A match up of teams with big hitters on a small ground is usually an interesting one. This one promised even more since both teams were coming to the game with impressive wins in their last games. The toss was won by Rajasthan Royals (The Wild Wild West team of the IPL). Captain Smith elected to field first, hoping to pick up early wickets. However, the hope remained a hope as Agarwal and Rahul forged a 183 runs partnership for Kings 11 Punjab. After Agarwal's departure, who scored a 106 of 50 balls with 7 6s, Kings 11 could not capitalize much till Pooran came to the party with a 25 of only 8 balls. That inning could never have happened if Uthappa had taken his catch early on. As they say "whatever happens, happens for the good" - those runs laid the foundation for an exciting chase.
In the 2nd innings, Royals were expected to come out blazing by going for big shots. The early departure of Buttler only brought in the man-in-form Samson. Samson-Smith crafted a valuable partnership nullifying the hard work done by Agarwal for Kings 11. Smith's departure brough in Tewatia who began to stall the momentum. Samson decided to take the bowlers on his own and succeeded. One of his hits was miraculously saved by Pooran from going for a 6, one of the best piece of fielding efforts of all time. Once Samson's heroic effort ended, it was left up to Tewatia to make amends. As if a magical power had entered his bat, Tewatia too made one of the best individual comebacks in the history of IPL by smashing 5 6s of Cottrell's over. The man who had stalled the momentum energized the Royals to make the team arrive at the doorsteps of victory. In the fitting end to this memorable game, Curran dispatched M Ashwin for a 4 to take the Royals over the line. Samson was named the Man of the Match for his power knock.
Overall, a memorable day for cricket with interesting innings by Agarwal, Pooran, Smith, Samson and Tewatia. Pooran also made that magical fielding attempt. Nothing much was expected of the bowlers on this ground but they played their part in making this one of the most memorable games and, if I am not wrong, the highest chase ever in IPL's history. Cheers to cricket!
Delhi Capitals openers Shaw and Dhawan learnt from their last match and started their innings conservatively to build a platform for an attack in the later stages of their innings. They quickly accelerated once the spinners came on as Shaw showed his class with a quick-fire 50. Dhawan also overcame his slow start to dominate Chennai Super Kings spinners Chawla and Jadeja. CSK managed to pull it back with Chawla dismissing both the openers. DC batsmen Pant and Iyer showed some intent but CSK was able to restrict DC to 175.
CSK openers Watson and Vijay also started off slowly and Watson was beginning to look dangerous when he holed out to the deep fielder off of DC spinner Patel’s bowling. Then CSK was never in the game as the DC spinners Patel and Mishra strangled the batsmen from scoring quickly. CSK batsman Du Plessis did his best but it was too little too late as they were unable to keep up to the required rate. Also the DC pace attack of Rabada and Nortje was hard to score off in the “death” overs.
CSK has to do some soul searching as they have lost their second match in a row without much fight and are currently with a 1-2 win/loss record. Dhoni needs to rethink his batting order and maybe put himself up the order. Vijay, Jadhav and Gaikwad’s form is also not that great. The spinners are also not firing and needs to be addressed.
Meanwhile, DC find themselves at the top of the table with 2 wins. They came with a plan to not lose too many wickets too early and bowled with a gameplan in mind. Iyer must be feeling great about his captaincy as he seems to be handling it quite well and must get the hang of things on that front. Iyer and the DC must be hoping this winning feeling continues as they are prime contenders in the play-offs and possibly the title this season.
India had played 32 Tests against England away from home and had won just once (series winning test on tour of 1971) , lost 20 and drawn 11. India had drawn the 3 match test series (0-0) against Australia in Australia which commenced in December 1985. Captaincy used to switch between Sunny and Kapil and Kapil was going through bad patch when captaincy wins were considered. A very good performance overseas by Team India under the captaincy of Kapil Dev.
Test Series Schedule:
June 5, 1986 – June 10, 1986 (India won by 5 wickets)
England v India – Lord’s, London
2nd Test - (India won by 279 runs)
June 19, 1986 - June 23, 1986
England v India - Headingley, Leeds.
3rd Test - (Draw)
July 3, 1986 – July 8, 1986
England v India - Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Kapil Dev (Captain), Kiran More (wk), Sunil Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Ravi Shastri (VC) , Vengsarkar, Azharuddin, Sandeep Patil, Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma, Maninder Singh, Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Chandrakant Pandit.
Dawid Gower (C), Mike Gatting (Captain - 2nd and 3rd Test), Paul Downton (wk), Bruce French (wk), Tim Robinson, David Gower, Alan Lamb, Derrek Pringle, John Emburey, Richard Ellison, Graham Dilley, Phil Edmonds,Wilf Slack, Bill Athey, John Lever, Mark Benson, Neil Foster, Neal Radford.
Debut Test series for:
India Debutants - Kiran More, Chandrakant Pandit.
England Debutants – Bruce French, Mark Benson, Neal Radford.
Syed Kirmani who had toured Australia was replaced by Kiran More due to injury. More had represented India in couple of ODI’s only as Syed Kirmani was a very experienced and first choice keeper for a long time. It was this tour that signed off More as next first choice keeper.
Until this test, India had drawn two and lost eight of 10 tests that were played at Lords. Both Kapil and Gower needed to win the series to avoid getting dropped as captain. Chetan Sharma had to fight back after the famous last ball 6 Javed Miandad had hit to win the ODI.
India won the toss and opted to bowl. India went with a long battig lineup with Chetan Sharma batting at 10.
Kapil and Roger Binny took the new ball but they could not get the breakthrough wicket. Maninder Singh claimed the wicket of opener Tim Robinson to end the partnership on 66. Soon after, Chetan Sharma bowled awesome spell dismissing Gower, Gatting and Lamb. From 66/1 , England had mini-collapsed to 98/4. Derek Pringle and Gooch (114) rescued England to take the score to 245/5.
Binny, Kapil and Sharma chipped with wickets regularly to end England's innings at 294. This was Chetan Sharma’s second five wicket haul of his test career to end up with 65/4. A brilliant comeback from the haunting six by Javed Miandad. Surely this spell would have bolstered his confidence.
Sunny and Srikkanth had put on opening partnership of 58 runs when Sunny was dismissed caught behind of the bowling of Graham Dilley well taken by keeper Paul Downton diving to his right. India replied with 341 all out courtesy a brilliant 126 by Dilip Vengsarkar. He had scored a ton in each Lords test he had played thus far making it three in three. Mohinder Amarnath batting one down contributed with vital 69 runs. India lead by 47 runs at end of first innings.
Kapil Dev opening the bowling in second innings ran through top order claiming wickets of Gooch, Robinson and Gower which left England struggling at 33/3. Gatting and Lamb helped England get to 108/4 but Indian pacers picked wickets regularly to dismiss England for 180 runs, with Maninder Singh wiping off the tailend batsmen. Kapil’s 52/4 was well supported by Maninder Singh’s 9/3 .
India needed to chase 134 runs. Srikkanth was dismissed for duck. Sunny scored 22 as England claimed India’s second wicket on a total of 31 runs. Amarnath too was dismissed for just 8 runs. Vengsarkar yet again scored crucial 33 runs before being bowled by Edmonds. India were 78/4 with England having a chance of a win. Azhar and Shastri put on a small but a partnership decent enough to avoid a collapse and take India closer to victory as Azharudding got run out when score was 110/5. Kapil then played counter attacking innings of 23 runs from 18 balls. His 18 runs being scored in one over of Phil Edmonds which took India to victory.
Kapil had bagged 5 wickets from this test and scored 24 runs. His spell in second innings ruining the England top order and match decisive 23 runs at more than run a ball won him the Man Of the Match. This win remains as a historic win for India in test cricket at Lords.
Kapil Dev hit a six against SLA Phil Edmonds to win the match This was Kapil Dev’s first test win as captain. The 24 runs unbeaten partnership between Captain Kapil Dev and Vice Captain Ravi Shastri ensured India won the test. It was in this test that More became India’s equalled Naren Tamhane’s 5 catches in debut test. Naman Ojha and Rishabh Pant also share this record as of now.
Also, this was the first time India beat England in Lords, which is now seen more often in recent decades. This ended David Gower’s captaincy as Mike Gatting was made captain for the second test.
Shaken by the historic loss to India at Lords, and captaincy handed over to Mike Gatting, England looked to fightback by winning the test to level the series.
Unlike in first test, India decided to bat first at Headingley having won the toss. Chandrakant Pandit and Madan Lal had replaced injured Mohinder Amarnath and Chetan Sharma. Shastri batted at one down in absence of Amarnath.
The loss at Lord’s had not gone well with England selectors who made whooping 5 changes in playing 11for next test. Tim Robinson, David Gower, Paul Downtown , Richard Ellison and Phil Edomonds were replaced by Wilf Slack, Chris Smith, Bill Athey, Bruce French and John Lever.
Indian openers, Sunny and Srikkanth, posted a good opening partnership of 64 runs seeing off the threat of new ball bowlers. Derek Pringle claimed wickets of both openers in quick succession. Shastri batting one down in absence of Amarnath along with inform Vengsarkar to avoid a collapse with a 53 runs partnership. Pringle and Dilley managed to get frequent breakthroughs. Madan Lal with his 20 batting at 9 and More with 36 runs batting at 10 took India to 272.
Madan Lal bowling with Kapil Dev as opening bowling pair picked early wickets of Wilf Slack, and Chris Smith. Kapil claimed the wicket of Graham Gooch leaving England struggling at 14/3. First change pacer Roger Binny claimed Alan Lamb and Mike Gatting in quick succession. Binny in his careers first 5 wicket haul was outstanding with bowling figure of 40/5 after Madan Lal had dealt initial severe blows claiming 3 wickets for just 18 runs. England batting unit was brutally destroyed at 102 all out giving India a healthy lead of 170 runs which was a lot in the conditions.
England pacers had reduced India upfront to 70/5 but inform Vengsarkar who was in best phase of his batting career was batting better than most of the renowned great batsman of the era. His 102 not out aided with small contributions from middle and lower order batsmen enabled India to a total of 237 runs, setting England a very tough chase of 408 runs. The writing was on the wall. Dev, Binny, Shastri and Maninder Singh never allowed a partnership to bloom. The major destruction was caused by Maninders Singh’s spin claiming 4 wickets for just 26 runs. India had won by a whopping margin of 279 runs. Kapil had his first test series win as captain in his pocket.
England won the toss and opted to bat first.
England tweaked the playing eleven with four changes after the loss by huge margin at Headingley.
Amarnath and Chetan Sharma who had recovered from injuries had replaced Chandrakant Pandit and Madan Lal.
Kapil Dev in his first over claimed the wicket of Graham Gooch. In his second overs of this bowling innings he striked again to dismiss one down Bill Athey. England were reduced to 0/2. Benson and Gower added 59 runs, however both of them were dismissed quickly one after another. Gatting played a captain knock of unbeaten 183 runs getting into partnerships with Derek Pringle and Emburey. Eventually he ran out of batting partner. England had done well with bat, this time scoring 390.
Indian batsmen on basis of decent partnerships right through the batting order managed to even up England's total of 390 before being all out. Amarnath and Azharuddin scored 74 and 69 respectively to do majority of the scoring. More (48) and Binny (40) ensured that the runs kept coming from No 8 and No 9 batsmen.
In his best bowling figures against England (58/6), surpassing his 65/4 in first test, Sharma saw to it that England could post no more than 235. Spinners Maninder Singh and Shastri picked 3 wickets.
India needed to bat less than a day to draw the test. Sunny scored 54 and stayed on wicket long enough to draw the test. Srikkanth, Azharuddin and More put on some runs and survive the day. India ended with 174/5 to win the test series by margin of 2-0.
(1) One more feather in cap for Team India as far as overseas test series wins are concerned. A much welcome overseas win after drought of few years.:
a. India won the 4 match test series 3-1 in NZ in 1967/68.
b. India won the 5 match test series 1-0 in WI in 1971.
c. India won the 3 match test series 1-0 in England in 1972
d. India won the 3 match test series 2-0 in England in 1986
(2) Kapil Dev’s first test series win as captain having lost few series before this. The Lord’s test win was his first of captaincy after 20 matches.
(3) Like Farokh Engineer and Syed Kirmani, India found Kiran More who could play handy innings, though i would say that Farokh was the best batsman of the three. He could also open the innings if required and play a counter-attacking innings. The most versatile batsmen amongst the three keepers.
(4) Vengsarkar was at his best in this phase (peak) and he was batting better than even Viv Richards, Gower, Jaheer Abbas, Grenidge who were all top players during that time.
As cricket's flagship global tournament stumbles and trundles through its league stage in England, one thing is becoming nakedly obvious. There is a gaping quality gap between the top 5 teams in the tournament compared to the rest. So much so, that the gap between the top 3 to 5 associates, and the bottom 5 "test" teams in the WC is much smaller. This fact was re-inforced by the manner in which the West Indies managed to squeak through the qualifiers and make its way into the World Cup - an eventuality that only occurred due to the dual divine intervention of weather and a poor umpiring decision.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that either of Scotland, Ireland, Zimbabwe would be extremely competitive against the likes of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, or even Pakistan. The latter, on their "bad days" of which there seem to be increasingly many. However, this little write-up isn't about the injustice meted out to the teams that missed out on the WC - as legitimate as that grievance is. My concern is with the yawning quality gap between the handful of teams at the top vs the other 'test' member nations in cricket. Given the structural and financial constructs of global cricket, odds are that such a gap not only exists, but threatens to solidify into permanence and potentially widen.
Such an outcome may provide some gleeful entertainment for fans in the short-term, as historic rivalries tamely meander towards a cycle of repeated beat-downs, it is clear that this is an existential threat to the sport as it exists today. The reality of cricket is that for national teams to be competitive at the highest levels, they need to stand on a foundation of a deep and healthy domestic first class cricket structure. It is not a co-incidence that the top 3 teams likely to make the semi-finals are the socalled "big 3" - happen to be the ones with the best and sustainable domestic cricket structures. As competitive as the kiwis have been in this WC - their domestic system is far from stable, and South Africa are on the cusp of heading the same way. The domestic cricket challenges and problems in West Indies and Sri Lanka are well-known and have been moaned about for donkeys' years. And let's not even get started on the shambles that is the Pakistani set-up. Which is about to undergo its umpteenth "reform" by a self-styled savior with good intentions. Its a hapless repetition of the same approach, albeit with a man at the top whose intentions are beyond reproach. But in spite of that, it is eminently foolish to expect different results when you are doing the same thing over and over. However well-meaning the current leaders of Pakistan Cricket are, they are more or less doomed to essentially the same results, unless Pakistan's national fortunes beyond cricket manage to improve - an outcome even more unlikely than me winning the lottery. And I don't even buy lottery tickets.
I am not choosing to dwell on Pakistan's misfortunes only to kick a "rival" when they are down. Pakistan is a good example of a team with a large sustainable market behind them, and one that is relatively well-funded. It is simplistic, and inaccurate, to point the finger at the ICC or the "Pig 3" and attribute the dysfunctional domestic systems to a lack of resources. Pakistan has hundreds of millions of passionate fans, a legacy of supportive sponsors. Sri Lanka has a steady income stream from a steady diet of LOI games hosted against India. i.e. Its not just the money.
Extrapolate the current situation a few years out, and the gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' may end up in a death-spiral. Like anything else, if you are not growing, then by definition, you are shrinking. Even cricket's golden goose - the masses of Indian fans, may start getting weary if the team runs out of quality opponents to root against. Accepting the status quo, is essentially accepting an outcome where Franchise T20 inevitably becomes the primary format of the sport, with national cricket relegated to occasional tournaments, global or otherwise.
So "TL;DR", my point in this write-up, is to ask this question - how can the ICC assist its member boards in stabilizing and improving their domestic first class cricket systems? Till date, the ICC has functioned as a loose federation of member boards, and its actual executive powers are limited to administrating global tournaments and rules. I think the time has come for the ICC to recognize this enormous threat to cricket's sustainable future and work on potential solutions. That the ICC is a toothless tiger, and powerless to enforce its will onto the first class cricket structures of its member boards, is a given. But it is well within their abilities, even financially, to come up with a detailed proposal outlining best practices and minimum standards that can demonstrate the pathway to a healthy domestic cricket setup.
Given limitations of weather, facilities, resources, what should be the breakdown of the number of games by format be? To what degree should 4-day cricket be prioritized? Should young players be shielded from T20 cricket so that they develop their foundational cricket skills until a later date? What is the bests way to create feeder systems at lower levels - lower divisions club cricket, university and school cricket - that can bring and keep the game in touch with its grass roots, while creating the player supply for a healthy and competitive First-Class setup? These are questions that need to be answered by all countries. Not just the struggling ones. The least that the ICC can do, is provide a basic primer that can serve as an ideal to aim at, if not attain and surpass. Such a proposal would be helpful, not only to the likes of SL, WI, Afg, but also to the top tier of associate cricket nations - Scotland, Ireland, Nepal, USA etc.
As of now, each member nation is left to its own devices and plans, to devise and structure their first-class cricket. And of course, there is no way for the ICC to come up with a "one size fits all" plan, given the diversity of variables faced by the different countries - from USA to Nepal. But, there are enough common problems out there, faced by almost all cricket teams, test and associates, that a properly designed 'template' for First-class Cricket could make a genuine difference. At a minimum, it would empower the well-wishers of the sport to hold their national boards to some degree of accountability.
Think about a franchise business model - a 7-11 convenience store, or a fast food restaurant. Each individual location is often independently owned and operated, but they get major guidance in how to structure and operate their business. Obviously those franchise models benefit from stringent ownership rules that allow the central authority to mandate compliance, but absent such explicit authority, the ICC is well within its rights and scope, to show the way.
Ultimately, the fate and competitiveness of teams rest with the competency of their national cricket boards. Maybe we will see some creative solutions emerge in the future, potentially even along the lines suggested here on this forum.
It was the year 2000, I was just another Indian kid who watched and played cricket with much pleasure. I switched on ESPN and saw India playing Kenya and a young tall left arm spinner bowling, so I assumed there is another spinner in the team to augment Anil Kumble. Obviously at that age (10), I was not a keen follower like today, completely unbeknownst of the fact that ICC Champions Trophy (known as knockout trophy at that time) was under way and India had won its first match defeating the hosts. It quickly dawned upon me however in the following match when Sachin had a smashing start against Mcgrath, that this was notjust yet another cricket tournament. India lost wickets and in came this tall left arm spinner again. Another fact dawned upon me that this player might be a batsman. Thereafter I just remember crisp drives down the ground and stylish flicks against an Australian bowling attack comprising Lee, Gillespie and an exasperated Steve Waugh (apart from the great Mcgrath) and when finally he got out on 84 runs of 80 balls, me and may be most of Indian cricket fans warmed to Yuvraj Singh.
I had become a fan, in the following match Yuvraj flamboyantly smashed the potent SA attack displaying uber confidence seldom seen in Indian cricketers of that era ( I had torrid memories of Jacob Martin, Sameer Dighe, T Kumaran et al making unspectacular debuts not long ago). India did not end up winning the trophy, Chris Cairns ruined my day, however Ganguly had unearthed Yuvraj Singh. Next week, while surfing channels I suddenly see Indian team in the field again, this time in the different continent, in the desert of Emirates. India lost that tournament funnily and ironically called the Champions Trophy. India were shadow of their selves, in sharp contrast to the original Champions Trophy they had dominated a week earlier and more disappointingly Yuvraj was feeble. Watching him bat against the mystery of Muralitharan was an unedifying sight and so came a conclusion Yuvraj struggles against the turning ball.
India played lots of cricket in the following season but Yuvraj was not the central figure, to even more disenchantment he was dropped all together. He became an irregular member of the team, however there was this defiant back to the wall effort against SL at their cricketing citadel SSC, Colombo, which is still etched in memory. But the infrequent place in the side finally led to omission. Yuvraj was forgotten but not for long.
Indian one day performances and luck seemed to dwindling when India contrived to go 2-1 down against an average Zimbabwe in early 2002. Yuvraj had just made a comeback and once again I was unaware of that occurrence. India were in trouble, staring down the barrel of a series loss, at home. But Yuvraj led way and rescued India (first of many such instances ) with his U19 mate Kaif and one match later salvaged India's home record, as he pulverized Zimbabwe with a brutal 75, batting the hapless Zimbabwe out of the series. Now Yuvraj had the performances to go with the enormous backing of his endearing captain.
July 13, 2002 was not a watershed for Yuvraj alone but also for India' ODI fortunes. Repeated failures in the finals had become the identity of Ganguly led Indian team, but it was dispelled temporarily when Yuvraj in company with Kaif did what was the supposed impossible. India had won the tournament, wherein Yuvraj had starred, interestingly with both bat and ball, not to forget his acrobatic fielding skills hitherto not seen in Indian cricket. His player of the match performance in the first game of the tournament was testament to that fact, a half century with 3 wickets to boot. Yuvraj Singh was now a bonafide star, let alone a certainty. I had become an even bigger fan, Indian team was winning, the dynamics, team ethos had changed, diffident team of late 99 and early 2000 was a thing of the past.
Yuvraj scored his maiden ODI century the following year and another one against Australia which excruciatingly was not enough to win India the match but the elegant southpaw was still seeking consistency of performances. He was still a second tier performer, a patch on the enormous talent he was purportedly possessing. However, he eventually came of age with a string of 3 consecutive Man of the tournament performances in the season 2005-2006, in process flaying Pakistan teaming up with Dhoni (a partnership which was to become one of the most successful in ODI cricket, certainly my favourite ) and continuing his supremacy of England, his most endearing opponent. Yuvraj was now elite, powerful middle order batsman and India's lifeline along with the then savage MS Dhoni. It was the year of Champions Trophy again, the tournament which had brought Yuvraj to limelight. India were top contenders not because it was being staged in India but also owing to India's tremendous ODI run leading upto the tournament. However, Yuvraj and India had a major misfortune (it was not going to be first of his career), Yuvraj suffered a knee injury caused while playing a frivolous after practice activity. Such had become his aura in limited overs setup, India looked fragile and results were unsatisfactory. Yuvraj recuperated and came back for the ill- fated World Cup in 2007. India endured the indignity of first round exit but Yuvraj was back.
2007 was to be the year of Yuvraj. MS Dhoni, surprisingly named the captain of an Indian team denuded of 3 stalwarts for the inaugural World T20, termed Yuvraj as India's trump card in the pre-tournament presser. The Indian captain was not far off as Yuvraj lighted up the event with hitting of unbelievable quality. Most were still in afterglow of Yuvraj's astonishing achievement of dispatching six sixes in an over of frazzled Stuart Broad, when he obliterated an all pace attack of Australia in the semi final with such disdain, not endured by that all conquering Australian side in many a years. India won the semis, Australians had been nudged out by Yuvraj (he did an encore 4 years later) and eventually the WorldT20 title defeating the arch rivals Pakistan in a closely contested match. Yuvraj had now joined the pantheon of Indian legends, his name was part of India’s folklore, winning an ICC event brings those attendant attributes.
ODI distinction notwithstanding, Yuvraj was still seeking a permanent spot in that lustrous Indian test middle order. Hopes of that attainment were seemingly realized when Yuvraj continued his penchant for scoring test centuries against Pakistan (3rd in 3 years) in an innings of 169 in 2007, replete with shots of supreme class. By dint of that performance, Yuvraj found his way in that elusive test middle order ahead of classy VVS Laxman for the subsequent Indian tour down under. However, the test demons remained unconquered, same technical frailties reappeared and it was unfortunately much the same when it came to test exploits thereafter. Yuvraj never really became a test player.
Things were not particularly rosy on the limited overs front as well when Yuvraj was summarily dropped from ODI side for the Asia Cup, a year before 2011 World Cup. I, was thinking the unthinkable, Yuvraj may not make it to the World Cup playing XI after all. As things unfolded, he became India’s most influential player in the tournament which India won and his all round performances earning him the coveted Player of the Tournament award. MS Dhoni, his friend and most lethal ally, always considered Yuvraj to be a colossal match winner in short formats and he betrayed that belief by promoting the left hander in one of early matches in the tournament and the southpaw repayed the faith with a sparking half century. He eventually ended the tournament with 15 wickets and 5 fifty plus scores, most of them in adversity, the zenith of which was when Yuvraj finally drove Australia out of the World Cup for first time since 1996, the year I started watching cricket. Australian juggernaut had been halted and there was no stopping India, propelled by Yuvraj the bowler in subsequent knock out matches, India became World Champions and Yuvraj became immortal.
Six months in cricket is a long time, sometimes its enough time for a settled cricket team to disintegrate. So it happened with this World Cup winning Team India, it was a cascade of gigantic proportions. Exaction of test numero uno status notwithstanding, consecutive test defeats amounted to a mortifying eight. Indian team was going through the motions and were without Yuvraj, still recovering from non-malignant lung tumour, an ailment that had kept the World Cup champion out of all ODI matches played since the World Cup triumph. As it transpired, Yuvraj missed the annual tri nation tournament in Australia. In midst of the series , the news broke Yuvraj had been diagnosed with cancer, the shockwaves were alike for his team mates and transfixed fans like me.
Not for the first time though, Yuvraj made a comeback this time putting aside his debilitating affliction and life was back on the track. Not surprisingly the comeback in cricket was not far off, there were glitters of brilliance, shades of prime, that backlift, that flow, those sixes but it was still not the same. Yuvraj was not the same. India most definitely got deprived of some more years of Yuvi magic. But Yuvraj had already done enough to remain etched in the annals of Indian cricket history.
All the best Yuvi!!!
In the 2015 World Cup, the England-Bangladesh group game was a virtual pre-quarterfinal. The winner of the game was to be rewarded with a place in the knock out phase in a tournament where the top 8 sides, if they played to their potential, were guaranteed a spot in the next stage. But Bangladesh managed to go past England to secure the spot. The loss, which was 2nd against Bangladesh in World Cups in the 2010s, forced England to review its world cup game.
Traditionally, England is a team that is more focused on test cricket. With only a handful of nations playing competitive cricket, England did not have to work hard to secure a spot in knockouts at the limited overs world events. It made the knock out stage in the first four world cups, playing the final in two of those four events. The 90s saw the emergence of Sri Lanka as a limited overs powerhouse, while South Africa returned to international cricket. The competitive landscape in limited overs had changed. In world events, the acceptable metric is to reach the last four. Since 1992, England has not been in the last four of the ODI World Cups. However, it should be noted that among the failures in ODI World Cups, England has won the T20 World Cup and reached the final of Champions Trophy in 2004.
In 2015, the think tanks in England sat down to redraw boundaries by thinking outside the box with the goal to win the 2019 World Cup which was to be played at home. The 2010s have seen the host countries triumph. India beat the co-host Sri Lanka in 2011 final, and Australia achieved a similar feat by beating co-host New Zealand in 2015. The 2011 and 2015 finals were played in India and Australia respectively. If the trend of home teams winning the world cup in this decade is to continue, England would have a great chance in 2019 if it is able to put together a team that can play competitive cricket.
In the past, England rewarded players with good performances in tests with a place in white ball cricket. Now it would need to shift its focus to ODI specialists. Among other concerns, chasing totals has been an Achilles heel. It lost three finals (1979, 1987, and 1992) while batting second. England also lacks All-Time-Great (ATG) level bowlers such as McGrath and Warne.
As saying goes – If you are average, you get bad results. If you are good, you get average results. If you are great, you get good results. To get great results, you have to be excellent. While England had good bowlers, it had the opportunity to develop some excellent batsmen and all-rounders. The strategy moving forward was to concentrate on the strengths to turn the ODI team into a batting powerhouse to cover for both the lack of ATG level bowlers and account for the past failures to chase down totals. Over the last four years, England put together a team that can not only put mammoth totals on board but also pursue big totals.
To develop into a batting powerhouse, England has also thrown convention out of the window. Its batsmen have revitalized cricket by playing a brand of fearless cricket. Traditionally, a wicket lost puts pressure on the batting side. By developing batting depth, England has taken that concern out of equation relatively. For example, if the top 4 batsmen fail, the opposition would need to deal with the dangerous Jos Buttler, along with a lower order that can strike big hits in at will. While the bowling is relatively weak, it is still competitive. To illustrate, players like Jofra Archer are drafted to give the attack wicket taking abilities. Bowlers like Liam Plunkett are known to create wicket-taking opportunities in the middle overs.
Today (June 8th, 2019), England played its group game against Bangladesh, which was seeking to complete the hat-trick of wins in ODI World Cups against England. In its last game, England narrowly lost to the underdog Pakistan, chasing the mammoth 348. The silver lining in that loss is that not many teams would have gotten this close to such a mammoth total. The loss also highlighted the need to sharpen up the fielding. In today’s game, England needed to bounce back from that narrow loss to take on an improved Bangladesh, which has enjoyed success against it lately in such events. Having put into bat first, England scored 386 and went on to beat Bangladesh by 106 runs. With this win, England has not only bounced back from the loss in the last game but also gone past its nemesis in World Cups this decade. England has shown the ability to learn from its mistakes and improve its game. This success and approach probably point towards the rise of "New" England in ODIs.
While England can claim to be the strongest side in this world cup, it needs to be aware that the strongest teams do not always win the tournament. Examples of failures to get past the hurdles include West Indies in 1983 and England itself in 1987 and 1992. New Zealand played the best cricket in 1992 but failed to lift the trophy. South Africa too appeared unstoppable in 1999. In this world cup, England has cards staked in its favor. To win, England should continue to trust its game, play fearlessly, and more importantly enjoy its cricket. If it is able to achieve that it is difficult to see England not being crowned as the 2019 world champion.
Here we go! The moment has arrived. World cup favorites took on World cup favorites for the last 2 decades (except this edition of course) England team managed to assemble a team that will finally win them the elusive world cup title. It is a bit like assembling a Japanese car in America. Parts from different part of the world. No rain threat. Bright sunny day. SA won the toss and elected to lose. Faf’s thought process was probably influenced by the knowledge of how effortlessly England have been chasing in recent times. They forgot to take it into account that this is a world cup where runs on the board is always a safer option.
Anyway, World cup kicked off in style except of course for Bairstow and the team that is going to face Bairstow in the next match. Didn’t deter Jason Roy and their resident consolidator Joe Root. They steadied the ship until Phelu got rid of Jason Roy with a short one and three balls later Rabada threw one wide which Root managed to slap it straight to point. For some teams, this is a major collapse. Not so much for England. Morgan and Stokes took the onus and raise another century partnership. With 14 overs left Morgan holed out. Butler was in. Expected carnage didn’t happen. Butler left after a brief partnership with Stokes. Soon Amla’s counterpart left the crease. It was left to the tail to take them to a decent total. Their thoughts of getting to 500 vanished thick and fast. They huffed and puffed their way to 311 on the back of Stokes’s 97. Rabada didn’t exactly provide the kind of penetration at the death. Taken for plenty. At one point they looked like getting to 400, then 350, then 325.. then 290 and ended up reaching 311. So both teams looked happy halfway stage. Bowlers did their bit in the death in the absence of Steyn
Response by South Africa didn’t exactly pan out well in a scary way. Amla took a blow to his helmet and ended up leaving the ground failing the concussion Test. Markram who expressed his surprise at his selection for the world cup, batted briefly and got out to Archer and showed us why he was surprised at his own selection. The onus was on the captain to resurrect the innings along with De Kock. Archer drew the second blood for his newly adopted country. Technically third blood. Faf couldn’t keep the ball down while pulling to deep square leg. The writing was pretty much on the wall for them. But defiant Van der Dussen and De Kock resurrected the innings with a counterattacking partnership. Right about the time when SA looked like they were going to pull off a miracle, they decided self-destruction is the way to go. Lost 3 quick wickets for very few runs. First De Kock couldn’t capitalize on a rubbish ball from Plunkett and managed to hole out in deep. Pretorious showed his inexperience by calling for a non-existent 2nd run and got run out. Then it was Duminy’s turn to have a brain fade. A low percentage of lofted shot to long off. That didn’t stop there. Van der dussen thought it was a great idea to take on the best bowler for England on that day. Another batsman holed out. He was followed by Phelu. Although wicket was taken by Rashid, full credit should go to Stokes who plucked the ball out of thin air in Ninja style. Implosion continued and their misery ended before 40 overs.
With the inclusion of Archer England looks more potent than before. Two of their top batsmen failed in this match. 4 of them got the fifties. I expect them to come out guns blazing in the next match. Looking forward to England’s next encounter.