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Bowling to Kohli in match-like situations in nets invaluable: Navdeep Saini




Virat Kohli has a lot of faith in me and bowling to him in match situations simulated during net sessions has benefited me immensely, and I am now trying to create an identity for myself, says Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) pacer Navdeep Saini.

Saini hogged the limelight in last season of the IPL when he impressed with his pace and wicket-taking ability for RCB. The 27-year old snared 11 wickets in his debut season and impressed RCB captain Kohli much. Since Kohli is also India captain that would have helped Saini break into the national side.

“Virat bhaiya has played a big role in my career. I played IPL for the first time with the RCB under Virat bhaiya. He is always accommodating and listens to me all the time. He backs me in whatever I want to do on the field,” Saini told IANS in an exclusive interview from Dubai.

The Haryana pacer can comfortably clock in excess of 140 kmph on the speed gun. He made a memorable debut against the West Indies in a T20 game at Lauderhill, USA, in August last year, bagged three wickets for 17 runs — the most for India. He has so far played 10 T20s and five ODIs, his last assignment being on India’s tour of New Zealand. He has taken 18 wickets so far for India in the two white ball formats, though he is yet to make Test debut.

“He [Kohli] is always ready to work on my plans and back me. He shows a lot of faith. During nets, I try to give my best as he is a star batsman and you can assess yourself when you bowl to him. It is also good that he is my India captain. So, the chemistry translates while playing for India too. He knows me well and understands me. He has a lot of faith in me,” Saini said.

“He [Kohli] always keeps match intensity at nets. He is aggressive and bats with full intensity. So, as he bats like he is batting during a match, I also feed off that energy and give that little extra to showcase my skills. So, it is like a match-situation when I bowl to him,” he informed.

India’s red ball pace attack is arguably one of the best in the world at present, and Saini said he is only concentrating on improving his skill set in every practice session.

“I am working hard to play Test cricket. I have not set any deadline to make my Test debut but I am working towards improving myself as a fast bowler. I aim to learn new things from every practice session. I am working hard to create my own identity,” he averred.

In line with the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the BCCI, all the players and support staff underwent a mandatory six-day quarantine after arriving in the UAE for the IPL starting on September 19.

RT-PCR tests were conducted on everyone on Day 1, 3 and 6 of the quarantine. “It is difficult to play in a bio-bubble. But the biggest challenge in IPL is to perform in front of legends from across the world. It is a good platform to showcase your abilities. I hope to do better in the future,” Saini said.

“You are locked inside your room, you cannot hit the ground. But you need to be smart in this. You need to make the most of the atmosphere, keep working out in your room and stay busy,” he said, philosophically.

On the issue of saliva ban for bowlers, Saini said the key is to adapt to the changed conditions quickly. “If you can’t shine the ball, you do lose a bit of benefit. But since we cannot use saliva it is important to adapt as quickly as possible. In the UAE, humidity is more; the weather is hotter. So, when you get back in the mix, it does not matter that you hadn’t played for some time,” he explained.

RCB are yet to win the IPL title in 12 attempts and Saini said he is working on his abilities to win matches for his team.

“I played IPL with RCB for the first time and did quite well. Then I made my debut for the country in T20s and ODIs. The best part is that I am learning things faster so that I can sharpen my skill and give match winning performances. I give my all in practice sessions and I am working on helping the team with match winning performances. That is what I want,” he said of goals.


BCCI wants Dravid to be India’s chief coach; sources say Rahul’s ‘agreed but…!’





 Former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid has agreed to coach the national side after the ICC T20 World Cup but there are a couple of issues which he wants to be sorted out before joining, said a BCCI official.

Earlier, there were reports that Dravid would be the interim coach for the upcoming home series against New Zealand.

However, the BCCI official has now confirmed that “Rahul has agreed to coach the Indian team till 2023 World Cup”.

The official told IANS that BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah had a meeting with Dravid on the side-lines of the IPL final on Friday evening and they managed to convince him.

“There are a couple of issues which Dravid wants to settle with the BCCI and hopefully that will be done,” he added.

Asked what are the “issues”, the official said, “Like, Dravid wants to have new support staff… changing the entire old one. And a couple of other things. I am sure everything will be sorted out. Because BCCI wants Dravid to lead the charge.”

It is learnt that former Mumbai pacer Paras Mhambrey may take over from Bharat Arun as the bowling coach.

Sources further said that Dravid had suggested Australian Tom Moody’s name for the coach’s job, but the Board didn’t show too much interest.

The 48-year-old Dravid has been in charge of the India A and U-19 set-up for the past six years. He currently heads the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

“He will resign from there and take over the charge (of Team India),” sources added.

Dravid had recently coached a second-string Indian team to a tour of Sri Lanka even as the national senior team was playing concurrently in England.

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Dhoni is still non-committal on playing IPL next season





 Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni did not commit to playing another season in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the team from Tamil Nadu though he did say that he was not done with the World’s richest T20 tournament.

Though Dhoni maintained that whether he continues to play or not depends on the decisions the BCCI takes regarding player retention when two more teams join the league next year, the 40-year-old said he has not left any legacy behind as of yet.

“Still I haven’t left behind….” he signed off during the prize distribution ceremony after CSK beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs to lift their fourth IPL title.

“Again I’ve said it before, it depends on BCCI. With two new teams coming in. We have to decide what is good for CSK. It’s not about me being there in top-three or four. It’s about making a strong core to ensure the franchise doesn’t suffer. The core group, we have to have a hard look to see who can contribute for the next 10 years,” said Dhoni on Friday.

CSK set up a big target and then defended it successfully, keeping their nerves even when Kolkata Knight Riders openers Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer and given KKR a great start by putting on 91 runs for the first wicket. There was no panic in CSK ranks and the players went about performing their roles as things just fell in place.

Dhoni said they don’t plan or strategise too much before the game and the net sessions are more of one-on-one sessions.

“Frankly no chats, we don’t talk a lot [meetings]. It’s more one-on-one, our practice sessions are meeting sessions. The moment you get into a team room, it brings about different pressure. Our practice sessions hav” been good,” Dhoni said, adding that the chat sessions don’t last more than 29 minutes as that’s the attention span for a normal person.

About his team’s performance, Dhoni said that they shuffled players around after the first half and that paid for them. “Coming to CSK, we shuffled players. We had match winners coming game after game and doing really well. Every final is special, if you look at stats, we may say we’re the most consistent team to lose the final too. I feel it’s important to come back strong, especially in the knockouts,” Dhoni added.

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IPL 2021: Extremely grateful, feels amazing to be part of CSK, says Uthappa




Chennai Super Kings. (Photo: Twitter/@ChennaiIPL)

After Chennai Super Kings (CSK) won their fourth IPL trophy, star batsman Robin Uthappa on Friday said that he is extremely grateful and it feels amazing to be part of MS Dhoni-led side, especially how last year went for them.

CSK beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 27 runs in the IPL 2021 final and lifted their fourth IPL title. CSK had earlier won three IPL titles in 2010, 2011, and 2018.

“Extremely grateful, it feels amazing to be part of this side, especially how last year went for us. It was a very lean season for us last year and so it was important for us to come back and play as well as we could and be really grateful that we have been able to,” said Robin Uthappa after the win.

“I just want to come in and contribute to the team’s success,” he added.

Talking about the environment in the CSK group, the stylish batsman said that there is a lot of clarity.

“They create a very secure environment within the group and there’s a lot of clarity and communication within the support staff and the players and that really helps in building a secure group,” said Uthappa, who performed well with the bat for CSK in the last two matches.

“I believe it’s your players who are not playing in the eleven that really create the atmosphere within the group and they make sure that they look after the players who are not playing in the eleven and I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways of our success in IPL,” he added.

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