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It’s Rishabh Pant vs Dinesh Karthik as India pick 15 for World Cup on Monday




The five wise men of Indian cricket, led by M.S.K. Prasad, will meet in Mumbai on Monday to pick the squad for the 2019 World Cup in England. While most of the players pick themselves, thanks to their consistent show in recent times, there are three main areas of concern that the selectors need to take a call on when they sit down to pick the 15-member squad.

The much-debated number four slot, whether Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik go as the second wicket-keeper behind MS Dhoni and finally, if the team will pick a fourth pacer or an additional third spinner considering that the wickets will be on the slower side at this time of the year in England.

Starting with the number four slot, while there have been talks ranging from Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer, it could well be that the team management will continue with the recent experiment of playing Vijay Shankar at the number four slot with Rahul being drafted as the official back-up opener as well as the answer to all the other top-order batting slots if and when any of the other batsman in the top line-up is injured or out of form.

Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar has also spoken about how Rahul can fit into any position in the batting order considering he is an opener and that his IPL form is something that cannot be ignored. Interestingly, former India opener Gautam Gambhir has also proposed the name of Sanju Samson. But the Kerala and Rajasthan Royals batsman has just not been consistent enough.

With the team management making it clear after the Nidahas Trophy that Rahul will be seen primarily as the third opener, he will only walk into the team as the back-up opener and not as a number four batsman. The fact that Shankar has continued to bat at number three or four in this Indian Premier League (IPL) for the Sunrisers Hyderabad is another hint that the team management might have asked him to carry on batting at the top.

While he told IANS on Friday that the move in the IPL wasn’t aimed at sealing the number four spot in the showpiece event, he does look like one of the favourites to seal the much-debated spot in Indian cricket at present.

What this also means is that the likes of Shreyas Iyer or Ajinkya Rahane will be out of the equation. While Iyer has been scoring heavily without the selectors acknowledging his efforts, Rahane has somehow failed to get the backing of the selectors even though he has proved himself whenever given an opportunity. In fact, he was a hit in the middle-order in the last ODI series that he played against South Africa.

The rest of the batsmen pick themselves with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma starting at the top, followed by Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav. Hardik Pandya fits in as the all-rounder who will also be looked at as a finisher.

Now the dilemma of the second wicket-keeper. This is another position that the selectors need to solve. They need to decide whether to pick Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant. While Pant the batsman is seen to have the X-factor that is needed to provide the push going into the later stages of the game, Karthik is considered a more experienced campaigner and one who would be able to keep calm on the big stage like the World Cup.

Who between the two finally seals the second wicket-keeper’s spot is likely to be the most discussed topic during the meeting on Monday. Pant also has the backing of the recent show in the IPL where he has impressed all with his hitting prowess.

After this comes the bowlers and while the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal pick themselves, the pace bowling attack will undoubtedly have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.

But here comes the third and final issue. While there have been talks of adding the fourth pacer, some in the team management also feel that three pacers are enough as Pandya can always act as the fourth bowler.

With the wickets likely to be more on the slower side in England during the World Cup (May to July), the team management is toying with the idea of dropping the idea of picking another pacer and drafting Ravindra Jadeja into the team. While he is known to be a brilliant fielder, his batting will also ensure that the lower-order looks better on paper.

If the team still does look at the extra pacer, Navdeep Saini could be the dark horse. But for now it looks like Jadeja is leading the race.

While both Prasad and captain Virat Kohli have made it amply clear that players’ performance in the IPL will not be considered, sources in the know of developments told IANS that it will indeed be difficult to ignore some of the breathtaking knocks played by the likes of Rahul and Pant among others.

India’s 15-member World Cup Squad (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik/Rishabh Pant.

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MS Dhoni turns 39: Forget the sunset, relive the sun-kissed memories MSD has given a billion hearts



Sourav Ganguly is widely credited with changing the face of Indian cricket. While that is a proven fact, the reason why Sachin Tendulkar refers to Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the greatest skipper he played under and the reason for Virat Kohli calling him ‘My Captain’ is because this person from Ranchi took Ganguly’s learnings and combined it with his own knowledge and rewrote the history books.

On Tuesday, Dhoni added a few more white hair to his beard and his fans added another candle to the cake as the nation celebrated his 39th birthday. At this age, cricketers are usually thinking about moving on from the game, try their hands at commentary or earning their coaching badges. But Dhoni is a bit different, just like how his career turned out to be. He is helping his critics earn their bread by constantly speculating over his future with the national team.

The reason why talking about Dhoni’s future is futile is because there is no one in this world who can guess what’s going on inside the calm head of his. Remember that Australia tour of 2014, when he hung up his Test boots mid-way through the series and handed over the armband of Kohli? Similarly, it was a sudden mail at ( p.m. from BCCI in 2017 to announce that he has stepped down as limited-overs captain.

So, it’s not about the role for him but the feeling of what is best for Indian cricket that keeps him going. And that feeling might still be burning inside his heart and could be that he is still hanging around the ODI and T20I teams because he knows Kohli may still need him behind the stumps if the youngsters are not able to fill his boots going into the next T20 World Cup which now looks to be the one which will be played in India in 2021.

Dinesh Karthik has been tried, Rishabh Pant has been given a long rope and now K.L. Rahul has been working on his keeping skills as the Indian team looks to move on from the Dhoni era. There have been contenders for the hotseat but the full package that teammates and fans are accustomed to behind the stumps still seems to be missing.

Due to his leadership skills it’s easy to forget that Dhoni is also one of the few batsmen in the world to have scaled Mount 10k in ODIs — no mean feat for someone who played the role of a finisher all his life. But more than his runs, Dhoni’s tactical acumen is what Kohli needs. Runs, Kohli knows that he can score bucket loads himself, but the masterplans that MSD used to devise for the bowlers for certain batsmen, you just can’t put a price on that. After all, you cannot buy experience in the market.

When Dhoni indeed walks into the sunset, it won’t be a festival-like goodbye that’s for sure. He will just walk away as if he wasn’t there at all. But the legacy that he will leave behind will be a gargantuan task for anyone to replicate or even follow.

He won’t be remembered for handing over the last over to Joginder Sharma in a T20 World Cup final. He won’t be remembered for his World Cup-winning six off Nuwan Kulasekara. He won’t be remembered for jumping in ecstasy after leading the team to the prestigious white jacket in England in the Champions Trophy. He will be simply remembered as a young bloke who broke into the team as a 23-year-old and gave a lifetime of memories, including the now-famous helicopter shot, to more than a billion people to cherish for the rest of their lives. Happy Birthay Our Captain.

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Happy Indian cricket got Dhoni because he is unbelievable: Sourav Ganguly




Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not only one of the best finishers in world cricket, he is a destructive top-order batsman too who should bat higher up, feels former India captain and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly. Dhoni, regarded as one of India’s finest leaders, turned 39 on Tuesday. It was under Ganguly that the Ranchi wicketkeeper batsman made his debut and went on to win all ICC trophies for India, the only captain to do so.

During a chat with India Test opener Mayank Agarwal which was shared by BCCI with hashtag #DadaOpensWithMayank, Agarwal asked him: “Your word got Mahi bhai picked in the Indian team and the rest is history. Is that a myth or a reality?”

“That’s true but that’s my job isn’t it. That’s every captain’s job…pick the best and make the best team possible,” Ganguly replied.

“You go by your instincts. You go by the faith of that player that he will deliver for you.

“I’m happy that Indian cricket got Mahendra Singh Dhoni because he is unbelievable.”

“One of the great finishers in the world, said Agarwal.

“One of the great players in world cricket. Not just a finisher, I think everyone talks about the way he finishes lower down the order…he batted at No. 3 when I was captain. He got 140 against Pakistan in Vizag..I always believe that he should bat up the order because he is so destructive,” Ganguly opined.

“You know the best player in the shorter format has the ability to hit boundaries at will. You look over a period of time, the history of one-day cricket…the best players can find the fence under pressure consistently and M.S. Dhoni was one of them,” he added.

Cricket fraternity thronged social media to extend birthday wishes for Dhoni who led India to an ICC 50-over World Cup, T20 World Cup and Champions Trophy in 2013. He even led India to the number one ranking in both Test and ODI formats.

Dhoni has been on a sabbatical ever since the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup where India lost to New Zealand. It’s been almost a year that he has been away from the cricket field, yet conversations about his return or future retirement have never died out in the time since and he still remains one of the most talked about cricketers in the present era.

Dhoni has played 90 Tests, 350 ODIs and 98 T20Is for India, amassing over 17,000 international runs.

Speculations about his retirement from all forms of international cricket have been on ever since the 2019 World Cup. But Dhoni has still not made any such announcement. However, one thing is for certain, whenever he hangs his boots, it will be a day when the entire country will have tears in their eyes, just like when Sachin Tendulkar drew curtains on his 24-year-old long career in Mumbai.

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Greyed a bit more, become smarter & sweeter: Sakshi wishes MS Dhoni



As M.S. Dhoni turned 39 on Tuesday, social media was flooded with birthday wishes with people from all walks wishing the former India captain on his special day. However, among all this, there was a special wish for Dhoni — the one from wife Sakshi.

“Marking the date you were born, another year older, greyed a bit more, become smarter and sweeter. You are a man who will not be moved by all the sweet wishes and gifts,” said Sakshi while posting several pictures of Dhoni on her Instagram handle.

“Let’s celebrate another year of your life by cutting a cake and blowing the candles! Happy Birthday, Husband!!” she added.

The couple got married on July 4, 2010. Dhoni became a proud father on February 6, 2015 to Ziva. At the time of her birth, he was in Australia as the captain of Indian team with the 2015 Cricket World Cup only a week to kick off. However, Dhoni decided not to travel back to India and was famously quoted saying that “I am on national duty, other things can wait”.

Dhoni, in November last year, had said that he is better than an ideal husband because he lets his wife Sakshi do whatever she wants.

Speaking at an event in Chennai, Dhoni had left the audience in splits with his speech on marriage. The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman had said: “All men are like lions before marriage. The real essence of marriage is once you cross the age of 55. I let my wife do everything she wants because if my wife is happy then I am happy.”

Dhoni has been on a sabbatical ever since the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup where India lost to New Zealand. He was supposed to lead Chennai Super Kings in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League which currently remains indefinitely suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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