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Not playing at home venues is testing the depth of squads

Raman Bhanot

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One of the biggest charms of the IPL in most seasons is the home advantage that teams enjoy for half the number of total league matches that they play.

Squads are structured keeping in mind the nature of the track that is typical to the home ground for each team.

But this season, with no team playing any match at their home ground, that advantage no longer holds good. Some might argue that even in the last season, no team had the home advantage since all matches were played in the UAE. The difference between last season and the current one is that the variation in the nature of surfaces being played upon is a lot more this time.

A case to point–the pitches tend to play low and slow at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and the Eden Gardens, especially as the summer progresses and the wear and tear of regular matches affects the pace and bounce of the surface. The nature of the pitch at Wankhede in Mumbai and the Chinnaswamy Stadium at Bengaluru is quite different from the ones in Chennai and Kolkata. The pitch at Bengaluru, for that matter, tends to be a batsman’s delight, while the Wankhede wicket does provide some bounce and carry for the seam bowlers and also keep the attacking batsman interested.

How often in the past have we seen teams like CSK and KKR pack the squad with quality spinners who can bowl a tight wicket to wicket line and seamers who have the ability to bowl slower deliveries and cutters and take the pace off the ball. Similarly, teams like MI and RCB tend to pack their batting lineup with players who like playing their shots on the rise and like the ball coming onto the bat.

You would expect top players across teams to adapt quickly to varying conditions, but it’s not always that easy. Which is why you need variety in the squad—players with different skill sets that give the team management the options to pick the right XI to ensure the team balance given the venue they are playing at.

Teams with options of quality spinners and genuine quicks have been able to adjust their Playing XI composition according to the venues and reaped rewards. The same applies to teams with a healthy mix of stroke-makers and players used to scoring runs on low and slow pitches as well.

Take the example of Delhi Capitals, who used Amit Mishra to great effect in Chennai where he claimed a 4 for 24 versus Mumbai Indians, while in the previous match at Wankhede they utilized the services of the left arm seamer Lukman Meriwala against Punjab Kings.

While on MI, the middle order batsmen like Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya like to have pace on the ball and like hitting their shots through the line and on the rise as well. With the team not playing any match at Wankhede and in-fact start the season by playing contests on the slower surfaces in Chennai, one can clearly see that runs aren’t flowing from their blade. Infact, as soon as the new ball loses its shine and starts getting a little softer after about 10-12 overs, scoring runs at a brisk clip has been a challenge even for set batsmen.

The numbers bear this out. Generally one expects that the batting team to score more in the latter half of the innings in a T20 game, if they get a solid start and have wickets in hand for the last 10. But in the four matches that MI have played at Chennai, despite having always batted first in all contests and getting the best use of the surface at Chennai, they have scored more runs in the first 10 overs of the innings as compared to the last 10. The only exception was the game against SRH, where they scored 75 in the first 10 overs and an equal number of runs in the last 10 as well.

But Pollard and Pandya are irreplaceable players, and one would expect them to adapt soon and definitely expect a different performance with the bat from them when MI play at Bengaluru later in the season.

Another team to have struggled with getting the composition of their Playing XI right in the initial stages of the tournament is SRH, but more on that in another article.

The writer is a cricket commentator and sports broadcaster who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India and abroad.

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Want to be able to bowl closer to knockouts, says Hardik Pandya

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India all-rounder Hardik Pandya on Sunday informed that he is looking forward to bowling in the later stages of the ongoing T20 World Cup. India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday said Hardik Pandya will be able to bowl two overs for the side in the showpiece event at some stage. Hardik also said his back is fine but he won’t be bowling as of now and will take a call along with the “professionals” about when he can eventually bowl.

“I don’t like to get too hyped by the situation, and my family makes sure of that too. I stay away from social media because you do get excited and get the vibes. It’s simple, and we leave emotions out of the way and keep things professional,” Hardik told host broadcaster Star Sports ahead of the toss.

“We make sure we tick the right boxes, and do the processes right. The back is fine. It was jittery, but I won’t be bowling for now. I want to be able to bowl eventually, closer to the knockouts. The professionals and I both have to take the call about when I can have a bowl,” he added.

Hardik did not bowl a single over for the Mumbai Indians in the UAE leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and he also did not bowl in the warm-up fixtures against England and Australia which was played last week.

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Unacceptable performance: Pollard after WI’s dismal show

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West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard has urged his side to forget their dismal batting display against England and move on quickly as they seek to defend their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup crown.

Pollard was one of ten batters to fall for a single-figure score as his side were skittled for 55 in a rematch of the 2016 final, a score England needed just 8.2 overs to surpass as West Indies’ net run-rate took a sizable early dent. The 34-year-old was honest about his side’s failings and expects to see a vast improvement in their remaining Group 1 fixtures, starting against South Africa on Tuesday.

Kieron Pollard in the post-match presentation said: “There’s not a lot to explain – it was an unacceptable performance, but we do need to take this on the chin and move on. It’s a matter of finding our straps, we have to find a way to get a fighting total on the board, today was a day where we couldn’t find that balance, but we need to forget this and move on. This is an international sport, such days happen, but we need to find a solution.

“We have played a lot of T20 cricket around the world, this is something we have all experienced, you’ll have to accept such days. Each game is important, we still have four games in the tournament and we’ll have to look forward.” The only positive from the match for West Indies was a spirited display with the ball as Akeal Hosein took two for 24.

“Got an opportunity due to the injury, things do happen for a reason, he (Hosein) has worked hard in domestic cricket, his attitude is fantastic, he has plenty of energy and that’s fantastic. I told the guys to give our best at the halfway stage,” the West Indies captain added.

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Warner is in good physical shape and that’s a good sign, says Justin Langer

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Australia coach Justin Langer praised batter David Warner and said that his side is unlikely to change the opening pair of Warner and Aaron Finch for the upcoming matches of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

Australia defeated South Africa by five wickets in the first Super 12s match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. “There are some really good signs from Davey (Warner) yesterday. I think he pulled Rabada for four, he played a beautiful cover drive, he played a great cut shot, and then one held up on him a bit. But they’re good signs for me,” said Justin Langer.

“He’s in as good physical shape as I’ve ever seen him so that’s a very positive sign, [I’m] really confident he’ll come good. And Finchy (Finch), I thought one, Finchy’s captaincy was brilliant yesterday. And he’s another one that, he had knee surgery, it might take a little bit of time for him to get moving. He’s working hard in the nets in his preparation. I don’t think it’s so much a mental thing for Finchy,” he added.

Langer admitted he had nearly chewed his fingernails down to the quick in Saturday’s last-over thriller. But he expects more close low-scoring games as the tournament moves on.

Chasing 119, Australia started off at a low pace with skipper Aaron Finch being sent back by Anrich Nortje without scoring a single run. Following Finch, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh also lost their wickets and by the end of the 7.5 overs, Australia was 38/3.

Steve Smith played an innings of 35 runs in 34 balls and kept the hopes for his side alive. But at the end of the 15.2 overs, Smith and Glenn Maxwell were also sent back, leaving the team’s total to 81/5. It was Stoinis, who in partnership with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, ended the match with a boundary and took Australia home.

Earlier in the match, South Africa lost early wickets, with Australia’s Josh Hazelwood and Adma Zampa scalping two wickets each. Australia will now be facing Sri Lanka for their next ICC Men’s T20 World Cup clash on October 28 in Dubai.

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Worked hard on my swing yesterday in nets, says Shaheen Afridi

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Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi, who stole the show on Sunday with his brilliant bowling against India in the ongoing T20 World Cup, said he worked hard on polishing his skills in nets before the match.

Shaheen Afridi got the better of Rohit Sharma (0) and KL Rahul (3) and India were reduced to 6/2 in the third over.

The Pakistan pacer revealed that the plan was to pick early wickets and come back in the death overs to scalp some more. “Glad I was able to execute the team plan. The plan was to pick early wickets and then come back in the death and pick wickets again,” Shaheen Afridi told host broadcaster Star Sports after mid-innings.

“I worked hard on my swing yesterday in the nets. It becomes easy for batsmen if it doesn’t. I didn’t mind going for runs in order to pick up wickets,” he added.India skipper Virat Kohli once again showed what it takes to be a big match player as he hit a quality 57 to take India to a respectable 151/7 in the 20 overs against Pakistan.

Shaheen, who dismissed Kohli in the 19th over, said the ball is coming nicely onto the bat and hopefully Pakistan will be able to chase the score easily.

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ASALANKA, RAJAPAKSA SHINE AS SRI LANKA DEFEAT BANGLADESH

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Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa played knocks of 80 and 53 respectively as Sri Lanka defeated Bangladesh by five wickets in the Super 12’s Group 1 match here at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

Chasing 172, Sri Lanka lost the wicket of Kusal Perera (1) in the very first over as he was bowled by Nasum Ahmed. However, Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka counter-attacked and the duo took Sri Lanka’s score to 54/1 after the end of the powerplay overs. Both batters put on 69 runs for the second over. Shakib Al Hasan however, changed the game around for Bangladesh in the ninth over as he dismissed Nissanka (24) and Avishka Fernando (0), reducing Sri Lanka to 71/3 with the side still needing 101 runs to win from 68 balls.

Wanindu Hasaranga (6) failed to leave a mark with the bat and Sri Lanka was left struggling at 79/4 in the 10th over of the innings. Asalanka then found the support in the form of Bhanuka Rajapaksa and the duo did not let the asking run-rate creep up too high. Both of them kept on registering boundaries at regular intervals and Sri Lanka needed just 24 runs from the final four overs.

In the end, Sri Lanka registered a comfortable victory with seven balls to spare.Earlier, Mohammad Naim and Mushfiqur Rahim played knocks of 62 and 57 to help Bangladesh post a total of 171/4 in the allotted twenty overs. Sent into bat, Bangladesh got off to a steady start as openers Liton Das and Mohammad Naim put on 40 runs for the first wicket, but this stand was cut short by Lahiru Kumara in the sixth over as he sent Das (16) back to the pavilion. Shakib Al Hasan (10) failed to leave a mark with the bat and Bangladesh was reduced to 56/2 in the eighth over.

Mushfiqur Rahim then joined Naim in the middle and the duo frustrated the Sri Lankan bowling attack, registering boundaries at regular intervals. The duo put on 73 runs for the third wicket and it was finally in the 17th over that Chamika Karunaratne was able to send Naim (62) back to the pavilion, reducing Bangladesh to 129/3.

In the final three overs, Bangladesh managed to add 31 more runs to their total, taking it past the 170-run mark. Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah remained unbeaten on 57 and 10.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 171/4 (Mohammad Naim 62, Mushfiqur Rahim 57*; Chamika Karunaratne 1-12); Sri Lanka 172/5 (Charith Asalanka 80*, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 53; Shakib Al Hasan 2-17).

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Worked hard on my swing yesterday in nets, says Shaheen Afridi

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Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi, who stole the show on Sunday with his brilliant bowling against India in the ongoing T20 World Cup, said he worked hard on polishing his skills in nets before the match.

Shaheen Afridi got the better of Rohit Sharma (0) and KL Rahul (3) and India were reduced to 6/2 in the third over.

The Pakistan pacer revealed that the plan was to pick early wickets and come back in the death overs to scalp some more. “Glad I was able to execute the team plan. The plan was to pick early wickets and then come back in the death and pick wickets again,” Shaheen Afridi told host broadcaster Star Sports after mid-innings.

“I worked hard on my swing yesterday in the nets. It becomes easy for batsmen if it doesn’t. I didn’t mind going for runs in order to pick up wickets,” he added.India skipper Virat Kohli once again showed what it takes to be a big match player as he hit a quality 57 to take India to a respectable 151/7 in the 20 overs against Pakistan.

Shaheen, who dismissed Kohli in the 19th over, said the ball is coming nicely onto the bat and hopefully Pakistan will be able to chase the score easily.

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