Indian Batting – Unarguably dull but not without a fight

Indian batting was in shambles. It was pathetic. It was boys against the men. Everything mediocre was associated to the Indian batting by the broadcasters, pundits and keyboard warriors alike. Everything un-fancy was associated to the Indian batting which slumped to an innings defeat at the Lord’s in the second test against the mighty English team.

What followed the gloomy, lousy weather in the iconic North London stadium was a lousier start to the Indian batting. The first day’s play was washed out due to steady rain. England won the toss on the second day and rightfully chose to bat. In conditions tailor made for charging-in, swinging bowlers, the Anderson-Broad-Woakes trio made full use of it.

The Barmy army were in their flow.

Jimmy Anderson, Jimmy Anderson,

When he makes it swing

The Barmy Army sing

for Jimmy Anderson

And sing they did. In full force. In perfect sync. And Jimmy Anderson responded. He got Murali Vijay out in the first over. A perfect outswinger, ball going away. If it was left, it would’ve probably got to the right of the keeper or the first slip. Vijay, who has not been in the best of forms chose the most imperfect shot to a perfect delivery. He played across the line towards and away going delivery was the beginning of the bad decisions the Indian batters were going to take in their quest for self-destruction. Jimmy Anderson ended with a 5-for and India were sent packing for 107.

India got the English top order out soon but a colossal 189 run Bairstow-Woakes partnership saw the match slip out of India’s reach. Woakes scored an unbeaten 137 striking at almost 80. England lead by 289 runs and it was always a case of when. When will the inevitable happen? When will India be trailing 2-0 in the 5 match series? When will the Indian media blame the India’s (under prepared, over reliant on Virat Kohli) batting? When will the pundits blame the team selection for the loss?

 India came out to bat in the second innings and there wasn’t much change in the script of the Indian batting. The top order was as clueless as they were in the first innings. Pujara looked spirited but got out bowled after 87 balls. There was a little change in the script as far as the bowling was concerned. Broad came to the fore this time and ended with figures of 4 for 44. India all out for 130 and England leading the series by 2-0.

You can talk, blame, write, analyse all day about the shortcomings, about the lack of confidence of Indian batters in English conditions. You can do it all night long with a gun in your mouth for someone to persuade you out of the obvious. The only recourse is by pulling the trigger and resigning to your fate that they are just not good enough. It will take a lot more than just the charm and (always) oozing self-confidence of the coach and the captain to get the ship back on its course. For it is only in stormy waters that the captain is most scrutinised.

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More of Kohli-Anderson and Curran, please?

VIRAT KOHLI, MORE VIRAT KOHLI AND SOME SAM CURRAN

That’s all there was in the Edgbaston Test.

First Day – Virat Kohli’s direct hit triggers an English collapse.

Second Day – Sam Curran rips through Indian batting line up as Kohli salvages pride

Third Day – Sam Curran’s 65 ball 63 sets India a target of 194

Fourth Day- England beat India by 31. Sam Curran declared the Man of the Match.

Those were the headlines of a pulsating test match played between two flawed teams in the first test of India’s tour of England 2018. It is amusing how two flawed teams where no more than 4 players grabbed the headlines produced a perfect test match.

For most part of the test, Edgbaston crowd were up on their feet. Edgbaston Test was proof that cricket’s oldest commodity got everything that it deserves. It was proof that with the right teams, with the tenacity, with the right temperament, played at the right venues, Test Cricket is surely the heartbeat of cricket. All the talk if Test Cricket is relevant anymore was silenced by the Edgbaston crowd more than the administrators, pitch curators, players and support staff.

The first day started with a near-perfect even test match competition. Joe Root looked set for a big score but was run out by a direct hit from his Indian counterpart. This triggered a collapse marshalled by Ravichandran Ashwin and England were all out for 287.

The second day got even better. This season was always going to be about ‘Battle Royale Kohli-Anderson’ and did it live upto this tag. The epic duel surely has to be the highlight of the match. Sam Curran removed Vijay and Rahul to bring the Indian captain in. Anderson was brought in soon after. He wasn’t just taking on Kohli. He was taking on Kohli’s ego, which had one thing to tell, to not get out to Jimmy Anderson. The 43-ball battle that ensued was just the start the test series needed. In the 43 balls, Kohli edged 4 in which 3 fell short and Kohli risked a run out to get off strike. That’s how badly Kohli’s ego did not want to get out to England’s most successful fast bowler. Fortune favoured the brave (or the one with an immense ego) and Kohli went on to score 149.

England were in tatters on the third day at 86 for the loss of 6 wickets when the 20 year old Sam Curran came in. Sam Curran playing his second test scored a breath taking, match winning (as it turned out be), whirlwind 63 and set India a target of 194. It’s always difficult when you’re chasing on an English pitch against a Duke Ball which refuses to get old. More difficult when you’ve a menacing Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Sam Curran coming. India paid heed to all these but forgot Stokes. Stokes came charging in and started taking down the Indian batting line up one at a time. He culminated his spell with the wicket of Hardik Pandya to signal the end of Indian batting and the test match. He accounted for 4 of the Indian wickets. Sam Curran was awarded the man of the match for his all-round efforts.

Today, the stage is set at the home of cricket-Lord’s. Surely, this is just getting started. England will be looking to bank on the momentum. They will, however, be without the services of Stokes and Malan has been dropped to make way for a 20 year old who will be making his debut. India are going to see if they have to play on of their most experienced batsmen in these conditions, Pujara. Bowling coach of India, Bharat Arun, when asked if India was going with an extra batsmen on the eve of the second test, termed it as conservative. Margaret Thatcher, once remarked, “Good conservatives always pay their bills, Socialists just run up other people’s bills.” It is up to the Indian coach and his support staff if they want to settle up their bills or just run up other’s people bills.

 

 

Salah – To Newer beginnings

“Salah announced” –On June 22, 2017, the man, with a beaming smile said to the camera with a wave of his hand. Unkempt beard, bushy hair, the 2017-18 Liverpool jersey. A lot of things looked afresh in the announcement video put out by Liverpool FC on their YouTube channel. Soon after, he got the number 11 jersey previously worn by Firmino. Firmino obliged and happily switched to 9. However, Firmino switching to number 9 only meant that Liverpool wouldn’t be without the services of a proper number 9 for the 2017-18 by the looks of it.

Mohammed Salah had completed his switch back to Premier League. This time, though, to the Merseyside club. Jurgen Klopp’s team wanted a 20-goal a season a player and the board obliged on Salah. The Reds snapped up Salah for £34.3m at a time when 16-year old Vinicius Junior was signed by the Galacticos in the same range and a 20 year old Ousmane Dembele was signed for £135.5m by the bigger Catalan club.

Mohammed Salah did the unthinkable in his first season. Maybe because much wasn’t expected of him. Maybe people downplayed his abilities. Maybe people opined it takes more to succeed in England than just being a speed merchant in the Italian league.

The premier League began in a way typical of the Liverpool Football Club. On August 12, Liverpool were drawn away from home against Watford in their first match. Salah took no home to settle as he managed to net home a chip from Firmino for the 2nd Liverpool goal. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. This gave everyone little indication of the impending havoc that Salah is going to wreak in the Premier league. He subsequently scored in the Champions League qualifier play-off win against Hoffenheim. Things looked much better for the 5 time European Champions as they managed to progress to the Champions League group stage with a 6-3 aggregate win in the play-off round. The camaraderie between Salah, Mane and Bobby Firmino was enviable. Mane was awarded the Premier League Player of the Month for the inaugural month of 2017-18 season. However, it was Salah who was going to walk away with the most number of accolades come the end of the season.

In the month of October, Egypt qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in a dramatic fashion. After the heartbreak of 2014 Qualifiers where they lost 6-1 to Ghana, they came back strongly in a must win match. Playing Congo in a crunch fixture in front of a capacity crowd of 30,000 at a military stadium in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, Mohammed Salah struck an injury time penalty to claim the winner for Egypt. Talk about nerves, grit and steel. This man was exceeding expectations one match at a time.

Salah in the English Premier League was only getting started. He would go on to win 3 Player of the month awards and subsequently became the fastest Liverpool player to 10, 20 and also 30 goals. He was breaking records at will, both personal and for the club.

He championed the Merseyside club’s cause in the European scene. Along with Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane, the trio would go on an assault spree every time they came out on the field. They would defeat the now reigning Premier League champions in the quarterfinals and then get over the line against Roma in the semifinals. Both the ties had eerie similarities. It had an early massacre at Anfield. The Egyptian opened the scoring in both the ties. And there were usual defensive frailties from Liverpool Football club. They, all but, just progressed to further rounds. However, things did not turn out all dreamy in the European competition. As fate would’ve had it, Mohammed Salah would go off injured in the early minutes of the final thanks to a MMA-like pin-to-the-ground from the Real Madrid captain and a few goalkeeping howlers would cost them the title. Salah’s dream season was over. This also meant another thing. This also meant that his World Cup dream was in jeopardy. What was initially feared as a season ending injury turned out to be a lesser scare and Salah would go on to miss only the opening game in Russia. Few weeks later, Egypt would bow out of the world cup with no wins. Salah would score the only 2 goals scored in their campaign.

Life is unfair. Sport is unfair. Football is unfair. People may say. But very few know that, like life, football gives you a second chance. It allows you to go out into the field as an equal, no one superior or no one inferior. Every one equal in their own right. When Salah comes out on the Anfield pitch come August 12 wearing the famous red, he knows that this is just the beginning. For he knows, he can try one more time and aim to be the best he always wanted to be. For he knows, the last time he played there, he made a world record by scoring the most number of goals in a 38-match season. For he know, he is the Pharaoh of Merseyside and he has to give it his all.

VIRAT KOHLI, ADIL RASHID AND HEATWAVE

INDIA VS ENGLAND TEST SERIES – A PREVIEW

What if Virat Kohli didn’t score a meagre 134 runs in 10 innings in the ill-fated 2014 English Summer. What if Adil Rashid didn’t bamboozle Virat Kohli in the third ODI in Headingley to evoke a reaction of utter disbelief from the hottest property in the world cricket. What if there was no heatwave this time around.

The Pandora’s box has been opened with a list of other brain-tickling, need-of-the-hour questions. The questions might be answered or might be left for another day, another year or another tour. For now, almost 2 weeks after the English triumphed in the one dayers, the focus, needless to say, is all on test series. Or so to say, on three entities which have been gaining a lot of momentum due to reasons, physical, mental and geographical.

Virat Kohli has been taking down opponents one at a time. His first Australian tour was a disaster of sorts except for the last match where he scored a nitty gritty century where both tongues and Kookaburra ball lashed his bat. He has come out on top, every time he has endured a rough patch (which is not much to be honest). It is always said that Virat Kohli is immune of terms like ‘lean patch, bad form, inconsistency’. When was the last time you saw Virat Kohli and the above terms being used in the same line or in the same paragraph or in the same article, Never ever. Okay maybe very few.

This is going to yet another series centered on the talisman. Much like every series, test and ODI alike that has been played in the last 3 years. Especially after he took over the reins of test captaincy, he has constantly been under immense pressure to perform every minute of his life. This is associated with everyone who has donned the Indian cap but what the Indian captain has been subjected to, in recent time, has been immense. Every time, though, he has come out on top. The series in Australia where he floored the Australian bowling attack. The recent series in South Africa where he emerged the highest run getter. This time, though, the challenges will be two fold. He has a much more experienced squad at disposal and expectations are rather high. So Kohli will have to lead and look to it that the pack is well in the game too.

 

With the advent of franchise leagues, “white-ball only” deals were shaping up across the cricketing world and Adil Rashid was one of the first to join the bandwagon. He signed up a ‘white ball only’ deal with Yorkshire for 2018. Rashid said that it would be best for him to focus on the shorter formats of the game domestically and internationally. Come the English Summer, Rashid is bowling to Kohli in Headingley in the One Day series in the decider. He pitches it on the middle and leg, nips off the surface and takes off, escapes Kohli’s bat and knocks off the off stumps. Kohli stands in disbelief, disarray and dismay. Dejection all over the Indian dressing room and India eventually lose the match and series. Adil Rashid, in one moment, turned around his career.  England selectors, indeed, decided to give a test call up to the leggie. This could be a panic move or an astute technical step. The selectors, definitely did not ask questions like the RandomSportsBlogger. What if the ball turned one inch more, what if the ball turned one inch less, what if India had won the match, what if England had lost the series. For now, Adil Rashid is in the playing XI for the first test and he would certainly like the ball to turn more than he would expect.

Another talking point in the series is, well, the heatwave. The heatwave is said to be the severest since the 70’s and temperatures are soaring across the country. However, the temperature is expected to do little to ingrained qualities of the English pitches. However, if it does behave the sub continental way, India will have the upper hand or at least hope so. If it remains the same, the battle lines are drawn and there is no place for complacency in both the camps.

Root, the English captain, says that he is able to sleep now a days on the previous day of a big match. Kohli, his Indian counterpart, was spotted shopping in the malls of London. The differences are stark but there is one thing in common in both. They want to win and win real bad. Root would have to endure countless sleepless nights if things go wrong at the uncertainly of his future in cricket much like his country’s uncertainty in the geo political scenario. Kohli, too, would go all out on the Poms and just hope it doesn’t backfire. For if it does, he definitely can’t take the leisurely shopping mall visits even in the United(divided) Kingdom.

India vs England Series Preview

“If Thomson doesn’t get you, Lillee will.”

When England sent in a 41-year old Colin Cowdrey to bat in the December of 1974 against a menacing Geoff Thomson and Denis Lillee who were ‘wanting to kill’ anyone coming their way, Cowdrey was quoted saying, “Good Morning, my name’s Cowdrey” and carried on.

Australia, after a good 44 years and 4 ODI World Titles later, find themselves in receiving end of things. Not for the first time in 2018 and definitely not for the last time. This calendar year has been shambolic for Cricket Australia and its players. The sandpaper gate has done more harm than expected. Australia were marauded in England, a first 5-0 whitewash for England against Australia. The islanders may argue that they were without the services of their quicks Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood and the tainted trio but Justin Lager knows this isn’t just limited to the absence of their premier fast bowlers. Now, it is the turn of the Oz to ‘Good Morning and carry on.’ But the newly appointed coach knows deep inside that the problem and its implications are far-fetched.

Meanwhile, England can now assert, “If one doesn’t get you, the other will”. Clearly, it’s not about Plunkett, Ball, Willey and the Currans. They can, now, claim, “If Roy doesn’t get you, Bairstow will. If Bairstow doesn’t get you, Hales will. And then come, Root, Morgan, and Ali. The Currans, Ball, Plunkett surely can swing it with the bat as well.”

England decimated the Aussies in the 4 One Days and the finale was the cherry on top and showed England’s resilience to prevail in crunch situations. Chasing 205, England were 50 for the loss of 5 wickets and Buttler hung in there. He hung in there real long. He hung in there long enough to take England home and complete a series sweep.

England now await the Virat Kohli led team at home for another challenge. The Indians will be a much tougher test for the Poms. After a 5-1 One Day series win against South Africa, they will definitely come hard on England in the One Day Series. India already look like a much stronger bowling attack with the wrist spinners. Chahal and Yadav will be crucial to India’s success in the middle overs in England’s flat tracks. The Sub Continental giant’s batting looks neat and if the middle order batsmen get firing then it is an even match. There will, surely, not be another world record ODI score. There will, surely, not be another whitewash.

In the run up to the World Cup 2019, this is the first major step in terms of bragging rights and getting the bookmakers in your favor. When India is playing, it is never about good enough. It has always been about being too good for anyone who come their way. A series loss for Kohli and his men could lead to some major changes in time for the World Championships next year. They have been rigid for far too long to experiment with the batting order. A win, however, could strengthen the ever growing belief in the team.

India first play the 3 T20Is beginning on July 3rd and then move on to the One Dayers. The 5 match Test Series beginning in August is a different story altogether and for another day.

Prashanth Kalinga – The beginning

“Namma Ooru, Namma Huduga. Prashanth Kalinga”. Our city, Our boy. Prashanth Kalinga. Bengaluru FC fans chant this as the team bus makes its way to the stadium three days after their goalless draw against Transport United in Bhutan in the Asian Federation cup qualifiers.

On January 26, as Bengaluru FC take on North East United FC at their home ground Sree Kanteerava stadium, the focus of the supporters is on their U 19 captain and the local boy Prashanth Kalinga. The squad hasn’t been announced for the match and there is, in fact, very little possibility of him making it. However, the supporters know that it is a matter of great pride and joy for the city as a boy has just come through the ranks and made his debut with the senior team in their previous match.

Mr. B Kalinga, Prashanth’s father has been his inspiration before he even started playing the game. As soon as Mr.Kalinga returned from his football practice, Prashanth would start playing with the ball. This compelled his father to start training him. And rightly so, Prashanth took to the game at the age of 4 at Gowthamapuram Soccer Stadium which is about 5 kilometres from Bengaluru FC’s home ground Sree Kanteerava Stadium. In an interview with BFC TV ( Prashanth Kalinga – A brief ), Prashanth recalls how he would wake up everyday at 5 in the morning and practice. His confidence grew day by day and the results have shown just that. He says that his parents have been his biggest strength. Mrs.Nalinikanthi, Prashanth’s mother, tells BFC TV, “Each and every person has a talent and the talent should come out in one or the other way. So the parents are the root for that talent to come out.”

Prashanth started playing at the school level and subsequently at the district and state level matches. His major breakthrough came when he attended the selection trials at Tata Football Academy in Kolkata at the age of 15. He was noticed by Richard Hood, now the Head of Player Development at All India Football Federation. A month later, he was inducted to the BFC academy and started playing for the BFC Under 19 team instead of the Under 16 team on instructions of Richard Hood. Soon, Prashanth became the mainstay of the BFC U19 team and BFC ‘B’ team and is one of the first names on the team sheet.  Prashanth is currently the captain of the BFC U 19 team.

When Prashanth travelled with the senior team to Bhutan for their AFC Cup qualifier against Transport United, very few expected him to be named in the starting line-up. As team news emerged from the picturesque Changlimithang stadium in Bhutan, scores of Bengaluru FC fans attending a screening in Bengaluru rejoiced to the news of the local boy being named in the starting line up.

For the supporters know, this has been a fairy tale all along. This has been as good a fairy tale as BFC winning the I- league in their debut season. This has been as good a fairy tale as BFC defeating one of the iconic Kolkata Clubs to lift the Federation Cup. For they know, this is just the beginning of the glorious years ahead for a certain Prashanth Kalinga.