Monday, September 25, 2017

Raju Kothari how India tamed the Maxwell monster ?

India turn to Yuzvendra Chahal next and the legspinner ensures he keeps the ball away from Maxwell's reach. The battle begins with a loopy delivery, well wide of off stump, so wide that the batsman toe-ends it to long-off while playing with a horizontal bat. It ends with a stumping.

This in essence is India's plan against a player who, if he gives himself a chance, could take batting to a level unimaginable.

Maxwell has the daring to play a reverse-sweep first ball on a square turner against R Ashwin. And he has the skill to dismantle fast bowlers, playing shots they can't possibly budget for. In the 2015 World Cup, after Wahab Riaz had terrorised Shane Watson, Maxwell faced a short ball that was climbing on him and cramping him for room. He put it away to the point boundary with a shot he called "the back away, look away deliberate cut."

Yet, on this tour, where Maxwell is perhaps third in command of the batting line up after Steven Smith and David Warner, he has made only 58 runs over three innings. Bumrah has come on early in his innings two out of three times and Chahal has dismissed him three out of three times. This is no coincidence, as the table below shows.

Maxwell is a fearsome ball-striker, if he can get under it, so India do their best to stop that happening by bringing on a seamer with an unusual action. Bumrah is difficult to line up, and lining a bowler up early is the absolute basis of power-hitting.

Then comes the actual plan. Yorkers and bouncers, and he is adept at both. While training in Indore, Bumrah came off a short run-up and nailed a pair of boots placed in front of the stumps three straight times.

Though his search for the blockhole manifests as full-tosses on matchday, they don't cost India much. Australia are in danger of slipping to a below-par total on a surface that will become better for strokeplay under lights, and against a batting line-up both long and power-packed.

Maxwell feels that pressure. He knows he has to find release. And this is where Chahal comes in. The legspinner functions as bait. He targets the wide line outside off stump, because even if Maxwell is able to reach that far, he won't be able to time anything properly. That will add to his frustrations and eventually lead to a lapse in judgment.

In Chennai, he was caught dragging the ball to long-on. In Kolkata and Indore, he was stumped running down the pitch too early. None of them were especially unplayable deliveries. But they became wicket-taking because Maxwell almost always goes for the high-risk shot, giving himself no second line of defence.

Someone must have spotted that in the Indian camp. "Mahi (MS Dhoni) and [Virat] Kohli told me to bowl him a turning delivery and keep checking his feet," Chahal had said in Chennai. "So my idea was to bowl to him outside the off stump and if he hits it's fine but keep mixing it up.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Pandya's six-hitting ability is special by Raju Kothari

Good length not good on flat Indian pitches 
Australia dismissed the first three Indian batsmen with reasonably full-length deliveries and the next two well-set batsmen with the short ball. While the good-length ball mostly serves the purpose of keeping batsmen quiet, it doesn't create wicket-taking chances. But if you bowl really full, you encourage an attacking response from the batsman, which could lead to mistakes.
Against Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, Coulter-Nile left a huge gap in the cover region. He had only a square point and a slightly wide mid-off. He pitched fuller, got the ball to shape away, and both batsmen fell to expansive drives. The ball to Manish Pandey was a half-volley, which he edged to the wicketkeeper. I often wonder why more new-ball bowlers don't pitch really full and wide once in a while when the batsman isn't fully set. While the mind may tell the batsman to be cautious, it also sees the ball that full and automatically reacts. This conflict can result in a mistake.
Once both Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav were set, and the new ball had stopped moving, bowling fuller wasn't a wicket-taking option anymore and so Marcus Stoinis used the short ball to good effect. Chepauk has fairly large square boundaries and challenging the Indian batsmen to take them on was a ploy worth trying. The noteworthy point was the line of the short-pitched deliveries: none were at the body and the batsmen had to drag them from outside off, which resulted in the lack of control in executing the pull.
No boundaries behind square until the 45th over
Bowling full or short wasn't the only plan the Australian quicks had. The were also disciplined enough to consistently bowl outside off. Until the 45th over of the innings, India did not score a boundary behind square on the leg side. There were no fine tickles or guiding shots because you can play these shots only to balls veering in towards leg stump.
Pandya's six-hitting ability special
There was nothing wrong with what Adam Zampa did when Hardik Pandya creamed him for three consecutive sixes. The legspinner bowled flatter and fuller in the hope of making it difficult for Pandya to get under the ball and get requisite elevation. But that's where Pandya stands out, for unlike most batsmen, he doesn't need to use his feet to gain momentum while going aerial down the ground. Anyone who can hit sixes against spin without using the feet will be an asset because the bowler doesn't have any inkling of the batsman's plan and can't adjust.
If Zampa knew Pandya wouldn't stop at just one six, he may have gone slower and wider on the following deliveries, but the lack of feet movement from Pandya kept the bowler guessing. The other thing that stands out in Pandya's hitting is his preference of targeting the straight boundary as much as possible.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Why aren't there any Indians in the World XI? asked by Raju Kothari

Back when I edited slightly complicated news stories, journalistic habit would kick in and present me with a question: What if someone landed from Mars and read this story? Would it adequately explain the scene on the ground? That question helped ensure context, cut out superfluous details, and ensured the edited story went out with its important bits in appropriate places.
In this age of instant news and live-blogging, the question has become a little irrelevant, but suddenly it popped up again when the ICC announced the World XI to take part in the three-match Independence Cup in Lahore this week. If someone landed from Mars and looked at the list - five South Africans, three Australians, two West Indians, one each from Bangladesh, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and a Zimbabwean coach - that Martian would have no idea that the game's biggest elephant is missing from the room.
Today the picture on the ground is this: cricket's biggest, richest and most powerful country is not present at a we-are-the-world kind of gathering in Lahore this week. "The nations that play cricket," said Bangladeshi batsman Tamim Iqbal, excited to be part of the World XI team, "are one big family. We have to come forward to help restore international cricket in Pakistan." Everyone except the family's wealthiest son, who today is found suddenly far removed.
World XI coach Andy Flower was asked why there was no Indian in his XI, and his answer generally spoke about the tightness of the Indian team's calendar and how it would have taken too much time to sort out the issues around getting an Indian or two over. However, it is not as if there is a shortage of Indian players available to be part of global attention-grabbing cricket this week. In two words: Yuvraj Singh.
As an Indian cricket fan for nearly 40 years and a journalist for more than half of those, my first reaction when the World XI was announced was, "How can India not be a part of this?" However, despite the Indian-cricket-shaped hole in the World XI, the world is doing fine; Lahore is abuzz. The loss is Indian cricket's, its stature in the world game is now that of a cash machine: necessary, functional, but that's about it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bangladesh bowlers off the mark while building pressure by Raju Kothari


It would be harsh to expect a bowling attack to replicate a strong performance - against a side ranked five places above them - from the previous game, so the Bangladesh side eking out seven wickets on the third day in Chittagong can still be rated as a decent performance. Mustafizur Rahman and Mehedy Hasan finished the day on three wickets each while Shakib Al Hasan turned up with a tidy performance.

Taijul Islam had his moment too, but all four frontline bowlers would still be expected to be more consistent with tighter lines, better lengths, better field plans and avoid the inclination towards finding the money shot from the batsmen too often, to pick wickets.

Shakib was neat in his 30 overs in the first innings this time, ensuring the right-handed batsmen played most of his deliveries. Ashton Agar got a really good one from Shakib that turned a long way and hit the stumps. When he tried a similar length for Warner, it didn't yield the same result as the more accomplished batsman seemed to pick the ball early.

Mehidy bowled 60 out of 67 balls around the wicket to Warner, keeping him quiet but there was probably too much hope on a delivery on the stumps keeping low and nailing him. That didn't happen as the batsman was far too aware and was seeing the ball till the last moment.

Taijul was also underused in this innings, perhaps because Mushfiqur Rahim felt that he was leaking runs far too quickly while the other two spinners were doing the opposite. To the left-handers, he was also trying hard to bowl the one that skids through or breaks through their defences. Against right-handers, there were a few times he strayed down the leg side and was too full at times.

Mustafizur bowled at a fair clip on the third day and was finding his groove at times, but again, the focus seemed to waver. By his own admission, he bowled four good balls in an over and two went "here and there".

Perhaps, the bowling attack was also taken aback by Warner's reticence to bat at a much slower pace; he was comfortable picking a lot of singles. Peter Handscomb, meanwhile, was allowed to play far too many times towards mid-on and midwicket. It did not always happen with success but the pace of the pitch or the lack of responsiveness didn't help the bowlers. At the end of the second day, Nasir Hossain had mentioned that the ball wasn't turning when it pitched in line with the stumps, and was only deviating off the rough.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Malan, Stokes edge up England's lead after Raju Kothari

In the nick of time, West Indies held a catch offered by Joe Root as the second Test continued to be an engrossing nip-and-tuck affair with England nudging their lead to 82 by lunch. Dawid Malan, who was fortunate to survive the session, and Ben Stokes were building a fifth-wicket stand as West Indies delayed taking the second new ball.

Root's was shaping as a match-defining innings when he was cramped for room by a short delivery from the impressive Shannon Gabriel and couldn't keep the ball down towards gully. It still needed two grabs from Shai Hope to complete the catch but, unlike his brother yesterday evening when Root had 10, it didn't go to ground.

The same can't be said of the chance offered by Malan on 32 a few moments later when he edged a drive at Jason Holder and Kieran Powell at first slip, distracted by Shane Dowrich diving across then bailing out, put it down. It was Powell who dropped Root early in his first innings.

England resumed on 171 for 3 and made steady progress for much of the first hour. Root went to his second fifty of the match with two boundaries in the opening over, both through the gap between second slip and gully although neither were chances. He was fluent off his pads whenever the bowlers strayed, but was again challenged by Gabriel before he struck in what became the final over of his spell.

Malan was forced to dig very deep, adding just 20 off 83 balls during the session. His first scoring shot of the day was a pleasant straight drive, but precious little else came to him easily. He narrowly evaded square leg with a flick off his hip and then the life came his way in Holder's opening over with a very loose drive outside off.

Holder made the old ball move and there was an appearance of the lesser-spotted Devendra Bishoo in the second hour of the morning. There was some turn for the legspinner but his length was inconsistent - perhaps that was the concern Holder had, but it was hardly a fair chance for Bishoo to wait so long for an extended bowl - and Stokes put him through the leg side three times.

Graeme Smith to coach Benoni Zalmi Raju Kothari

T20 Global League franchise Benoni Zalmi has appointed former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as its head coach. Zalmi team owner Javed Afridi made the announcement on Monday.

Smith, 36, last played a competitive game in May 2014, a T20 for Somerset two months after his final Test against Australia. It will be Smith's first stint as a coach in recognised cricket. Highveld Lions' Geoffrey Toyana, who was recently among the frontrunners to replace Russell Domingo as South Africa's coach, will be his assistant. Their first assignment together comes this weekend, when they will have to pick from a pool of over 400 players in the player draft.

Elsewhere, Durban Qalandars has put Paddy Upton in charge, with Aaqib Javed to oversee the bowlers. Also, Stellenbosch Monarchs has appointed Stephen Fleming head coach, with Eric Simons named his assistant.

Stellenbosch had suffered a setback last week when Brimstone Investment Corporation Limited, the investment company which had been unveiled as its owner by Cricket South Africa, said it will not proceed with the acquisition.

ESPNcricinfo understands Brimstone pulled out because it did not want to hold a majority stake. An insider said that Brimstone always wanted a minority stake and that has been their investment model, where the company supports an expert majority partner. The failure to pull together a consortium meant that Brimstone opted to move out and CSA did not stand in its way. Incidentally Brimstone was one of only two South African owners named for the eight teams in June. Faf du Plessis, South Africa's Test and T20 captain, was named the Stellenbosch franchise's marquee player by the South Africa board.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stoinis heads home to Western Australia Raju Kothari


Allrounder Marcus Stoinis will return to his home state of Western Australia for the 2017-18 season, after spending the past five summers playing with Victoria.

Stoinis had debuted for the Warriors in 2008-09 before moving to Melbourne in 2012, and his change of states led to consistent output at domestic level and international selection in the limited-overs formats.

Stoinis, who turns 28 this week, has been Victoria's second-leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield in the past three years, behind only Test batsman Peter Handscomb.

He will be joined in the Western Australia squad this summer by allrounder Matthew Spoors, who has been handed a rookie contract for the first time.

Gone from last year's squad are the retired batsman Adam Voges, along with Nathan Rimmington, Ryan Duffield, Josh Nicholas and Liam O'Connor.

"We're thrilled to have Marcus coming home to Western Australia, not only because he's an extremely talented player but he's a great character as well," coach Justin Langer said. "Young Matt Spoors is an exciting young talent. I love his dancing feet; a lot of kids these days have really slow footwork, but Matt's got really fast batting feet.

"Twelve players have been Australian representatives and that's a great tribute to the program we're running here at the WACA."

Western Australia squad Ashton Agar (Cricket Australia contract), Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, William Bosisto, Hilton Cartwright (CA), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Mitchell Marsh (CA), Shaun Marsh, David Moody, Joel Paris, Jhye Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jonathan Wells, Sam Whiteman. Rookies Alex Bevilaqua, Jake Carder, Kyle Gardiner, Clint Hinchcliffe, Matthew Kelly, Matthew Spoors.