Dhoni’s captaincy comes under scanner
Relieve MS, get in Virat, says Crowe
Smith focusing on SA’s skills, not Johnson ‘hype’
Punjab finish league on top
Nadal back to winning ways
New Delhi, February 19
“Dhoni is a defensive captain who allows the opposition to make a comeback in the game. His record is good at home pitches only, just like any other Indian captain. There is nothing special about it. We need aggressive captains like Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi to win matches abroad,” said Amarnath.
India had lost successive overseas Test rubbers in England (0-4) in 2011 and Australia (0-4) in 2011-12 and more recently in South Africa (0-1) and New Zealand (0-1). Dhoni's dismal away record stands at five wins out of 23 Tests, while losing 11 games.
“A captain has to lead from the front. Not a single Test captain in the world bats at number seven. What kind of example you are going to set. I sincerely feel that this is high time to relieve him from Test captaincy and although he is a match winner in ODIs, they should look for an option in the shorter format as well,” said the hero of India's 1983 World Cup triumph.
Asked about his choice for future captain, he said Virat Kohli looked good to shoulder the responsibility.
“Gautam (Gambhir) was an option who had experience but since he is out of contention now, Virat is an obvious choice. He has shown leadership qualities at various levels. I think there should be different captains for different formats,” the 63-year-old said.
Amarnath also lashed out at India coach Duncan Fletcher whose appointment, he thinks, hasn't yielded desired results. “I don't understand what is the use of having him (Fletcher) if he is not delivering. Everyone is talking about the players, captain but nobody is raising questions on the coach and the support staff. I think the Indian team needs an Indian coach.”
“A coach's job is to help players to play to their potential and in the past we have achieved laurels with our own coaches,” the former selector said. Amarnath blamed the poor technique of batsmen and lack of practice matches for the flop show in South Africa and New Zealand. “Our batsmen found it difficult to adjust outside the subcontinent and their poor technique is responsible for this. They carry on playing the same shots which they play in the subcontinent. Barring Virat, no one was impressive but they will learn from experience. Virat's footwork and technique is superb,” he explained. “I also feel that it is must to have some practice matches on every tour so that the players could adapt.”
With the World Cup less than a year away, Amarnath feels the team should be picked according to playing conditions for the quadrennial event. “Selectors should choose those players who can make runs or take wickets in those conditions. It is not necessary that those performing well in India will do the same there. Apart from fitness, form and experience, playing conditions too should be kept in mind while selecting the team,” he insisted. — PTI
Wellington, February 19
India ended the ignominious tour of New Zealand by drawing the second and final cricket Test after home team skipper Brendon McCullum became the first Kiwi batsman to hit a triple-century and stage an incredible turnaround to clinch the two-match series 1-0, here on Tuesday. But speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Crowe called Dhoni an “incredible” player.
“I think he's an absolutely gifted player, a marvel at times, given all the formats that he plays, but I do wonder sometimes about how he regards Test cricket. Just a point that I'd like to throw in there. Overall, MS Dhoni is an incredible cricketer, and I think that the main fact is that he probably can't keep playing every format from here on,” he said.
Indian batting great Rahul Dravid believed it might be better for Kohli to take over after the tours of England and Australia. “I think that World Cup is going to be the watershed moment, and two big series in England and Australia, and after that I believe it will be time for Dhoni to assess whether it's time for a new man to take over,” Dravid said. — PTI
By Aakash Chopra
It's not often that an Indian fast bowler takes a nine-wicket haul on his Test debut on Indian soil. Mohammed Shami's spell on the rather docile Eden Gardens pitch against West Indies raised a billion hopes last November. He got the ball to reverse-swing both ways, he was accurate and most importantly, he bowled fast. He was consistently touching the low 140 kmph mark with accuracy. The toe-crushers were back in vogue. After a very long time, an Indian bowler was beating an international batsman for pace. It felt that Indian cricket had unearthed a rare commodity.
I was particularly impressed with his approach to the crease, close-to-the-stumps release, high-arm action, perfect wrist position that enabled a bolt upright seam presentation, and also the areas in which he bowled. His pitch-maps for the first few games were quite identical as far as the lines were concerned — always around the off-stump. Once you bowl from close to the stumps with a high-arm action, you don't create angles for strokeplay; and if you can follow it up with a consistent off-stump line, the job of a batsman becomes reasonably difficult. To play or not to play is the biggest dilemma the batsman encounters.
Something is amiss
But it seems that the bowler we saw at Eden Gardens and in the subsequent few matches didn't take the flight to New Zealand, for both accuracy and speed have been missing from his bowling. While he had some success with the new ball in the ODI series, his old ball numbers (a boundary every 4th ball after 40th over) and potency in the two Tests were below par. He's still running in hard, the arm is still high, he's still close to the stumps and the ball is coming out all right, too.
Yet something is amiss. Both the consistency with regards to the off-stump channel and the pace have gone missing. When he's trying to bowl an outswinger, the ball, instead of remaining close to the off-stump, is finishing at least a foot-and-a-half wider. The extra width allows the batsman to free his arms. And when he tries to bring it back to the right-hander, the ball drifts down the leg side for easy runs. It doesn't come as a surprise that Shami has looked half the bowler in New Zealand that he really is.
The obvious questions that come to the mind are: Have the international batsmen deciphered him and hence he's trying different things? Were the first few performances just a flash in the pan? Finally, is he carrying an injury?
Let me address these questions one by one.
Shami hasn't played that much cricket to be deciphered and, more importantly, I don't think that he's trying to reinvent himself. I also strongly feel that his early performances weren't a fluke either, for he's ticked most boxes a fast bowler should be ticking. While I can be reasonably sure about these two points, I can't be a hundred percent sure if he's carrying a niggle, so I'd let it pass.
So, what's plaguing India's premier fast bowler? In my humble opinion, it's just the workload that's pulling him down. Ever since he's made his Test debut in November, he's played 17 international matches (Tests and ODI combined) and bowled over 1900 balls. In the same period Mitchell Johnson has bowled 1451 balls, Junaid Khan bowled 1433 and Tim Southee only 1395 balls. Becoming the spearhead of India's fast bowling has come at a hefty price, for he's been asked to bowl the maximum number of overs amongst pacers in his first season at the highest level.
This is the most Shami has bowled in a span of 100 days in his entire career. Once, in the season of 2012-13, he bowled 2200 balls but that was spread across 180 days, which meant a lot of rest and a lot of time for recuperation. Also, bowling at the highest level takes a lot more out of a bowler than bowling in the Ranji or Duleep trophy. The knowledge that a billion people are watching and the fact that every bad ball gets dispatched to the fence ensure that you never bowl at your 70%, at least not in your first season at the top.
The muscles that were used to working only half as hard are pushed to do twice the work without a significant increase in their strength. Yes, as a member of the Indian team he would be getting special attention but it's too short a time to transform him physically. Shami has been an exciting find and it's in Indian cricket's interest that he's managed well, or else he might either lose pace or get dropped from the loop completely. A stitch in time would save nine.
The writer is a former India cricketer
U-19 World Cup
Sharjah, February 19
Opting to bat in their last league match, the defending champions posted a mammoth 301 for six, and then bowled out their hapless opponents for just 56 in 28.2 overs.
Left-arm chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav claimed four wickets while Monu Kumar claimed three and Deepak Hooda pitched in with two wickets as India completed a one-sided win. The convincing win ensured India topped the group.
Earlier, after skipper Vijay Zol opted to bat first, the opening partnership of Ankush Bains and Akhil was ended by Sakavai Gebai for 58. Zol then joined Bains, and took the team to 132 before being castled by Alei Nao. Seven runs later, Bains top-edged Nao to depart for 59.
But with the stage already set, Sanju Samson, who had replaced Zol, accelerated the run rate with a 48-ball 85, smashing eight fours and four sixes.
Samson commenced his onslaught by smashing Gebai for a six and a four. In the bowler's next over, he collected 23 runs, smashing Gebai for four consecutive boundaries followed by a six and a single to end the over. — PTI
Brief scores: India 301for 6 (Sanju Samson 85, Ankush Bains 59, Alei Nao 3/46, Sakavai Gebai 2-73); PNG 56 all out(Riley Hekure 20, Kuldeep Yadav 4/10, Monu Kumar 3/13)
MoM: Sanju Samson
Australia beat Bangladesh by 74 runs, Afghanistan beat Namibia by four wickets.
Port Elizabeth, February 19
Johnson took 12 wickets and landed Ryan McLaren in hospital and out of the second test with delayed concussion as he steered Australia to a crushing 281-run victory in Pretoria over the weekend.
But captain Smith said the South African batsmen have no fear of facing the left-arm fast bowler and believes they will be better prepared to tackle him in Port Elizabeth. “It’s important not to get caught up in the hype (around Johnson),” Smith said on Wednesday.
“Obviously we know Mitchell has bowled extremely well, bowled aggressively. We all know that creates headlines, creates stories, creates fanfare.” — Reuters
Beat 10-man Manchester City 2-0 in first leg; PSG demolish Leverkusen
Paris, February 19
FC Barcelona prevailed 2-0 over English side Manchester City yesterday but scoring both their goals, a penalty by Lionel Messi and a late goal by Dani Alves, only after Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis was sent off eight minutes into the second half.
PSG, who were eliminated by FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals last season, thumped German outfit Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in Germany but, unlike FC Barcelona, took the match by the scruff of the neck early on and led 3-0 at half-time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring two of them.
The City and FC Barcelona clash turned in the 53rd minute when Demichelis brought down Messi, with replays suggesting the foul happened just outside the penalty area.
However, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson thought otherwise and not only awarded the penalty but also sent off Demichelis.
City did not wilt and had their chances to pull level but instead were hit by a sucker punch at the end as the always dangerous Alves nipped in to slot home a sweetly-taken goal.
FC Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said it had been an important statement by his side in light of some remarks, especially by former Real Madrid and now Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who had said they were the worst FC Barcelona team of “many years”.
“Well we are in the Spanish Cup final, top of the league and we won with a great performance tonight, so we must be doing something right,” said the 26-year-old.
“Some people have been doing a lot of talking, nothing new there with one of them, and hopefully this will make them shut up for a few days.”
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed Eriksson for tilting the game in FC Barcelona’s favour.
“I think that the referee decided the game,” he said. “Before the penalty there was the foul on (Jesus) Navas, when he (Eriksson) was three metres from the player, so he saw it without any problem.
“From the beginning I felt that the referee was not impartial to both teams. The penalty on Martin Demichelis was not a penalty — it was outside the box.” — PTI
Ranchi, February 19
All the five goals of the match were scored from the penalty corners.
Sandeep scored in the 21st and 52nd minutes while Kieran Govers scored in the 30th minute for the Warriors, which go to the top after the win. Captain Moritz Furste (14th) and Ashley Jackson scored for the home side – also from penalty corners.
The two sides will again face each other in the semifinals that will be played on February 22. Delhi Waveriders will take on Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
“It was a good game to win. It’s advantageous to enter the semifinals on a winning note. It feels great to finish the league stage at the top. This win will make us confident and we will play our best against Ranchi in the semis,” said Barry Dancer, coach of the Warriors.
“We did not play well in certain parts and that cost us the game today. We did not perform well in the last few matches and I am hopeful that the team will come back well in the semifinals,” said Gregg Clark, coach of Ranchi Rhinos. — Agencies
Rio de Janeiro, February 19
Nadal skipped Buenos Aires last week due to the nagging back injury that hindered his bid for a 14th Grand Slam singles crown last month at Melbourne, where he dropped the final to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.
That left his comeback for Rio and a $1.3 million ATP and WTA event that will launch a clay-court campaign Nadal hopes concludes with a ninth career French Open crown.
Nadal connected on 57 percent of his first serves and won 77 of his first-serve points and 65 percent of those on his second serve, surrendering only one break and breaking his 84th-ranked rival in the penultimate game to advance after one hours and 40 minutes. — PTI
Sochi, February 19
Not because he is homesick or fed-up with his performance — he just wants to walk with his country’s flag at the closing ceremony after being denied that honour when the torch was lit nearly two weeks ago.
The 20-year-old from the foothills of the Himalayas had to march behind an Olympic flag when the Games began because of a ban on IOA. The ban was lifted last week, meaning India’s team of three, who entered the Games as “independents” — can wear their country’s colours with pride.
“It was a bad feeling because I was under the IOC flag and not representing my country,” Thakur said on Wednesday after finishing 72nd — 26 seconds behind his favourite skier, Ted Ligety of the United States.
“I’m proud to have put the flag up (in the athletes village). My parents, teacher and friends were very proud. At the closing ceremony, I will be under my own flag and it will be nice.”
Despite being out of his depth on the slope, Thakur did manage to complete two runs, a feat beyond nearly a quarter of the 109 on the start list. “I was a bit nervous when I came down but it was a good feeling when I finished my run,” he said. — Reuters
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on second Test
Punjabi University, GNDU
in kabaddi final