UMRAN MALIK: EUPHORIA SHOULD MARRY REALISM - The Daily Guardian
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UMRAN MALIK: EUPHORIA SHOULD MARRY REALISM

Umran Malik remains a hotly debated topic in Indian cricket today. How can we ensure he is the future and not history?

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April 27, 2022: Umran Malik ‘remember thy name’ moment came and how! That incredible spell of blistering pace saw the SRH speedster demolish the stumps of Wriddhiman Saha, Shubman Gill, David Miller and Abhinav Manohar. He had arrived on the big IPL stage.

The next week or so was all about the sensational pacer and his ‘comparison journey’. From Waqar Younis to Shoaib Akhtar, from Brett Lee to Allan Donald, the comparison meter had started rolling. Add to this the ‘demands’ made by fans and former cricketers, with one of the legends even suggesting he be sent to England for the one-off Test (that completes the 6-Test series) as a surprise package.

STRATEGIC TIME-IN

All the chatter started to weigh down Malik and what followed immediately was a string of lacklustre performances. From 12 wickets in just four games at the start of the IPL season, he collected only 7 wickets in the next six. The story of Umran Malik had to even out for the good of the pacer and for the good of Indian cricket.

Wait better than weight

Prior to the start of the T20 series against South Africa (immediately after the IPL), Indian coach, Rahul Dravid resisted the temptation of rushing in the sensational player. Intent clearly seems to be to nurture.

“He is exciting, certainly bowls quick and has pace. The more he plays the better he gets. Very happy to have him in the mix. As a coach I would love to see it translate to the longer format of the game,” said Dravid just before the commencement of the series.

It is extremely heart-warming to see Dravid stress on the need to ease Umran into the longer format. There could be two reasons for this. First, Umran is very untested at the first-class level and has a long way to go there in terms of improving his record. The 22-year-old has played only three first-class matches and has an underwhelming average of 41.

However, it can be argued that these are his very early days, and it would be wrong to interpret anything yet from these numbers. The second and more important reason for Dravid’s measured response could possibly stem from lessons we need to learn from history. We’ve had many many (I stress on the word twice) examples of fast bowlers with raw pace in the early days of their career simply fall apart because they weren’t managed well. They climbed the ladder of international cricket in a hurry before coming down with as much haste.

*Since 2000

Arguably one of the fastest bowlers ever to have played the game, Shaun Tait was one of the finest examples of a ‘let me take a chance by playing him. His pace could unsettle the opposition’ mindset of captains who led the Aussies back then.

Tait had a very loaded run-up and depended on sheer pace. His method of delivering the ball clearly indicated he would struggle to bowl long spells. Tait’s own strength of raw pace became his weakness as he unleashed without any control whatsoever. The end result: he simply faded away into oblivion after such good early promise. Although he had a decent record in the shorter format, he never broke through in the longer one.

Tait was just one example. There were others too who depended on raw pace to make an entry and never made it big. Fidel Edwards of the West Indies, Mohammad Sami of Pakistan and Chris Silverwood of England. All the names mentioned here had plenty of zip but lacked the consistency to trouble the batters regularly at the highest level.

Factors that can affect raw pace:

Injury management

Workload management

Consistency

Conditioning

India’s Bowling Coach, Bharat Arun had talked about managing a fast bowler and how data is used actively during training sessions. During a briefing last year, Arun had said a fast bowler runs up to 20 kms in a day on the field. Now, that is staggering and strengthens the case for proper workload management.

There are several examples of how good workload and talent management helped many raw pacers emerge into greats of the game over a period of time. Brett Lee, Allan Donald and Mitchell Starc have enjoyed long and successful careers thanks to excellent workload management.

Coming back to Umran, India should learn lessons from the game’s past as they don’t have too many to learn from their own history. The good news is there’s no better person for talent and workload management than Rahul Dravid. Having gone through the ranks himself as a player and as an under-19 coach for several years, it can be safely assumed that Dravid will chart out a long-term plan for Umran and that will most definitely include multiple formats.

India before the T20 World Cup

Leading up to the T20 World Cup campaign kicking off on Oct 23 (against Pakistan at MCG), India has a packed calendar of T20s. Between June 10th and October 23rd, India will be playing 15 T20 internationals in pretty much diverse conditions. Five against South Africa at home right now, two in Ireland, three in England and five at home against the West Indies. Now, that’s sizable workload management to be blended with right preparation for the big event.

Unleashing Umran

So, the big question will always remain – What would be the right time to unleash Umran? And where? Australia during the World Cup considering those reasonably bouncy tracks would come in handy? Or will it be too much of a risk considering the Australian tracks, while being bouncy, can be a batter’s paradise? For me, launching him in Ireland where India is set to play two T20s would be close to perfect. Away from the limelight, he will get to be himself and that could well allow him to settle his nerves.

At the end of the day, what is most important from India’s perspective is raw talent transforms into consistent performance. And for that to happen, it is important euphoria marries realism. After all, untapped talent equals wasted experience while undermanaged talent equals lost opportunity. As the universe waits for the Umran thunderbolts, for the moment, let’s sit back and enjoy cricket lovely cricket.

Rajesh Viswanathan was a sports Commentator at Zee Sports and a former Managing Editor (Sports) at Microsoft)

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HOODA’S MAIDEN TON POWERS INDIA TO 227/7 AGAINST IRELAND IN 2ND T20

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DUBLIN: Maiden century by Deepak Hooda (104) and his 176-run stand with Sanju Samson (77) guided India to a massive 227/7 against Ireland in the second and final T20I of the series at The Village in Dublin on Tuesday.

Samson and Hooda smashed the Irish bowlers all over the park. Though a mini-collapse took place for India after the duo were dismissed, the Ireland bowlers did not have much to be positive about at the end of the innings. Batting first, India were not off a good start, losing Ishan Kishan for just 3 after he was dismissed by medium-pacer Mark Adair with help from wicketkeeper-batter Lorcan Tucker.

This brought Deepak Hooda to the crease, who joined the opener Sanju Samson.

The duo went for some big hits and maintained some good running between the wickets. At the end of the powerplay in six overs, India was at 54/1 with Hooda (26*) and Samson (24*).

The duo soon reached their 50-run partnership. The duo switched their gears after this, punishing Irish bowlers more. Hooda brought up his maiden fifty in just 27 balls.

At the end of 10 overs, India stood at 97/1 with Hooda (50*) and Samson (42*). The ninth and tenth over bowled by Gareth Delany and Andy McBrine went for 15 and 16 runs respectively.

The duo brought their 100-run stand in just 55 balls. Samson also brought up his first T20I fifty in 31 balls.

Between 10-15 overs, the duo brutalised the Irish attack, getting 80 runs within these five overs. Hooda in general was more dominant as a batter.

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DJOKOVIC FORCED TO FOUR SETS IN OPENER, NORRIE ALSO MAKES WINNING START

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In the first match of the Wimbledon on Centre Court, defending champion Novak Djokovic recorded his 80th Wimbledon match victory with a win over South Korea’s Soonwoon Kwon on Monday.

The Serbian becomes the first player, man or woman, to record 80 singles victories across each of all four Grand Slam tournaments. The world no. 3 maintained a solid level in his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory against the World No. 81. Yet Kwon’s aggressive tactics meant Djokovic was never completely comfortable in his first tour-level match since his Roland Garros quarter-final on May 31.

The win extends Djokovic’s unbeaten run at Wimbledon to 22 matches. The Serbian is hunting a fourth consecutive crown at the third major of the year in London, and his second tour-level title of 2022 after he triumphed at the Italian Open in May.

The South Korean was a break up in each of the first two sets and pumped up the Centre Court crowd after he levelled proceedings at a set apiece, but Djokovic’s trademark consistency proved enough to complete a two-hour, 27-minute victory.

The top seed will face Thanasi Kokkinakis or Kamil Majchrzak in the second round at SW19, where he now holds an 80-10 record. The World No. 3 is chasing his seventh title at Wimbledon, a tally that would draw him level with legendary American Pete Sampras and move him within one of record-holder Roger Federer’s eight crowns.

Elsewhere, Cameron Norrie, the British No.9 seed, made a flying start in his 6-0, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over Pablo Andujar on No.2 Court.

The 26-year-old left-hander romped through the first set for the loss of just 11 points, in 23 one-sided minutes.The veteran Spaniard, who is 10 years Norrie’s senior, forced a tie-break in the second set but was always chasing the match in the third.

Tantalisingly, the play was suspended with the score at deuce in what proved to be the final game. Norrie, who achieved his best result at Wimbledon last year when he reached the third round, will face another Spaniard, Jaume Munar, in the second round.

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TAMING THE NEWFOUND ENGLISH AGGRESSION…

India run into a rampant England who just completed two of the 10 most successful Test chases on English soil. Taming the English batters Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes will hold the key to India’s chances.

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A reinvented Johnny Bairstow, a rejuvenated Ben Stokes and a resurgent Joe Root. Not the best adjectives to read if you are Team India’s biggest fan. No running away from the truth though. England have rediscovered themselves in Test cricket and how. They have literally ‘ignited’ Test cricket with a fearless batting approach over the last three tests against quality opposition.

Just imagine. New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell scores a stunning 538 runs in the series to finish 142 runs ahead of the second-best Joe Root (396 runs). And then, Trent Boult finishes with 16 wickets to emerge the highest wicket-taker in the series. So, most runs and most wickets from a team that gets swept 3-0 in a series. I really cannot think of the last time this happened.

Yes, New Zealand played very good cricket through the English summer, yet it was those ‘defining’ moments that England picked which made all the difference. England chased down big totals in the fourth innings on all three occasions. To add significance, these three chases figure among the 12 best Test chases on English soil since Test cricket started way back in 1877.

While English fans are rejoicing the resurgence, Indian fans are quietly wondering what’s going on as a very different England are calling the mental shots with just two days left for the commencement of the last test. It is pertinent to remember that the fifth Test of the series was called off last year after players complained of the bubble fatigue due to Covid-induced restrictions.

SO, WHAT’S CHANGED FOR ENGLAND SINCE 2021?

It’s now ten months since India thrashed England by 157 runs at The Oval to take a 2-1lead and since then, England cricket went on an alarming downward spiral before a dramatic comeback in the last one month. England were mauled by the Aussies in the Ashes down under and even beaten by the West Indies. The successive series failures led to captaincy changes and the mantle was handed over to Ben Stokes just before the New Zealand series. The stylish southpaw returned to his batting form and also lifted his side as a unit in the series against the Kiwis.

It all started in the first Test at Lord’s when New Zealand looked set to puncture Ben Stokes in his captaincy debut, but when the former and the current captain combined for England, it not only took them to victory, but also set the tone for a new beginning. From 69-4, England powered to 279/5 to win the Lord’s Test in emphatic fashion.

Quite dramatically, similar comeback stories unfolded in the second as well as the third Test. If anything, the stories were even better.

New Zealand competed and even dominated the three Tests for major periods but still finished 0-3 in the final analysis. Bairstow and Stokes had a telling impact on the opposition. While Stokes scored 194 runs at 48.8, Bairstow scored 394 at nearly 80 per inning. Interestingly, Bairstow’s strike rate was a T20-like 120.12.

Not one bowler in the Kiwi camp had any clue about how to go about taming the onslaught. They just let it happen. And that’s the big warning sign for India.

Indian bowlers have reasonable similarity with New Zealand and therefore, the biggest challenge facing the Indian thinktank right now is not how the batters can handle the moving ball, but how to bowl to the dangerous Bairstow, Root and Stokes.

Considering that India last played a Test match nearly four months ago and that too against Sri Lanka at home, the team can be termed as ‘fresh, yet rusty’. India’s last Test in overseas conditions was back in January when South Africa edged past Virat Kohli’s side by chasing down tricky totals easily in the second and third Tests. So, in that sense, India have not necessarily been great fourth innings defenders in recent memory. And that’s where the worry lies.

CREEPING UP

During the series against New Zealand, England’s run rate kept creeping up throughout the series, especially while chasing in the final inning.

Given the momentum, it is quite possible England will continue with their aggressive batting strategy in the upcoming Test. The big challenge for India is to check the English juggernaut. How does one go about taming a free-flowing batter?

Back in 2015, the legendary Michael Holding had said in a conversation with The Cricket Monthly, “You are not going to lose a Test match in one over. Because you are playing so much limited-overs cricket, bowlers go into the Test matches thinking something has to happen every ball.”

Extremely important point by the ‘Whispering Death’. New Zealand lost the plot because of this very reason. How can India avoid repeating the mistakes committed by New Zealand? Here are four ways India can tame the resurgent English batters:

FRUSTRATE BAIRSTOW

Bowling consistently back of length with a strong offside field could cut the free-flowing nature of Bairstow. He has often shown his weakness of playing away from his body and that opens up the chance of chopping the ball back on to his stumps.

DO NOT BOWL SHORT

Edgbaston is known for shorter boundaries straight. Remember Virat Kohli’s complaint during the India-England 2019 World Cup fixture? One of the boundaries measured a measly 59 metres and I don’t want to elaborate on Kohli’s reaction. I shall leave it to your imagination. On a serious note, with moderate boundary lengths, bowling short may not be the best option against the in-form batters at this venue.

FIRST 10 BALLS

It’s no rocket science that every batter takes at least 10 to 15 balls to settle down, which is their most vulnerable period. For a bowling side, this is their golden chance. India should take time, set proper fields and bowl to a plan. If rushed through, the ‘first 10 balls’ will become a wasted opportunity.

X-FACTOR

My mind goes back to the Shaun Marsh dismissal by Jasprit Bumrah in Dec 2018. Last ball before lunch, Bumrah, to the surprise of one and all, used a slow yorker to flummox Marsh and for me, that was the X-factor. Just wow. Can India think of an X-factor for this match too?

BOWLING TRIO

Jasprit Bumrah and Md. Shami are certain to start in the Playing XI. The third bowler is a toss up between the fiery Md. Siraj and the unpredictable Umesh Yadav. Bumrah and Shami looked in prime Test form in the warm-up fixture. With bowlers injury-free right now, India should be in a position to play a strong bowling unit.

WILL INDIA RISK BATTING LAST?

Historically, batting last in English conditions was not considered an option by too many captains, but with pitches playing relatively easier in the last innings lately, captains are increasingly inclined to chase. England made short work of New Zealand in the three chases in the last three Tests. If they bat last, will they continue the dream run or will the team run out of luck? Should India use the traditional approach of win the toss, bat first and put up a handy score before putting the opposition under the weather? Tough calls to take for Dravid & Co.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Loss against South Africa earlier this year pegged back India’s chances in the World Test Championship for the ongoing cycle. But, resounding wins at home brought India back into the reckoning. India are currently placed third with 58.5 PCT (Percentage of points). If India can win this match and also beat Australia at home in a commanding fashion early next year, the men in blue should be back in the hunt for a top-2 finish and a chance to play the final for the second time in two attempts. Now, that will be a stunning feat, but for that to happen mini milestones need to be accomplished, the first of them all beginning at Edgbaston this Friday.

It will be the first series win for India in England in 15 years if they win or draw at Birmingham. Ironically, the last time India won a series in England was in 2007 when Rahul Dravid was the captain.

Rajesh Viswanathan was a sports Commentator at Zee Sports and a former Managing Editor (Sports) at Microsoft.

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ONLY REGULAR OPENER WILL HAVE TO BE PLAYED WITH SHUBMAN GILL

Rajkumar Sharma

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Team India, after Indian captain Rohit Sharma became corona positive and very confused about his openers. Now in front of Team India, The big challenge is that in the test match against England, Shubman should be given a chance in the opening with Gill because recently Rohit’s Mayank Agarwal’s name was included in the Indian squad as a replacement, while KS Bharat and Shubman Gill are already included in the team as openers.

In such a situation, now the question arises which of these two with Shubman Gill. Who should be given the opportunity to open? Although Mayank Agarwal was the first for India as well. They have opened and the match against England’s bowlers here. It is on their own pitch, in such a situation, Team India would like it to be their regular came on the field with the openers, but there were many challenges for Mayank. They will come because the way he has been called to England in a hurry, so that they haven’t got enough time to practice.

At the same time, due to the absence of Rohit in the team, a lot of responsibility has also come on Virat Kohli. In the second innings of the practise match, Virat was seen batting with a lot of patience, after which Virat is now looking very positive before this important match. This is a very good sign for Team India because if Virat’s preparation before the match is better, then he will definitely convert it into the form of runs on the field. Apart from this, there are going to be a lot of challenges in the captaincy for Team India as the news is coming out that Jasprit Bumrah can be seen captaining as the new captain in this big match against England. In such a situation, now such big matches for Bumrah Captaincy in India can prove to be a big challenge as he is the main fast bowler of Team India. If given the captaincy, then how will he bowl under the pressure of captaincy, all eyes on him? will stay.

However, we all hope that before this important match against England starts on July 1, Rohit Sharma will be fit and join Team India. Come back as soon as possible because, in the event of his being fit, the problem of captaincy and opening of the team will be solved.

The author is a Dronacharya Award winner besides being the coach of Virat Kohli

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SPORTS IS A GREAT EQUALIZER WHICH TAKES AWAY GENDER BIASES IN MANY WAYS: KARTIKEYA SHARMA

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Kartikeya Sharma, founder of Pro Sportify and Member of Parliament-elect (Rajya Sabha) from Haryana, was conferred the “Indian Sports Fan Award 2022” for his unmatched contribution to Indian sports at a glittering ceremony on Sunday evening. In a candid conversation with The Daily Guardian Review, he laid stess on encouraging women’s sports. Excerpts:

Q: Many congratulations on the victory, Sir.

A. It is an honour and pleasure to be here as a part of the Indian sports fan, the biggest body of fans in the country. I think the fans are neglected normally, so it is a pleasure to be a part of such an event by which the fans are recognised for their efforts and selfless love that they gave their heroes.

Q: Sir, what majorly are we planning to do for women’s sports in the state?

A. See, I’ve been always committed to women’s sports. I remember when I started the Pro Wrestling League in 2015, we were the first body to bring women and wrestlers on the same team.

And that was a great equalizer; sports is a great equalizer which takes away gender biases in many ways. And if I say very honestly, women athletes in many ways are outperforming male athletes.

And that is a very welcome change. I think a lot of credit goes to the thought process of the honourable Prime Minister of India who has started “Khelo India” to activate grassroots-level programs which will create leaders of tomorrow and we will see in the next 5-10 years the benefits of these grassroots programmes. I was lucky enough to witness this event in Panchkula, Haryana, where they started the Khelo India campaign. So such initiatives by the government, the kind of people that are brought into the politics who are sports people.

Like Mr Sandeep Singh, who has been a huge positive change in the field of sports. I think this is a huge shift in a way; we have to see the sports and our approaches to the sports. Very soon, we will see the benefits of it.

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Skipper Athapaththu guides Sri Lanka to 7-wicket win over India in final T20I

Sri Lanka’s strong performance came a little late as they have already lost the series 2-1 to India.

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There was finally something to cheer for Sri Lanka as their captain Chamari Athapaththu slammed an unbeaten 80 to help her side register a thumping seven-wicket win over India in the third and final T20I match of the series at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium here on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s strong performance came a little late as they have already lost the series 2-1 to India. Chasing 139, Sri Lanka was not off the most ideal start, losing opener Vishmi Gunaratne for five at the end of the first over with captain Harmanpreet Kaur taking a good catch. Captain Chamari Athapaththu and Harshitha Madavi tried to stabilise the innings and their 31-run partnership was broker by Radha Yadav. Madavi was out on 13 off 14 balls after Mandhana took a catch at deep mid-wicket.

This brought Nilakshi de Silva to the crease. She along with Athapaththu attacked the Indian bowlers to attack, with the captain looking good in particular. The duo brought up a 50-run stand with a four in the 12th over. On the very next ball, captain Athapaththu slammed medium-pacer Simran Bahadur for another four, bringing up her half-century.

The partnership was broken after Silva was run out for 30 off 28 balls. This also ended the 77-run partnership between her and Athapaththu. Kavisha Dilhari was the next on the crease. She and her captain took Sri Lanka to the target, finishing at 141/3 in 17 overs, with Chamari Athapaththu remaining unbeaten at 80 and Dilhari on 7. Renuka Singh was the leading bowler for India with figures of 1/27 in four overs. Radha Yadav also took a wicket.

Earlier after choosing to bat first, solid knocks from captain Harmanpreet Kaur (39*) and Jemimah Rodrigues (33) took India to 138/5 at the end of 20 overs during the final T20I against Sri Lanka. Opener Shafali Verma (5) fell cheaply to spinner Sugandika Kumari. It was then that a solid 43-run stand between opener Smriti Mandhana and Sabbhineni Meghana stabilised the innings a bit for India.

Medium-pacer Oshadi Ranasinghe and spinner Inoka Ranaweera took wickets of Mandhana and Meghana respectively reducing India to 51/3. From then onwards, captain Kaur and Rodrigues put a solid 65-run stand. The duo maintained some solid strike rotation and hit some boundaries occasionally. Medium-pacer Ama Kanchana ended the stand, dismissing Rodrigues for 33. Kaur then took the innings forward with Pooja Vastrakar, who was run out on the final ball of the Indian innings. Kaur finished at 39*, while India finished at 138/5 in their 20 overs.

Brief Scores: India 138/5 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 39*, Jemimah Rodrigues 33, O Ranasinghe 1/13) lost to Sri Lanka 141/3 in 17 overs (Chamari Athapaththu 80*, Nilakshi de Silva 30, Renuka Singh 1/27) by seven wickets.

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