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Cheteshwar Pujara’s struggles with left-arm spin after Australia heroics continue




Back in 2019 when Cheteshwar Pujara arrived in India after frustrating Aussie bowlers and playing the lead, man-of-the-series role in India’s first-ever Test series win in Australia, he got stuck against a little-known left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate of Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy final.

Pujara, representing Saurashtra, was dismissed for 1 and 0 after playing a total of 16 balls across two innings in that final in Nagpur.

Cut to 2021, and the story remains the same. Pujara played some gritty knocks in the last two Tests in Australia in Sydney and Brisbane, helping India draw and win the Tests respectively less than two months ago.

But on arrival from Australia, he has got stuck again against left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who has dismissed him three out of five times in the ongoing India-England series.

“With Cheteshwar, he is using his feet, stretching, everything is okay. But many times, he has been playing half-cock. When he is in doubt, he doesn’t stretch (full) against left-arm spinner. That is where he is stuck with lbw or is caught in slips,” said former India batsman Anshuman Gaekwad, who also served as India chief selector and coach, while speaking to IANS.

Leach has had him caught in slips by Ben Stokes twice and leg-before the wicket once. After his 73 in the first innings of the first Test, he has aggregated 43 across the last four innings with Leach getting him thrice and once he has fallen run out. England have ensured that they throttled his run-scoring with his strike rate in the last four innings just 34.95.

This is exactly what Vidarbha thought two years ago when they got him out twice cheaply.

Although Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal as well as spinner Aditya Sarwate don’t want to discuss the team strategy in detail they do say that the idea was to restrict him inside the crease.

“We all know he has got great footwork and likes to cut out the spin (by stepping out). He doesn’t like to play from the crease. So we thought of restricting his singles, not allowing him to go off-strike. We played with the field setting. Bowled straighter lines so that he doesn’t get singles and plays from crease. Aditya varied his speed well like we had planned. He bowled extremely well making sure it was not easy for Pujara to step out,” Fazal told IANS.

The Nagpur track was dry just as the ones in the last two Tests were which helped Sarwate and Leach to restrict his scoring.

“The wicket was dry. That also played a role. If he is (stuck in) crease then you get opportunity to turn the ball. Straighter one is also beneficial,” added Fazal.

Sarwate said that the idea was not to let Pujara settle and disallow him from rotating strike and have him stuck inside the crease.

“I had seen him and he likes to step out and rotate strike. My plan was to not let him step out. The idea was to bowl and hit the right areas, so that he gets stuck in his crease and isn’t able to rotate strike. When he is able to rotate strike, he settles down. So we thought we should bowl in the right areas so that he doesn’t settle,” recalled the Vidarbha left-arm spinner.

Leach himself said very little on Pujara’s dismissal except that he wants to continue doing it.

If the pitch for the fourth and final Test remains dry and powdery, Pujara could be in for a tough time again.


Buoyant RCB take on KKR




After winning two out of their first two matches, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) would look to make it three out of three when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their next encounter at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday afternoon.

Spin will be a crucial weapon again for RCB as KKR showed their inability to cope with spin in their previous match against Mumbai Indians, giving away four wickets to leg-spinner Rahul Chahar.

RCB left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed played a crucial role on a sticky pitch in the match against SunRisers Hyderabad as he made the ball turn and forced the SRH batsmen to throw away their wickets.

With KKR also possessing a very strong spin bowling line-up, the performance of spinners from the two sides could very well decide the course of Sunday’s first match.

This will also be the first match of this season to be played in the afternoon and have a 3.30 p.m. start. Naturally, the dew factor will not come into play.

On the contrary, the latter part of the match could see the ball swing as the temperature dips.

RCB skipper Virat Kohli, who has got identical scores of 33 (29 balls) in the first two matches, will look to get his first half-century of the season.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see KKR captain Eoin Morgan, who employed his spinners to bowl five of the first six overs against MI, use spin early against the opening duo of Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal, both of whom relish the ball coming onto the bat.

KKR: Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Tim Seifert (wicketkeeper), Rahul Tripathi, Rinku Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Eoin Morgan (captain), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Varun CV, Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Shakib Al Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Vaibhav Arora, Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh, Ben Cutting, Venkatesh Iyer, Pawan Negi.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), Devdutt Padikkal, Finn Allen (wicket-keeper), AB de Villiers (wicket-keeper), Pavan Deshpande, Washington Sundar, Daniel Sams, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Kane Richardson, Harshal Patel, Glenn Maxwell, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Daniel Christian, Suyash Prabhudessai, K.S. Bharat.

Match starts at 3.30 p.m.

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BCCI assured of visas to Pak team, media for T20 World Cup




The Indian cricket board (BCCI) has got the approval for visas for the Pakistan cricket team as well as the media for the upcoming T20 World Cup that will be held in India in October-December, it was announced at BCCI’s Apex Council meeting on Friday.

However, this wouldn’t yet break the deadlock between the Indian and Pakistan cricket boards.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani had earlier said that they are looking for visas for not just the players and the media but also for their fans. A failure on that count from the Indian board will push them into asking the International Cricket Council (ICC) to host the tournament in UAE.

The Apex Council, however, was apprised that the Union home ministry will decide on giving visas to Pakistan fans, it has been learnt.

There had been very little doubt earlier on Pakistan cricket team getting visa. The BCCI had given enough indications. The bone of contention, however, had been visas to media and fans which the Pakistan board had demanded.

While there has been a thaw in political relations between the two countries in recent times which has led to some Pakistan sportspersons arriving in India and competing, letting in Pakistan fans for the T20 World Cup could also depend on the Covid-19 situation in the country at the time.

Sports events haven’t seen overseas spectators since the pandemic began and recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Olympic Games organisation committee have decided on not allowing overseas spectators to the Olympic Games which begin on July 23 this year.

With rising Covid-19 cases in India, it is unlikely a decision on fans will be taken any time soon by the ministry.

As many as 14 items were discussed in the Apex Council meeting.

One of the items (Item No. 13) concerned inclusion of cricket in Los Angeles Olympic Games.

The Board hasn’t yet reached a decision on it yet, though in principle they have agreed to sending a team to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Further discussions will be done with the Indian Olympic Association.

Among other issues discussed was the status of the new National Cricket Academy premises (Item No. 6 on the agenda), the 2021-22 domestic cricket season (Item No. 9) and the organisation of T20 leagues tournaments by Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Karnataka and Saurashtra.

While it has been learnt that the council was told the 2021-22 domestic cricket tournaments will happen as they have happened in the past on schedule, a final decision will be made later going by the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the country.

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I had tears when Zak sir called my name: MI’s Yudhvir Charak




Mumbai Indians pace bowler Yudhvir Singh Charak says he had tears flowing down his cheeks the moment bowling head coach Zaheer Khan “raised the paddle” after his name was called during the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction on February 18 this year.

“I knew that if my name came up, it would be among the last names. If not, I was okay with it. We all were sitting; me, my family, our eyes fixed on the television. Then, when my name came up and when Zak sir (Zaheer Khan) raised the paddle, tears started flowing down my cheeks,” recalled Charak in a video posted by Mumbai Indians on Twitter.

“I can’t express how unbelievable that feeling was. It (MI selection) was a really big deal for me and for my state (Jammu and Kashmir). They (J&K team-mates) had very high hopes that I will play a match and do well take our state to new heights,” said the right-arm bowler, who was with the team as a support bowler in UAE.

Charak, who has represented Hyderabad in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and competed in several age-group tournaments, was picked at a base price of Rs 20 lakh.

MI team manager Rahul Sanghvi said that, “We are always good at picking uncapped players with talent, which we have done this year as well by choosing Yudhvir and Arjun (Tendulkar). Both were part of our support players group in the IPL in UAE. The coaches were satisfied that these guys will fulfil the role we were looking at and we picked them.”

Zaheer said, “So, we have Yudhvir, who we are looking forward to. This environment has been benefiting everyone who has been part of it. We encourage them to enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the moment and learn as they go along.”

For Charak, it is more about learning from a team that has won five IPL titles than anything else. “This is the start of my careerat a high level. I’ll get to learn a lot from the senior players. They would have selected me with some role in mind. So, I want to do the best for my team. And learn as best as I can. They are the five-time IPL champions.”

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