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Batsmen’s lack of game-time big challenge for CSK




The 2020 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) could have marked the end of an era for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history. They struggled to get any momentum throughout the season and were one of the first teams to fall out of contention in a league stage that went down to the last week of matches.

However, CSK did not hit the panic button and made wholesale changes to their team. They added a few new faces while sticking to their core of captain MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu and Imran Tahir.

An inability to score runs in the powerplay and the middle overs was one of the many factors that led to CSK’s downfall last season. While the return of Raina in the top order is a major boost, CSK could also push England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who they acquired for Rs 7 crore this year, to the top of the order along with Ruturaj Gaikwad.

Moeen’s prowess as a T20 top-order batsman has been on display a number of times in England’s T20 Blast. Gaikwad, meanwhile, scored back-to-back half centuries last season and is hence expected to continue opening the batting for CSK.

This leaves a question mark over Faf du Plessis, who was the shining light for CSK’s lacklustre batting lineup last season while also being a vital cog in the field.

Du Plessis intends to make the most out of whatever opportunities he is going to get to play T20 cricket, as evidenced by his retirement from Test cricket in February. This means that there could be a battle between Du Plessis and Moeen at the top of the order for CSK.

While the rest of the batting order is somewhat settled, the problem that would be worrying the CSK management would be the lack of game-time for some of their players. The only competitive cricket that Raina has played since the 2019 IPL was the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, in which he scored 102 runs in five matches.

Dhoni has not played any cricket since last year’s IPL while Ravindra Jadeja has not played since injuring his thumb during India’s tour of Australia in January. Sam Curran is the only player in the CSK middle-order who has been playing regular cricket this year.

The presence of Moeen gives CSK another spin bowling option to go with Imran Tahir. Bravo remains potent in the death overs, having done so for West Indies against Sri Lanka in their recent home T20I series while Curran would also slot in. Shardul Thakur has been one of the Indian players who took international cricket by storm and would be a potent weapon in the CSK bowling line-up.

Batting coach Michael Hussey said the fact that CSK are starting their campaign at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai will help the three-time champions.

“The conditions at Wankhede are generally very good for both batmen and bowlers, so hopefully we can start well and players can feel good about their game. A good start would be nice because the players will then relax and hopefully play their best cricket with confidence. Otherwise, the pressure can build up on everyone involved,” said the former Australia batsman.

“Moeen is an excellent all-rounder, Robin has a lot of experience and has been a quality performer in the past and Gowtham has some genuine talent that we can look to develop further,” said Hussey.

Full squad: MS Dhoni (Captain/wicketkeeper), Suresh Raina, Narayan Jagadeesan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KM Asif, Karn Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, M.Harisankar Reddy, K.Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth, R Sai Kishore

Coaching Staff: Stephen Fleming (head coach), Mike Hussey (batting coach), L Balaji (bowling coach), Eric Simons (bowling consultant), Rajiv Kumar (fielding coach)

Quote on the 2021 season:

I feel we have a very balanced squad that has most bases covered and with depth in most areas. The guys are in really good spirits and have been and are preparing extremely well — Michael Hussey, CSK batting coach


What A Shot! Farah Khan on what’s it like directing M.S. Dhoni




Choreographer-filmmaker Farah Khan recently directed Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni for a commercial.

Sharing her experience, Farah told IANS: “This is the first time I was meeting him. I can’t tell you how wonderful he is! He is an extremely down to earth person. We had to change his clothes five times during the shoot and he did not complain.”

Recalling Dhoni’s behaviour on the set, she further said: “Within five minutes we were chatting like we know each other for a long time! He also came to my van to have food. It was a pleasure working with him. What a lovely human being he is!”

Just a few days ago, Farah had taken to social media to shower praises on Dhoni after having directed him for the advertisement. Taking to Instagram, she wrote: “Directed @mahi7781 for an ad today .. What an amazing guy.. so punctual, so down to earth, took pics with everyone frm clients to spotboys with a a fan.”

On the work front, Farah is all set to apper as the judge on the new television programme ‘Zee Comedy Show’, which will air from July 31 on Zee TV.

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They have to keep improving and getting better: Rahul Dravid




Indian head coach Rahul Dravid has said that he was not disappointed by the performance of the young batsmen in the T20I series against Sri Lanka. He believed that the youngsters have to keep getting better in future.

In Thursday’s decider at the R Premadasa Stadium, India managed to get just 81 in the first innings. Sri Lanka chased 82 with seven wickets in hand.

“I’m not disappointed. They are young batters; they have to keep improving and getting better. The Sri Lankan team’s bowling attack is their international bowling attack. They’re missing a few batsmen because of various reasons, but this is a top-quality attack. So, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on these performances, reflect on these conditions, and maybe come up with some slightly better strategies,” said Dravid in the post-match press conference.

Apart from skipper Shikhar Dhawan, India had just four batsmen for the last two T20Is in Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal, Sanju Samson and Nitish Rana. Among the four, Samson had the most experience with just seven T20Is.

“Let’s be fair, you don’t get these sorts of conditions very often in T20 cricket. But when you do, I think you need to have a response. You need to be able to play slightly better. They’re all youngsters, we just need to have patience with them, give them more opportunities so that they can develop and grow,” felt Dravid.

He added, “This was a really young team. All of us have had our struggles playing quality bowling, whether it’s spin or pace. Early on in our careers, we’ve all had those struggles and we’ve all had to fight our way through that. None of us have been perfect when we started, whether it’s my generation or any generation for that matter. It needs experience.”

He also pointed out the conditions which are different for the youngsters than him in the playing years, saying that there is a lot to learn about playing on challenging pitches.

“Maybe the one thing that’s slightly different is that when I was starting or was growing up, the pitches in domestic cricket tended to turn a little bit more and spun a bit more. To be honest, some of them were under-prepared. But I don’t think the talent is missing, either in spin bowling or in the batting. We just need a little bit more experience in being able to figure out a few more different kinds of shots when we’re challenged with these kinds of pitches. We just need to figure out a couple of more options. It was tough batting for them (Sri Lankans) as well.”

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Focus on Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav’s departure to England




Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav’s departure from Sri Lanka to join the Indian Test squad in England may be delayed after they were sent into isolation for being in close contact with Krunal Pandya, who has tested positive for Covid-19 in the island nation.

The two were expected to leave immediately after the culmination of the white ball series in Sri Lanka. The series ends after Thursday night’s third T20I.

“They will travel to England when the formalities are completed,” an official told IANS.

The Indian Test squad in England has already seen three of the players being ruled out. While opener Subman Gill withdrew due to leg injury and has since returned home, off-spin bowling all-rounder Washington Sundar has hurt his finger, and pace bowler Avesh Khan, who was among the standby players, has suffered fracture his left thumb.

As a result, the selectors have pushed Abhimanyu Easwaran into the main squad and have also called up Shaw and Yadav.

The Test series begins on August 4 in Nottingham.

The second Test will be played on August 12-16 at Lord’s, London, the third Test on August 25-29 in Leeds, the fourth Test between September 2 and 6 at the Oval, London, and the fifth and final Test in Manchester from September 10 to 14.

The Indian team had lost the World Test Championship final to New Zealand last month.

After a three-week break, the Indian players moved to Durham for a warm-up match and training.

The team will travel to Nottingham on August 1.

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