeing his dominance on the cricket field, it seems that there is no pressure on this player in the field. There is only a desire to perform well, which he seems to fulfill by putting good shots. Although some people may raise questions that Shreyas had come to Team India as a replacement.
Now when Virat comes, he should vacate the place but I don’t agree with that. Keeping him in the team will not only boost the morale of this player, but will also send a message that everyone wants to take forward the player who performs well. Though Karun Nair didn’t get chances despite scoring a triple century but it is equally true that you should have consistency at the national level but that was not seen in his performance.
In fast bowling, Ishant Sharma no longer appears to have the same stamina as before. This has been happening for quite some time now. I would not be surprised if Mohammad Siraj is seen bowling in the Mumbai Test.
The author has played 35 Tests and 59 ODIs for Team India as a left-arm spinner.
CSA confident of hosting series in a secure bio-environment
According to the CSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra, CSA has instituted world-class standards and measures to ensure that all players, staff and officials are protected within this environment.
The Proteas men’s team has been part of no less than eight international cricket bio-secure environments (BSEs) in total – thvese have ranged from home tours against England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and most recently the Netherlands, to away tours to Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland, Sri Lanka and the ICC T20 World Cup in the United Arad Emirates (UAE) and Oman.South Africa is slated to host India in three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is with the tour to commence on December 17. According to the CSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shuaib Manjra: “CSA has instituted world-class standards and measures to ensure that all players, staff and officials are protected within this environment. Our main focus was to safeguard the cricket biosphere by managing strict entry standards and limited movement outside of its cordon.”
Dr Manjra has emphasized that the BSE has met the highest standards set by the national government and CSA is continuously looking at ensuring that the management of the BSE is second to none in the world.
“What we have implemented at our BSE is a cordon sanitaire which offers full and continuous protection to all individuals who respect and abide by our very demanding guidelines and rules”, added Dr Manjra in an official release.
“Playing cricket in a BSE was a massive challenge for everyone involved in the game,” commented Proteas white-ball captain, Temba Bavuma. “CSA has to be commended for the way that they have gone about the BSEs. It hasn’t been an easy year for us all. Being confined to a hotel room and being restricted from leaving the hotel and having the choice – in most places away from home – between your room and the team room and little access outside the hotel takes its toll, particularly for the all-format playing members of the team and management. I’m confident that our BSEs are of the highest safety standards and the protocols are set not only with everyone’s physical well-being, but mental health in mind,” he added.
Proteas Test captain, Dean Elgar echoed Bavuma’s sentiments, saying: “It’s hard to believe that we’ve been working in these BSE conditions for a year now, but anyone who has been affected, either directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 virus, knows that this is a necessity if we want to continue playing cricket.”
“It takes a toll on a player mentally and yet this team continues to produce good results and make progress – that’s something that I personally don’t think is being spoken about enough. The measures that have been put in place and the hotels have been chosen take into account the teams’ physical and mental health needs. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be operating like this, but it’s gratifying to know that when tours come around the health and safety of all involved is a top priority,” Elgar concluded.
Chairperson of the CSA Board, Lawson Naidoo commended the resilience and fortitude of the Proteas, saying: “The Proteas have endured difficult BSE conditions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet their hunger to play the game and represent their country triumphed over all the discomfort. CSA is proud to have athletes of this calibre; those who are readily prepared to put the sport first. We accordingly thank the Proteas for their exemplary zeal and appreciate their sacrifices.”
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