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England done and dusted, now the IPL




The Indian cricket team has done magnificently well with their resounding win over England in all formats of the game. The Test series was important since a convincing series win was required for India to qualify for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in June.

India, having lost the first Test match, came back forcefully to win the series. To win both the T20 and the ODI series after that against the strong England limited-overs side was a remarkable feat.

The heroes involved in this success were the young Indian brigade. The most destructive and devastating of all was Rishabh Pant. The wicketkeeper-batsman, having done an incredible task of taking India to one of their most enthralling wins against Australia, proved to be England’s nemesis.

His batting controlled the middle-order and in both the Test and the limited overs series, the English bowlers were clobbered by him.

One marvelled at how Pant left them in complete disarray and were amazed with his 360 degrees stroke-play along with his gang-buster approach. He was similar to a Bollywood film hero, who took on a gang of villains by the swash-buckling swing of his bat and acrobatic body and leg movements to dispatch the English bowlers to all corners of the field.

The bio-secure bubble may have been boring and frustrating for the cricketers, but it proved to be blessing in disguise for Indian cricket. The selected squad of players needed the Indian side to have additional bowlers and batsmen accompanying them because of the restrictions imposed due to the virus. Many of the aspiring India ‘A’ players were therefore made a part of the Indian cricket squad. This turned out to be beneficial for India, as players who were there to assist the main squad were also in line to replace an injured player or ones who had lost form.

This was rarely the case earlier as immediate replacement was a difficult alternative, especially on the eve of a match.

The success stories of Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, T. Natrajan, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Prasidh Krishna and Krunal Pandya are a result of the situation that the Covid-19 pandemic caused.

These Indian cricketers have proved that India is now blessed with a talented pool of cricketers who, on a given day, are ready to rub shoulders with the best. The BCCI needs to be congratulated for creating this structure. The India ‘A’ and India U19’s frequent visits to play overseas and most importantly the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the prime reason for this success.

The healthy competition that has arisen between the established, senior cricketers and the young, aspiring ones has made Indian cricketers tougher, more positive and confident. Playing with and against the best in the IPL and in matches abroad has negated that element of doubt of whether one is ready for the big stage.

The World Test Championship final against New Zealand on June 18 in Southampton should now be the main focus of the BCCI. This is India’s best-ever Test side, as Sunil Gavaskar recently commented.

Coming from Gavaskar, it means a lot. He has been involved with Indian cricket for more than 50 years and has seen many generations of Indian sides come and go. India’s current coach Ravi Shastri, an accomplished cricketer himself, has on numerous occasions also emphasised this. Looking back at the way India defeated Australia and England, they do look like a formidable unit. They now need to showcase their superiority by defeating New Zealand in the final in England. India will then be truly recognised as the “champion of champions”.

The BCCI, in the meanwhile, will conduct the most colourful and popular T20 league, the IPL. At the end of the year, India will be hosting the T20 World Cup. This, therefore, makes IPL a very important tournament not only for foreign International cricketers but also for Indian cricketers.

The IPL will be important for India’s established cricketers to cement their place in the Indian side and for the aspiring ones to claim a spot.

The foreign players and the support staff will use this opportunity to get acclimatised to the conditions. Their input will be crucial for their national teams in the planning, preparation and strategising for the T20 World Cup.

The 2021 IPL will also provide much-needed entertainment to the fans in these times of Covid-19 pandemic. For millions of viewers saddled with curfews and lockdowns, cricket will be the April showers which one is looking forward to.


Rishabh Pant gets first jab of Covid-19 vaccine




Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant said that he has got his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday. Pant urged people to get the vaccine whenever they are eligible.

“Got my first jab today. When you are eligible, please step up and get the vaccine. The sooner we do it, the sooner we can beat this Virus,” Pant tweeted with a photo of him getting the vaccine.

Earlier Indian captain Virat Kohli and fast bowlers Deepak Chahar and Siddharth Kaul also said that they had got their first jabs.

Pant was captain of Delhi Capitals for the 2021 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) following an impressive season with the Indian team in which he played integral roles in their Test series wins away from home against Australia and at home against England.

He was announced as DC’s captain prior to the season after regular skipper Shreyas Iyer was ruled out due to injury.

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Sometimes miss Dhoni’s guidance: Kuldeep Yadav



Kuldeep Yadav

Spinner Kuldeep Yadav has admitted that he misses the guidance he used to get from MS Dhoni when the latter kept wickets. Kuldeep has seen his international appearances nosedive since the end of 2019, which was also the year that Dhoni played his last match for India.

“Sometimes I miss that guidance because he (Mahi) has great experience. He used to guide us behind the wicket, kept screaming. We miss his experience. Rishabh is there now, the more he plays, the more input he will give in the future. I always felt every bowler needs a partner who can respond from the other end,” Yadav told The Indian Express.

Yadav has played seven ODIs in 2020 and 2021, as compared to 23 in 2019 alone. Dhoni played his last game for India in their semi-final defeat to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup on July 10 before eventually retiring from international cricket on August 15, 2020.

“When Mahibhai was there, I and (Yuzvendra) Chahal were playing. Ever since Mahi bhai left, Chahal and I haven’t played together. I played only a handful of games after Mahibhai left. I must have played ten-odd games. I had even taken a hat-trick. If you look at the performance as a whole, it will look pretty decent but if one breaks it up then my performance sometimes can look not up to the mark. One has to also look at the opposition we are playing against,” said Yadav.

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India should play both Jadeja and Ashwin in WTC final: Pragyan Ojha




Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin should both be playing in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand for their prowess with the bat as much as their ability to take wickets, said Pragyan Ojha.

Ojha said that with India having no fast-bowling all-rounder in the squad, Jadeja in particular gives them an extra option in the batting order.

“They should play, both of them. Because both can bat, both have the experience of bowling on any track. The biggest plus point is Jadeja can bat up the order. The way he is performing. Mind you if you look at his domestic record, he’s got three triple hundreds.

I think he can bat long and Ashwin has got international hundreds also. I feel if there’s a little chance where you can play both the spinners, you should play. They have enough experience to win you games on any wicket,” Ojha told Sports Today.

“Overall, it’s a fantastic team. Even I was following Hanuma Vihari. Very thoughtful of him to go and play some county cricket. You know you get acclimatised to the conditions. That’s very important,” he added.

Jadeja will be making his comeback to the Test team after being sidelined in the second Test against Australia due to a finger injury. The injury forced him to miss the four-Test series at home against England but he hit the ground running for Chennai Super Kings in the 2021 Indian Premier League.

Ashwin, on the other hand, has experienced a resurgence with the bat in recent matches, helping India to a draw in the third Test against Australia by fending off 128 balls and finishing unbeaten on 39. He then scored 106 against England in the second Test in Chennai in February.

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