Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ganguly in Shukla-led panel to study Lodha implementation Raju Kothari

IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla will head a BCCI-appointed seven-member committee that will identify the "few critical points" in the implementation of the Lodha Committee's recommendations.

Sourav Ganguly, president of Cricket Association of Bengal, is the only cricketer in the panel. Amitabh Choudhary, the board's acting secretary, has been appointed the convener of the committee that also has vice-president TC Mathew and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, Nabha Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Meghalaya Cricket Association and co-convener of North East Cricket Development Committee and Jay Shah, the joint-secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association.

With the Supreme Court hearing set for July 14, the committee has been asked to convene a meeting soon and submit a written report by July 10. The board's general body will then convene a Special General Meeting to deliberate on the proposals and approve them.

The major recommendations that the committee will be dealing with are 'one-state, one-vote', an age cap of 70-years for officials, a cooling-off period of three years after every three-year term, and identifying a fix on number of selectors for the senior national team.

Choudhary said after the BCCI's SGM on Monday that the committee "will go into each and every action point necessitated by the principal judgment." The committee's proposals will then be presented to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, tasked with running the board until fresh elections under the Lodha guidelines are held. The CoA will "thereafter decide the course of action." No CoA representative, however, is part of this new BCCI committee.

While the move to establish such a committee could delay the implementation of the Lodha recommendations, Choudhary said it was done with a view to "examine how best and quickly to implement" them. The committee is expected to commence work in two days.

Monday, June 19, 2017

'We leave with our heads held high' - Raju Kothari

In the end, Virat Kohli fronted up with a smile on his face. He had lost a match that India entered as favourites. India had a superior record over Pakistan at ICC events, including a win when the sides last met in the final of a global event, the World T20 in 2007. But it all came tumbling down in the final as Pakistan's bowlers unraveled the Indian batting unit like a pod of green peas.

India were that bad. Batting, bowling, fielding and intensity - they fell short in each of these facets of their game they had worked hard to improve in every subsequent match this tournament. Kohli was honest in defeat, gave credit to Pakistan for being the better team, but pointed that India should be proud to finish as the runner-up.

"We can be very proud of that as a unit, and we leave here with our heads held high because we understand the kind of expectations and pressures we face as a team," Kohli said. "Credit to everyone for standing up and showing that resilience and reaching the finals, and today we were outplayed in all departments.

"They had to earn their win. They made us make those mistakes because of the way they were bowling and the way they applied the pressure in the field, as well. And we have no hesitations or shame to admit that we could not play our best game today."

Kohli did not hesitate to bowl first, perhaps because of India's comfort factor in chases. He has done so Bangladesh in the semi-finals too. When it was their turn to bat, Mohammad Amir turned the match by removing Rohit Sharma and Kohli in his first two overs. Kohli admitted failure to stitch a partnership didn't help matters.

"Early wickets are never good, especially in a chase," he said. "Then we kept losing wickets. One big partnership would have been the key to set it up nicely. It is always a bad feeling when you get out or the batting doesn't work collectively. Not that we are not playing at our best, we tried our level best, but we just couldn't make things happen today. But personally, yes, it does feel bad."

There were a couple of bright sparks, though: Bhuvneshwar Kumar walking virtually unscathed through the ring of fire and Hardik Pandya finally living up to the potential his captain had been speaking about throughout the campaign.

Pandya was hungry to bowl throughout the Pakistan innings and was the second-most economical Indian bowler behind Bhuvneshwar. Bowling with intensity and hard lengths, Pandya bowled some tight middle overs. He showed the same attitude with the bat.

India were down and out at 72 for 6 in 17 overs. Unaffected, Pandya smashed a 32-ball half-century to give India a glimmer of hope. "When Hardik started hitting, everyone started getting the feeling that we could take the game deep," Kohli said. "That was a pleasant moment. If we can take the game deep, then we can probably get closer to the total. But again, a mix-up or an error at that stage, so these things happen on the field, you understand that as cricketers."

That mix-up was Pandya being run out after Ravindra Jadeja turned his back on him. Pandya bared his frustrations out in public, exchanging words with Jadeja and then grunting loudly all the way back to the dressing room. Kohli was clear Pandya did not need to be apologetic about letting his emotions get the better of him.

"He felt he was in the zone today and he could have done something really special, and that's why the disappointment came out. You're so committed, you're so motivated that when things don't happen, and without even it being a mistake, it can get frustrating. You don't understand why it has happening."

Earlier in the morning, Pakistan had plugged away as soon as their opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali raised a robust 128-run partnership, which could only be broken through a run out. Kohli said it was Zaman who hurt India the most by his "high risk" strokeplay.

"When guys like Zaman get going, he plays unorthodox shots, they're really difficult to stop," he said. "Eighty percent of his shots were high risk and they were all coming off. Sometimes you have to sit and say, the guy is good enough on the day to tackle anything. You can only do so much.

"We certainly tried to make them hit in areas that we felt it would be uncomfortable, but we just didn't have anything going our way in that partnership. Yes, they opened it up a little bit, but they kept going positive, which was something that could have upset the lines and lengths of the bowlers."

The one area Kohli felt they could have done better was with the extras. India conceded 25 on Sunday, which he felt was a bit too much. "That's something that we certainly need to take care of in the future. Obviously the same bowlers are going to play, the same guys are going to be back. The more consistent you get in learning from games like this, it's better for the team in the future. So yeah, that's an area we certainly need to look at.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Raju Kothari, Kumble likely to remain coach for WI tour

The BCCI is likely to retain Anil Kumble as coach for India's tour of the West Indies immediately after the ongoing Champions Trophy. Kumble will be given the contract extension if the cricket advisory committee (CAC) fails to pick India's next coach before then.

The decision was taken by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), after consulting BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary and chief executive officer Rahul Johri on Monday.

"In case there is a delay in taking a decision (by the CAC) we will request Anil Kumble to cover the West Indies tour also," Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, told ESPNcricinfo. Rai said the BCCI would check whether Kumble was "happy" to continue until the West Indies tour, which starts on June 23. India are scheduled to travel to the Caribbean from London on June 22, for five ODIs and one T20 international.

Kumble was appointed India coach in June last year and was given a one-year contract, which ends after the Champions Trophy. Last month, the BCCI decided to invite fresh applications for the position after being made aware of the players' reported unhappiness with Kumble's man-management skills.

Kumble was on the shortlist of six candidates and remained the first choice of the CAC, which comprises Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Though the BCCI was in favour of appointing the new coach on a two-year contract until the 2019 World Cup, the CAC said that it did not want to take a hasty decision. The CAC's first option, as previously reported, was to try and patch up differences between the India captain Virat Kohli and Kumble.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

South Africa seek unfamiliar end to familiar script Raju Kothari

Here they go again. South Africa. In search of a major trophy. It's a script so well known, it must be close to being a classic. And South Africa still hope to be able to write a different ending.

The prelude has been much the same as in competitions past: South Africa have enjoyed a solid build-up, so much so that they are considered one of the teams to beat, and have a constellation of star players in their squad. On the way to the event, they've won series against two of the opposition they will meet in the pool stage - India and Sri Lanka - and, as the only non sub-continent team in the group, have come to terms with the amount of spin they will have to deal with.

So what will it take this time? Chances are that the answer is as simple as a little bit of luck, the one thing that has eluded South Africa over the years. It's not something they can train or plan for, only something they can hope finally finds it's way to them.

Several South African seniors - AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel - have spoken of the 2019 World Cup as their swansong. So desperate are they to win that trophy that they may forgive themselves if this event becomes little more than a practice round.

But they have a strong incentive not to regard the Champions Trophy so casually. Coach Russell Domingo's contract expires at the end of this tour and although he is free to reapply for his job, has given no indication of his future plans. This may be his last chance to have success at a limited-overs' competition and if that is the case, the squad, who have been vocal in their support of him, will want to send him off on a high.

Champions Trophy history
1998 - Champions 2000 - Semi-finalists 2002 - Semi-finalists 2004 - First round 2006 - Semi-finalists 2009 - First round 2013 - Semi-finalists

Form guide
Before their trip to the UK, where South Africa lost the three-match rubber against England, they had won their last seven bilateral ODI series. Among those was a first-ever 5-0 whitewash over Australia, a clean sweep over Sri Lanka and victories in what were effectively finals in India, New Zealand and against England at home. In that time, South Africa equalled their longest winning streak of 12 matches, which was last achieved in 2005, and rose to No.1 on the ODI rankings to arrive at the Champions Trophy as among the favourites.

With four of the world's top-10 ODI batsmen (de Villiers sits at No. 1) and the world's top-two ODI bowlers in Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir, the quality of individuals in South Africa's squad is a standout strength. In Amla, Quinton de Kock, de Villiers, du Plessis, David Miller and Duminy, South Africa have players who can combine a well-paced innings with power-hitting and totals over 350 are not unfamiliar to them. In the bowling department, Tahir is the world's top-ranked limited-overs' spinner while Rabada is ODI cricket's newest No. 1, having overtaken Tahir on the rankings after the England series.

A mix of seam and spin talent, and experience and youth, give South Africa no less than eight bowling options. Among those is everything from a left-arm paceman - Wayne Parnell - to a death-bowling specialist in Andile Phehlukwayo and two specialist spinners.

In an attempt to give themselves as many options as possible, South Africa have packed their side with allrounders but getting the right balance in the XI may prove tricky. Chris Morris, Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius and Phehlukwayo are all bowling allrounders capable of hitting the ball a fair distance but South Africa are likely to only have room for two of the four in most XIs and they don't seem too sure which two.

South Africa have yet to decide on a new-ball pair - though Rabada and Morkel would seem an obvious choice - which has left them uncertain about the balance of the side. Add to that de Villiers' problems with managing his over rate and that the best captain, Faf du Plessis, does not lead the side in this format, and South Africa can sometimes seem comical in the field. But only sometimes.

Key stats
South Africa have lost half of the matches in the Champions Trophy in which they have batted second - six out of 12. Only Bangladesh have a worse record chasing. By contrast, South Africa have the best win-loss ratio when batting first, wining five out of eight games.
Wayne Parnell has taken 11 of the 19 Champions Trophy wickets that South Africa's current squad have all together. Apart from Parnell, Duminy and Morris (who each have four wickets) and Morne Morkel are the only four bowlers with Champions Trophy experience.
None of the batsmen in the current South African squad have scored a Champions Trophy hundred.
South Africa have lost all three matches they have played against India in Champions Trophy history - twice in the semi-finals and once in the round-robin stage.