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Have already started preparing for Australia tour, says Kuldeep Yadav




India’s left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav has revealed that he has already started preparing for the Australia tour, scheduled to take place towards the end of the year.

India are currently slated to play three T20Is against Australia in October. Then in December-January, both teams will contest in the four-Test series where India will look to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. After that, both teams will take on each other in three-match ODI series.

“Sometimes taking a break helps refresh the mind. We’ve had three-four months off now, so when we start again, it will be a fresh start, like a new innings. I feel this is the time to push myself because a lot of people are not able to practice,” Kuldeep said while speaking to Deep Dasgupta in the third episode of ESPNcricinfo Cricketbaazi.

“That can give me an edge. A break is very important. You learn from whatever happened in the last year about planning your bowling. You need to spend time and come up with a plan every time. I have already started preparing for the Australia tour (later this year), so that I go there and play a confident cricket,” he added.

2019 was not a great year for Kuldeep as he struggled with his form.

“It was mentally very tough for me. When you are looked at as a wicket-taking bowler but you are not able to pick wickets, you start doubting your skills. I spoke to Bharat Arun (India’s bowling coach) who showed confidence in me which boosted my morale.”

“I prepared really well before leaving for the World Cup 2019 because I wanted to overcome my failure in IPL that year. Even though I didn’t pick up many wickets, I think I bowled well at the World Cup. After that I have been in and out of the team.

If you are playing regularly, your confidence is high. If not, you are always under pressure to perform in the chances you get and your mind stays cluttered. I probably was at fault with my skills as well,” he added.

The 25-year-old also believes that he is an emotional person and overthinks about the game. He reacted emotionally after Moeen Ali smashed for 27 runs him in IPL 2019.

“I get angry when my heart and mind don’t think alike. Shane Warne once advised me to not think about my game too much because it is not possible to perform well in every game.

“In one of the gams at the IPL 2019, my heart was telling me to bowl over the wicket but my mind was pushing me to bowl around the wicket. I listened to my heart and was punished. Finally, on the fifth ball I bowled around the wicket and dismissed the batsman. But the initial 20-25 runs cost my team the match,” Kuldeep said.

Commenting on whether the lack of pace and fizz in his bowling have made it easier for batsmen to play him, Kuldeep said, “The pitches in India are generally on the slower side, so you have to bowl slightly quicker. If you play overseas and do the same thing, like in Australia or South Africa, the ball releases better.”

“I have started practicing for this as well. The best way to do this is to bowl on mud pitches, because the ball generally comes slower off the surface. If you bowl with the same pace on a turf wicket, it is bound to trouble the batsman.”

“Today we play around five matches in three to four months against a particular opposition. If I continue bowling the same way, it will become easy for the batsman to play me. If I change something and create doubt in the mind of the batsman, I will continue to stay effective. I realised this after playing international cricket for couple of years. I need to make subtle changes and use the angles differently.”

Talking about the toughest batsman to bowl, Kuldeep said it’s Steven Smith of Australia in Test Cricket and former South Africa skipper AB de Villiers in ODIs.

“Smith plays me mostly off the back foot. He plays the ball very late as well, so it becomes challenging to bowl to him. In ODIs, AB de Villiers is a good player. He has a unique style. Now that he’s retired, it’s a good thing! But other than him, I haven’t found any other batsman who I am sacred will hit me for a lot of runs.”

Talking about the partnership and bond with Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep said: “He has always taken care of me, like an elder brother. Even now, after playing so many matches together, even off the field, he gives me advice on cricket as well as off cricket.”

“He supports me, and this bond is visible on the field as well. We’ve never had competition between us, irrespective of which of us gets picked to play. In the last year or so, only one of us has gotten to play at a time. I feel happy when he plays and performs well.

“He always used to say that we have to pick up three or four wickets in the middle overs. This has always been our plan and it used to be easy when MS Dhoni was behind the stumps.”

Kuldeep also revealed that he misses Dhoni. “When I started my career, I wasn’t good at reading the pitch. I learnt about this aspect after I started playing with MS Dhoni. He would often tell me when I needed to spin the ball or where I needed to pitch it.”

“Dhoni was very good at setting the field as well. That’s why I never paid attention to field placement when I bowled with Dhoni keeping the wicket. He would understand where the batsman could try to hit me and set the field accordingly. It helped me bowl with more confidence.

“This is something I learnt from him and since the time he has not played ODI cricket, this has gone missing as well.”

“Today, when I come to bowl, I set my own field. Sometimes you go wrong if the captain is saying one thing and you have something else in mind. But you learn from these things. I appreciate Virat Kohli for this. He has always backed me. He believes in all the youngsters gives them full freedom. That’s one of the reasons why Chahal and I have had a successful partnership.

“Kohli believes that we can win matches for India. When your captain shows faith in you, your frame of mind improves and it makes everything easy. To Kohli, it doesn’t matter if I concede 65-70 runs in my ten overs but pick up three wickets. He is happy,” said the left-arm spinner.


One of the grittiest batters in the game, Cheteshwar Pujara turns 33




Cheteshwar Pujara on Monday turned 33 and his teammates, including Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin, led the pouring in of wishes for India’s Test batting mainstay.

During the recently concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, Pujara faced a total of 928 balls — the fifth-most by a visiting batsman in Australia in four or fewer Tests.

He scored 271 runs at a strike rate of 33.88, with the help of 29 fours and played a key role in India’s remarkable Test series victory, which included a historic win at the Gabba in Brisbane. As India chased down 328 in the final innings, Pujara endured as amany as 11 blows but put up a “great wall” against the Aussie onslaught.

During the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar series Down Under, Pujara had faced a total of 1,258 deliveries and had scored 521 runs at an average of 74.43 and a strike rate of 41.21 with the help of 50 fours and two sixes.

“Happy birthday pujji. Wish you good health, happiness and more hours at the crease. Have a great year ahead,” tweeted India skipper Kohli.

“He makes playing hours of cricket look easy and is one of the strongest guys I know. Happy birthday Puji,” said Ajinkya Rahane, who led India to their second Test series win in Australia, in an Instagram story.

“He takes body blows, grinds it out in the middle, braves it all & stands tall. 81 Tests, 6111 runs, 13572 balls faced, 18 hundreds. Here’s wishing Team India’s Mr. Dependable Cheteshwar Pujara a very happy birthday,” the official Twitter handle of BCCI said in their wishes.

“Happy birthday to the Wall 2.0 Cheteshwar Pujara. One of the grittiest batters in the game,” said the International Cricket Council (ICC) while extending birthday wishes.

Ashwin posted a video on social media to wish Pujara and termed the Indian batsman “Rock of Gibraltar”. In the video, Ashwin’s daughter can be seen extending birthday greetings to Pujara.

“Many more happy returns of the day Rock of Gibraltar Cheteshwar Pujara, can’t thank you enough for being my bunny though,” Ashwin said.

“Wishing you a very happy birthday Cheteshwar Pujara bhai. May you continue winning games for India and score a lot of runs,” said Umesh Yadav.

“Wishing a very happy birthday Birthday @cheteshwar1 who put his body on the line for the country proud of the brave fight you gave the Aussies! Best wishes for the England series,” tweeted Yuvraj Singh.

Pujara has played a total of 81 Tests for India in which he has scored 6,111 runs. Besides, he has also played five ODIs for the Men in Blue in which he amassed 51 runs.

He will next be seen in action in the four-match Test series against England beginning February 5 in Chennai.

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Shikhar Dhawan’s boat ride spells trouble for boatman




Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan’s boat ride on the Ganga river in Varanasi, has landed the boatman in trouble.

Dhawan was seen in photographs, feeding birds during a boat ride.

Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told a news agency that action would be taken against the boatman but not the tourist.

“It was made clear by the police and the administration to the boatmen that they should not allow the tourists on their boat to feed the birds. Whosoever flouted these rules will be served notice and they will be asked as to why their license should not be cancelled.

“No action will be taken against the tourists,” Sharma was quoted as saying by the media.

The state government has banned feeding of birds by tourists in the wake of the bird flu scare.

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England to start summer with two-Test series against Black Caps




England will start their home international summer with a two-Test series against New Zealand beginning June 2, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Monday.

The two Tests will be played at Lord’s (June 2-6) and Edgbaston (June 10-14).

Then England will face Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series at Sophia Gardens (June 23 and 24) and The Ageas Bowl (June 26). These matches will be followed by a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka between June 29 and July 4.

After the Sri Lanka series, England will take on Pakistan in three ODIs and as many T20Is from July 8 to 20.

“The prospect of our England men’s team taking on the world’s two top-ranked Test nations in New Zealand and India this summer is something for us all to savour,” ECB CEO Tom Harrison said in a statement.

Currently, the Joe Root-led England are in Sri Lanka participating in a two-match Test series. After that, they will be travelling to India to compete in four-match Test series, followed by five T20Is and three ODIs.

India will also be touring England for a five-match Test series, currently scheduled to begin from August 4 in Nottingham.

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