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Pitch debate: Rank turner the issue or inability of modern batsmen to play on spinning tracks

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By Vishesh Roy
New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): When the four-match series between India and England started, cricket fans were expecting to be enthralled by the quality of cricket on display. While the contests have been entertaining, the pitches on offer have also hogged quite a bit of limelight.
If comments were made by critics during the second Test in Chennai, things have taken an altogether different turn after the third Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad ended in two days.
The Virat Kohli-led side defeated England comprehensively — by ten wickets — in the third Test which was played with the pink ball. However, many cricket pundits have questioned the quality of pitch on the show. Former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh went on to say that if these types of wickets were created when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were playing, they would have finished with 1000 and 800 wickets respectively.
But one cannot forget the spell from Australia batsman Michael Clarke when he picked six wickets while giving away just nine runs at the Mumbai Test in 2004. Murali Kartik and Harbhajan returned the favour as they picked 8 wickets to see Australia bundle out for 93. So are these type of wickets really new?
Most of the former English cricketers like Alistair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss have questioned India’s need to produce such rank turners. But again the question remains if rank turners really reduce the contest between bat and ball or is it the batsmen who are losing their ability to play the turning ball and making spinning tracks look unplayable?
If green tops require a certain skill set, then the rank-turners also require the same. Which ball turns and which one goes straight is a simple question in cricketing books and all the batters prepare for it from the very start when they go to coaching schools or academies. But it is about putting those hours of training into play at the crease.
When playing on turning tracks, batters are required to be confident about their footwork. But looking at all the dismissals in the third Test, most of them saw batters in two minds on whether they should stay on the frontfoot or go back to the balls which mostly skidded through after pitching.
This is a fact that even Sunil Gavaskar spoke about during his commentary stint. Most of the English batsmen were caught pressing forward and as a result, they were either bowled or caught plumb in front of the wicket.
When one looks at the third Test once again, they will notice that only a handful of the deliveries were turning sharply and there was nothing that kicked up at an alarming rate. The pitch also did not offer invariable bounce and the batters were able to leave the ball on length.
If anything, the pink-ball has extra lacquer on it, and that may have made the ball skid on more. And this is a point which was highlighted by Rohit Sharma and Joe Root after the third Test came to an end.
These types of challenging wickets do require batters to think on their feet and as former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin suggested, the batsmen can look to play with rubber soles on dry-turning wickets rather than wearing spikes.
One needs to ask why does it seem like the world comes to an end when there is a little bit of assistance for the spinners from day one of a Test match? Nothing in the rule book restricts the degree of turn that a pitch is allowed to take. But no sooner does a sub-continent wicket take a bit of turn, eyebrows are raised — mostly unnecessary.
England skipper Joe Root did not openly criticise the pitch, but he did say: “If I am getting a fifer, it pretty much sums up the pitch.”
One doesn’t need to be a genius to read between the lines and understand what Root truly opines about the pitch. But credit to the current England management that none have come out openly to use the pitch as an excuse for the loss.
Kohli suggested that the batting from both sides was not up to the mark in the third Test and he went on to give a clean chit to the 22 yards on offer. It is safe to say that Kohli is not entirely wrong.
Even, Rohit Sharma suggested that the pitch was good to bat on and there were no demons. The right-handed opener hit 66 runs in the first innings and he did not look in any sort of trouble in the second as he smashed boundaries at will to take India home in style while chasing 49.
In fact, England opening batsman Zak Crawley also scored a fifty in the first innings and he looked quite comfortable at the crease. Man of the Match Axar Patel has made it clear that he wouldn’t mind the same wicket for the fourth Test.
Now, it would be interesting to see what type of pitch is on offer in the fourth Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium. The ICC rule book clearly states that a pitch can be deemed ‘poor’ if the match referee decides that the pitch is offering excessive turn from day one of a Test and the contest between bat and ball is not fair. But as Virat Kohli pointed out, 21 of the 30 wickets fell to straight deliveries in the day-night Test. (ANI)

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RABADA, NORTJE ARE TWO OF THE BEST BOWLERS, SAYS KANE WILLIAMSON

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SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) captain Kane Williamson stated that Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje are two of the best fast bowlers after Delhi Capitals (DC) defeated SRH in an Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter here at the Dubai International Stadium on Wednesday.

Anrich Nortje brilliant display with the ball was followed by a masterful knock by Shreyas Iyer as Delhi Capitals crushed SunRisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets, chasing the target of 134 in 17.5 overs. SRH captain Kane Williamson in the post-match presentation said: “We didn’t start well, didn’t register a decent partnership but never got any momentum, some good scores in the back-end, but pretty much 25-30 runs short. We did bowl well, we have defended modest scores in the past, but it wasn’t to be today which was a bit of a shame.”

“It’s been a difficult campaign so far, but we need to enjoy our cricket and don’t put ourselves under pressure – they were excellent, they are both quality internationals, two of the best fast bowlers [Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje] going around at the moment and they put us under pressure.”

“They got us into hard positions, perhaps if we hadn’t lost early wickets, we could have done differently, but Delhi were outstanding and played some smart cricket. We need to concentrate on the way we play and try to improve,” he added.

Shreyas Iyer and Shikhar Dhawan played innings of 47 and 42 respectively to take Delhi Capitals home with a victory. DC captain Rishabh Pant also played a crucial quickfire inning of 35* in 21 balls.

For SRH, Khaleel Ahmed and Rashid Khan scalped one wicket each. With this victory, Delhi have moved top of the IPL points table, toppling Chennai Super Kings to the second. And the defeat here means SRH hopes of the playoff are now almost dusted as they stay at bottom of the table with one win from eight games.

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Love wearing Orange Cap and the way I am timing the ball right now, says Shikhar Dhawan

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Delhi Capitals batsman Shikhar Dhawan said he is enjoying being the leading run-scorer in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant played unbeaten knocks of 47 and 35 runs respectively as Delhi Capitals chased down the target of 135 with eight wickets in hand and 13 balls to spare against SunRisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.

“I’m enjoying wearing the cap, I’m enjoying the way I’m timing the ball. Not very true, this surface, it stopped a bit, and we had to plan the game according to the wicket. So it was good to go out there and secure a win. I consciously made an effort to increase the tempo and strike-rate, because I wanted to be an impactful player for my side,” Dhawan told host broadcaster Star Sports after the game ended.

Dhawan has so far scored 422 runs from nine matches in the ongoing season. Even in the game against SRH, the left-hander managed to play a knock of 42 runs.

“It was just about the execution. Rabada and Nortje are our gun bowlers. Rabada always gets us the wicket. Nortje has great pace and his game has improved too, so they are troubling the batsmen. Absolutely enjoying being at the top of the table,” he added.

With this win, the franchise rose to the top spot in the IPL standings with 14 points. In the match against SRH, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje took five wickets between themselves as SunRisers was restricted to 134/9 in the allotted twenty overs. For Kane Williamson’s side, Abdul Samad top-scored with a knock of 28 runs. Delhi Capitals will next square off against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday.

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GREAT TO HAVE PANT AND SHREYAS BACK TOGETHER, SAYS DELHI CAPITALS COACH PONTING

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After registering an emphatic eight-wicket win over SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 season, Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting on Thursday said it is great to have Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant back playing together.

Shreyas and Pant played unbeaten knocks of 47 and 35 runs respectively as Delhi Capitals chased down the target of 135 with eight wickets in hand and 13 balls to spare. With this win, the franchise rose to the top spot in the IPL standings with 14 points. “Great to have these two back together. Strong team performance and happy to restart things with a win after our bowlers did a great job. @DelhiCapitals,” tweeted Ponting.

Earlier this year, Delhi had named Rishabh Pant as captain for the IPL 2021 season as Shreyas was ruled out of the first half of the tournament. The franchise retained Pant as captain even as Shreyas came back into the setup for the second half in the UAE.

“When I got the captaincy of Delhi Capitals, it benefitted me a lot as my temperament got better. But obviously, this is part of the decision making and I respect the franchise’s decision. Rishabh Pant is leading really well since the start of the season and I respect the decision to continue with him. I like soaking in the pressure and I like to perform when there are challenges. It is not like I am focusing a lot on my batting just because I am not the captain,” said Shreyas during a virtual press conference.

In the match against SRH, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje took five wickets among themselves as SunRisers was restricted to 134/9 in the allotted twenty overs. For Kane Williamson’s side, Abdul Samad top-scored with a knock of 28 runs. Delhi Capitals will next square off against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday.

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INDIAN CLUBS HAVE PROUDLY CARRIED FORWARD INDIAN FOOTBALL AT THE CONTINENTAL LEVEL

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Continental championships are always a special, especially at the club level. It is not every day that the clubs get to fight it out against the best across Asia, and when such moments do come, they are revered by players and fans alike.

Indian clubs have had a memorable past on the continental level, and with ATK Mohun Bagan about to take on FC Nasaf Qarshi of Uzbekistan in the Inter-zone semi-final of the AFC Cup, let’s take a trip down the memory lane and revisit some of those moments when Indian football was proudly carried forward together by the clubs on the continental level.

1969 Asian Champion Club Tournament:

A semi-final run for Mysore state three years after the Indian football team finished runners-up in the AFC Asian Cup 1966, and seven years after the Blue Tigers’ gold medal finish at the 1962 Asian Games, came another proud moment for Indian football in the erstwhile Asian Champion Club Tournament (now known as the AFC Champions League)

The famous Mysore state team that had clinched back-to-back Santosh Trophy titles in 1968 and 1969 was representing India at the Asian level in 1969. Despite losing their first Group A game 0-5 against Yangzee FC of the Republic of Korea, the boys from Mysore slowly paced themselves in the continental level with a 1-1 draw against Bangkon Bank (Thailand), before defeating Vietnam Police (from the erstwhile Republic of Vietnam) and Manila Lions (Philippines), both by a 2-1 margin.

This comeback ensured a route to the semifinal for Mysore state, as they finished second in Group A after Yangzee FC. In the semi-final, however, Mysore lost out 1-6 to Maccabi Tel Aviv, a club that has famously taken part in European competitions like the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, in recent years.

The 2003 edition of the ASEAN Club Championship has been embedded into the memories of all fans of Indian football (regardless of where their

loyalties lie). This was the first time that an Indian club had won a title on the continental level, truly moving Indian football forward together.

Coming in as invitees to the ASEAN Club Championship, East Bengal had a stuttering start to the tournament, when they suffered a 0-1 loss at the hands of BEC Tero Sasana (Thailand), in Jakarta. However, the Red and Golds came roaring back in their second and final match of Group D, defeating Philippine Army (Philippines) 6-0, with Bhaichung Bhutia netting all the six goals. This win helped ensure East Bengal a passage into the quarter-finals.

Former East Bengal and India captain Bhaichung Bhutia came into his

own in the knockout stage, scoring crucial goals at every stage. Bhaichung and Bijen Singh scored one each in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Persita Tangerang (Indonesia), before the Sikkimese sniper netted a crucial equaliser in the semi-final against Petrokimika Putra (Indonesia) in a 1-1 draw, which the Red and Golds won 7-6 on penalties.

The final was a revenge match against BEC Tero Sasana of Thailand, who had earlier defeated East Bengal in the first match of the season. This time, however, the Red and Gold Brigade was comfortably in the lead through Mike Okoro’s first half strike, before Bhutia doubled the lead on the other side of the break. Although their opponents pulled one back, Alvito D’Cunha scored a third to ensure the two-goal parity, and the title.

Bhaichung Bhutia had won the Top Scorer’s award, having netted a fabulous nine goals in five matches. Dempo SC had built up a lethal squad during this time, one that clinched five league titles in a space of eight seasons. The period between 2006 and 2008 was perhaps one of the most fruitful periods for the Goan club. Not only did they win two league titles during this time, but they also had a run to the semi-finals of the 2008 AFC Cup.

Pitted against Al-Muharraq (Bahrain), Al-Ansar (Lebanon), and Sur SC (Oman) in Group A, Dempo finished second behind the Bahraini club, to make their way to the quarter-finals, where they beat Home United of Singapore 5-4 on aggregate, over two legs.

The dream run, however, came to an end in the semis, where they suffered a 1-5 aggregate loss against Lebanese side Safa SC. Dempo striker Ranty Martins memorably finished as the third best goal-scorer in the 2008 edition of the AFC Cup, with eight goals to his name.

A decade after the ASEAN triumph, the Red and Golds had a near perfect run in Asia, as they made their way to the semi-finals of the AFC Cup. Pitted against Selangor (Malaysia), Sai Gon Xuan Thanh (Vietnam), and Tampines Rovers (Singapore), East Bengal topped their group without losing a single game.

They made easy work of Myanmar’s Yangon United in the Round of 16, defeating them 5-1, before overcoming Semen Padang of Indonesia 2-1 on aggregate over two legs (1-0, 1-1), thus stretching their unbeaten run in Asia to nine games.

This run came to an end in the semi-final, however, where Kuwaiti side Al-Kuwait, who earned a 7-2 victory on aggregate over two legs. Despite this defeat, East Bengal’s unbeaten run in Asia has gone down in folklore, with striker Chidi Edeh netting six goals for his side.

In recent times, Bengaluru FC’s fantastic run to the AFC Cup Final in 2016 has gone into Indian Football folklore. The Blues had faced some tough challenges along the way, but made their way through to a memorable final in the end.

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VIRAT DESPERATE TO DO WELL, LOOKS LIKE HE HAS FOUND HIS RHYTHM, SAYS COACH HESSON

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Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) Director of Cricket and head coach Mike Hesson has said skipper Virat Kohli is desperate to do well in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021.

RCB had suffered a nine-wicket loss against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Monday and the side remains in third place in the points table. The side will next lock horns against CSK on Friday at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. “Look, there are some times when our batsmen look to do that to get some extra opportunity. Virat is obviously desperate to do well, he likes one-on-one sessions to get his confidence and basically find his rhythm. It definitely looks like he has found it,” said Hesson in a video posted on the official YouTube channel of RCB.

Kohli failed with the bat in hand against KKR as he managed to score just five runs. The right-handed batsman was sent back to the pavilion by Prasidh Krishna after the pacer caught him right plumb in front. After stumbling to a nine-wicket loss against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Hesson had said that skipper Kohli’s announcement to step down as skipper after the ongoing season did not impact the team’s performance.

On Sunday, Kohli had announced that he would step down as the RCB captain after the IPL 2021 season. “I think it was actually to get any form of distraction out early. We talked about making that announcement as soon as possible really, all the players were aware of it. It has not impacted performance against KKR, we were not sharp with the bat, we lost wickets. But I am confident that this group will turn around pretty quickly,” said Hesson during a virtual post-match press conference.

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Venkatesh Iyer, Tripathi help KKR break MI jinx Corres

With this win, KKR has risen to the fourth spot in the points table while Mumbai Indians has slipped to the fifth position.

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Rahul Tripathi and Venkatesh Iyer played knocks of 74 and 53 respectively as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) defeated Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in an Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Thursday.

With this win, KKR has risen to the fourth spot in the points table while Mumbai Indians has slipped to the fifth position. Before entering this match, KKR had a dismal record against MI, registering just six wins in a total of 28 games, but Iyer and Tripathi helped the franchise turn around their fortunes. Chasing 156, KKR got off to a flying start as Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer put on 40 runs inside three overs.

However, the opening stand was cut short as Jasprit Bumrah bowled Gill (13) in the third over of the innings. At the end of the powerplay, KKR’s score read 63/1 with Iyer going all guns blazing. Iyer and Tripathi continued with their carnage and both the batters registered their respective half-centuries. Both batters put on 88 runs for the second wicket, however, this stand was finally broken by Bumrah as he sent Iyer (53) back to the pavilion with KKR 28 runs away from the target. In the end, Tripathi (74*) and Nitish Rana (5*) took KKR over the line by seven wickets with 29 balls to spare.

Earlier, Quinton de Kock’s 55-run knock helped Mumbai Indians post 155/6 against KKR in the allotted twenty overs. Sent into bat, Mumbai Indians got off to a good start as opening batters Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock put on 56 runs inside the first six overs. Rohit and de Kock eventually put on 78 runs for the opening wicket, and this stand was finally broken by Sunil Narine in the 10th over as he dismissed Rohit (33).

Suryakumar Yadav who came out to bat at number three failed to leave a mark as he scored just five runs. He was sent back to the pavilion by Prasidh Krishna. Two overs later, de Kock (55) was also dismissed and Mumbai Indians was reduced to 106/3 in the 15th over.

Ishan Kishan (14) might have hit a long six off the bowling of Andre Russell, but he perished in the next over off the bowling of Lockie Ferguson. In the end, Kieron Pollard scored 21 runs from 15 balls to take Mumbai’s score past the 150-run mark.

Brief Scores: Mumbai Indians 155/6 (Quinton de Kock 55, Rohit Sharma 33; Lockie Ferguson 2-27) vs KKR 159/3 (Rahul Tripathi 74*, Venkatesh Iyer 53, Jasprit Bumrah 3-43).

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