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Sunday,23-January-2022

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CLOSE-IN: Why was the Indian team not brave enough?

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The reality of not qualifying for the knock-out stage of the T20 World Cup has finally hit the millions of Indian die-hard cricket followers. One hoped and wished that the festival of lights, Diwali, would bring in some divine blessings. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

The Indian team played their last three matches like champions, but it was all in vain. The defeat against Pakistan and New Zealand in the two initial matches was a telling blow. Maybe, if India had played the lower-order teams earlier, they would have got the initial momentum to get them started.

Indian captain Virat Kohli’s remark as regards his team not being brave enough after the loss against New Zealand made one think seriously as to why he said so.

When one thinks about it, one wonders as to why a team that showed such aggression and positivity went into a shell.

Quite understandably, the loss against Pakistan had taken a major toll on the mental state of all the Indian players. A defeat against their foremost opponent is one that is unacceptable. This applies to both the countries and one that was the downfall of the Pakistan team in the last ODI World Cup when they lost to India.

The Indian team was unsettled when they played New Zealand and when put in to bat, the dew-factor syndrome put them further downhill mentally.

The main reason that one can pinpoint is the plethora of cricket that the Indian side is playing. The country boasts of a cupboard full of players where players are easily replaceable and interchangeable. In the last five years, India has had a battery of bowlers and batters not only in the playing eleven, but also as a part of the Indian squad.

The selection of players has become the most confusing aspect of Indian cricket. A good show in the Indian Premier League and a player finds himself directly into the Indian squad.

The bio-bubble could be another reason that may have had a severe effect on the Indian team, being on the road for the last six months. However, on the other hand it has been a boon for the players on the bench.

Earlier the touring squad consisted of 15 players who would replace one another. However, this was not the case in the present situation. A massive squad of batters and bowlers accompanying the side gives one many alternative options.

India’s magnificent performance in Australia showed how players who normally would never have played for the country were thrown into the deep end and most of them came through with flying colours.

Another reason could be the excessive amount of cricket that has not only required players to take a break but also because of this, many have succumbed to injuries. This looked fine on paper, but what finally happened was that the chopping and changing did not give India a settled batting or bowling unit.

The newer players who did well were replaced by the older reputed ones on their return. One more factor was that the IPL became the benchmark of a player’s skill, ability and mental strength. The difference between playing cricket for a franchise side and for one’s country is like chalk and cheese. There may have been a few players who have emerged and been successful, but should not be made into a practice.

India became a victim of its own cricket success. The options of many players and the shuffling of players regularly have brought about the biggest worry of a player — “the scare of failure”. Both in the ODI and the T20 World Cup, the Indian batting and bowling never looked settled because most of the players had someone else looking over their shoulder.

This is why the Indian side was tentative in both the limited-overs World Cups and did not show the bravery one expected from them. The thought of losing and not being the villain is what the prime reason was for this mental state of the Indian cricketers.

This, one feels, have been the reasons for India to fail time and again on big occasions.

The next T20 World Cup will be held next year and the ODI the year after. The Indian think tank of the selectors and Rahul Dravid the coach have to identify the players for each spot and pursue with them relentlessly. They need to show consistency in their thinking and be brave in their selections.

Indian cricket has all the ingredients to be world champions; it is putting it all together effectively that is a matter of concern.

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KL Rahul will emerge as a phenomenal leader: Sanjiv Goenka

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Dr. Sanjiv Goenka, the chairman of the RP Sanjiv Goenka Group (RPSG) which owns the Lucknow IPL franchise, was upbeat about KL Rahul emerging as a phenomenal leader of the team, adding that he has got ‘everything it takes to succeed’.

On ‘IPL: Selection Day’ show on Star Sports, Goenka announced that Rahul along with Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and uncapped India leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi were Lucknow’s picks.

“Player number one is KL Rahul, we are going to pay him Rs 17 crore. Player number two is Marcus Stoinis, we are going to pay him Rs 9.2 crore. Player number three is the very young, very talented, Ravi Bishnoi, we are going to pay him Rs 4 crore.”

The Rs 17-crores singing makes Rahul, currently leading India in the ODI series against South Africa, the joint-highest-paid player in the IPL across seasons, along with Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Virat Kohli, who was paid the same amount as part of retentions ahead of the 2018 IPL mega auction.

Goenka expressed immense confidence in the trio roped in by Lucknow. “We are confident that these three picks will propel our team, lay the foundation of the team, to compete not only in the season for 2022, but seasons beyond. I am delighted to have these three signings.

“And I hope all of you; fans of Star and fans of the Lucknow IPL team are as excited as I am, about having these three great performers with us. So, please join me in wishing them luck and giving them your blessings.”

Goenka described why Rahul was appointed as captain of Lucknow. “Yes, KL will be the captain. I have been very impressed by KL’s not only batting and wicketkeeping abilities, but his leadership skills. He is evolving, he is growing, he is maturing as a player, as a leader and he is somebody I would’ve wanted to lead the team. And I do believe, given the right atmosphere, given the right environment, he will emerge as a phenomenal leader, and he has everything it takes to succeed.”

He further explained the rationale in picking Rahul, Stoinis and Bishnoi with an eye on the future. “There were multiple things. We were looking at not only building a team for one or two seasons, as we did in the case of Pune, but actually, building the foundation for a team, which will compete successfully for many years. We were also looking for players with more than one facet, so not singular-dimension players.”

“So, KL is not only an outstanding batsman, he’s a great wicketkeeper. Marcus is a great finisher, a good bowler, and a phenomenal fielder. Ravi brings a unique dimension to the spin department and is an exceptional fielder. So, we looked for players, who could do more than just one thing; players who would be with the franchise for several years – three, four, five, six, seven, eight years. And KL is in the batting department, Marcus is an all-rounder and Ravi is a bowler, so we have tried to cover all the three departments.”

The Lucknow franchise had earlier picked former England coach Andy Flower as head coach, former India opener and two-time IPL winning captain Gautam Gambhir as mentor and former India wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya as head coach.

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896 Indians amongst 1214 players registered for IPL 2022 auction

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After the registration for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 player auction ended on January 20, the tournament said in an official advisory that 1,214 players have registered for the two-day event.

From the 1,214 players, 896 are Indian cricketers while 318 overseas players have signed up for the auction as well.

The IPL 2022 mega auction will see new franchises, Ahmedabad and Lucknow, entering the bandwagon with multiple reports suggesting the event could take place in Bengaluru on February 12 and 13.

It means that the two-day mega auction will see 10 teams bidding for some of the finest talents in the cricketing world. In terms of international exposure, the players list incorporates 270 capped, 903 uncapped and 41 players from associate nations.

On further breakdown of the list, 61 are capped Indian players while 209 are capped international cricketers. 143 players are uncapped Indians who were a part of previous IPL seasons, while six players are uncapped internationals who were a part of previous IPL seasons.

In terms of uncapped players, 692 players from India and 62 international players have registered themselves.

From the 318 overseas players on the long list, spread across 18 countries, Australia leads with 59 players followed by 48 from South Africa, 41 from West Indies, 36 from Sri Lanka, 30 from England, 29 from New Zealand, 20 from Afghanistan, 15 from Nepal and 14 from USA.

Other nations whose cricketers have registered for the IPL 2022 player auctions are Bangladesh (nine), Namibia (five), Oman and Ireland (three each), Zimbabwe (two), Bhutan, Netherlands, Scotland and the UAE (one each).

If every franchise were to have the maximum of 25 players in their squad, 217 players will be taken in the auction (of which up to 70 may be overseas players).

Ahead of the auctions, a total of 33 players have been retained or picked. The existing eight IPL franchises have retained a total of 27 players while the two new IPL teams (Ahmedabad and Lucknow) have picked six players (three each) ahead of the auction.

The retained picks by the 10 IPL teams are as follows:

CSK: Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni, Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaikwad.

DC: Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Prithvi Shaw and Anrich Nortje.

KKR: Andre Russell, Varun Chakravarthy, Venkatesh Iyer and Sunil Narine.

MI: Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard.

PBKS: Mayank Agarwal and Arshdeep Singh.

RR: Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal.

RCB: Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell and Mohammed Siraj.

SRH: Kane Williamson, Abdul Samad and Umran Malik.

Team Ahmedabad: Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill.

Team Lucknow: KL Rahul, Marcus Stoinis and Ravi Bishnoi.

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Hardik Pandya will be motivated to show what he is capable of as a leader: Kirsten

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Former India and South Africa head coach Gary Kirsten, who will be serving as mentor-cum-batting coach at the Ahmedabad franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL), feels all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be motivated to show his leadership credentials.

On Friday, the Ahmedabad-based franchise announced Pandya as captain after signing him up for Rs 15 crore. Apart from him, the CVC Capitals-owned team have roped in Afghanistan all-rounder Rashid Khan and uncapped India leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi for Rs 15 crore and four crore respectively. It means the Ahmedabad team will enter the mega IPL auctions with a purse of Rs 52 crore.

“I am looking forward to working with Hardik as a young and new captain. I think he will be really motivated to come in and make a plan and show what he is capable of at this level of the game as a leader. He’s a great player. What I have heard is that he is really keen to get into the mix and get involved,” said Kirsten on ‘IPL: Selection Day’ show on Star Sports.

“I think he understands the importance of this tournament. What I have heard is that he is raring to go and get into the mix from a leadership perspective. So, I think that’s really exciting for us to have a player with such a level of skill, motivated to do well in this competition,” added Kirsten, the former South Africa batter.

Working with the Ahmedabad franchise in the IPL will be Kirsten’s third appearance in a coaching capacity in the tournament after being previously associated with Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Joining him in the Ahmedabad franchise will be former India pacer Ashish Nehra (as head coach) and former England batter Vikram Solanki (as director of cricket).

Co-incidentally, the trio had worked together in the 2019 IPL season for RCB in coaching positions. “I am looking forward to be back in IPL. It’s a fantastic experience and with a new franchise, is something that I am really excited about; also, to be working alongside Ashish Nehra and Vikram Solanki, who I have worked with before. I think we are all very excited about the opportunity,” stated Kirsten.

Kirsten was excited by the other two picks of the Ahmedabad team — Khan and Gill –, released by Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. “They are both high performers — Rashid Khan has gone around the world, proven his value anywhere, so that’s an incredible signing for us.

“I am very excited to work with him — I haven’t yet — but I have seen him a lot, have met him few times, but have never really worked with him. So, I am looking forward to that. Certainly, watching him on the field, he’s a very competitive, young man that wants to do well for the franchise that he’s been involved in.

“Gill is a fantastic player, who, in my view, should be playing for India. He is on the verge of that and has played already. With great flair and instinct for the game, he could be a match-winner on his own. From a batting perspective, I am looking forward to working with him and helping him give the best out of an IPL season.”

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