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‘Those last two overs were like hell’ – Shreyas Iyer

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Delhi Capitals captain Shreyas Iyer has said the last two overs of their chase in the IPL eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad were “like hell”. In that time, Capitals saw a straightforward equation of 12 runs from 12 balls come down to two needed off the last two with three wickets also falling in between.

Capitals were 151 for 5, chasing a target of 163, but lost Sherfane Rutherford, Rishabh Pant and Amit Mishra in the next ten balls, before Keemo Paul pulled Khaleel Ahmed for the winning boundary off the penultimate delivery. Capitals will now meet Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier to decide who goes through to the final against Mumbai Indians.

“I can’t express my emotions,” Iyer said at the presentation ceremony, after Capitals had won their first ever IPL playoff or knockout match. “It was such a pressure situation. I was just sitting with my teammates and it felt as if I’ve been sitting with them for years! Those last two overs it was like hell, to be honest.

“I could see the happiness in everyone’s faces, and it was an amazing feeling to see them coming out and expressing themselves. Obviously the joy we’re going to share after victory is going to be really good. And yes, hoping for another one against Chennai. We’re definitely not going to be intimidated by any team. Looking forward to the next game.”

The chase for Capitals was set up by Prithvi Shaw‘s 56 off 38 at the top of the order, before Rishabh Pant blasted 49 off 21 to take them to the brink of victory. Iyer said he didn’t interfere with the instincts of both young batsmen, preferring to let them express themselves.

“I personally feel they are the sort of batsmen you can’t [try to] control,” Iyer said. “You just have to leave them on their own and not say anything to them. Because if you say anything, it will play in their minds. When you stop a batsman like Rishabh or Prithvi, if you stop their flow, definitely they are not going to perform up to your expectation. Such situations if they go with their flow, they can win you matches, and it was really amazing to see both of them chipping in today and taking our team through.”

Pant had blasted Basil Thampi for 22 runs in the 18th over, changing the complexion of the match and ensuring Capitals could get over the line despite their late collapse from 151 for 5 to 161 for 8. Pant himself was out in the 19th over, leaving Capitals five to get from seven balls.

“If you are set inside on a wicket like this you need to finish the match for the team. I took it very close, but in the end I couldn’t finish the match. Next time I’ll try to finish it for my team,” Pant, the Player of the Match, said. “I just try to be positive every time I go in. If your mindset is negative, it’s difficult to play your shots. Especially in T20 when you’re set, and you need some 40 runs in four overs, you have to have a big over. That’s what I did today. I didn’t try to hit the ball too hard, I just took my time and in the end, I was just trying to time the ball and it went all my way today.”

The pitch at the ACA stadium in Visakhapatnam was sticky, with the ball not coming on to the bat and scoring becoming more difficult after the Powerplay. Sunrisers got off to a good start after being put in, with Martin Guptill hitting a 19-ball 36, but Capitals pulled things back.

“The start they got was really good on this track. It was really tough to control Martin Guptill,” Iyer said. “The way he carried on with this flow in the Powerplay, I think they got an above-par score. We controlled in between, especially Mishy bhai (Amit Mishra) with that amazing spell, coming up and giving 15-odd runs I guess (1 for 16 in four overs). He was exceptionally good. The other bowlers came and chipped in with good economic bowling. Overall, really happy with the efforts of our bowlers. It was a good wicket to bat against the seamers, but 160 was a good total to defend on this wicket.”



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India’s attack reminds me of West Indies’ in ’80s and ’90s – Brian Lara

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A “force to reckon with” no matter where they play in the world, with an “unbelievable” bowling attack and an “ultimate captain” who leads from the front, is what West Indies great Brian Lara thinks of the current India team.

The Indians, under Virat Kohli, has been ranked No. 1 in the world since October 2016, and at home they recently won their 11th consecutive series to reinforce their status as international cricket’s best Test side. They are also the only unbeaten side in the World Test Championship so far, with four wins and 200 points.

Lara heaped praise on India’s bowling attack, saying it reminded him of the West Indies attack of the 1980s and 1990s, and pointed out that unlike earlier, India are not just good at home now but respected as an opposition while travelling too.

ALSO READ: Pollard as captain ‘a step in the right direction’ for West Indies – Lara

“The Indian outfit – batting, bowling and fielding – is exceptional,” Lara said at an event in Mumbai. “I thought their fast bowlers were sometimes unplayable [during the recent Test series in the West Indies]. So starting with that you’ve got to give India credit with where their cricket is; they’re at a very high point.

“Unbelievable. I saw them in the West Indies and I must say what I was accustomed to in the past, in the ’90s and early part of the 21st century, this is a little bit exceptional, this is pretty special.

“When you look at the quality – [Mohammed] Shami, [Jasprit] Bumrah, [Umesh] Yadav, they are unbelievable. And the guys that you have on the sidelines, it reminds me a little bit of what the West Indies had back in the ’80s and ’90s… the reserve strength is very important in assessing a team’s ability. If your reserve strength is very good – Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and all these guys are sitting on the sidelines – then it means that your attack is quality.

“We all know the Indian team was not the most respected when they travelled. They were very respected at home but now India on a world stage anywhere they play is a force to be reckoned with.”

Lara added that the Indian team was headed in the right direction but they had to win consistently and over a period of time to be considered one of the best teams ever, like Australia were under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting in the 1990s and 2000s, and West Indies were under Clive Lloyd prior to that.

“Well, those teams dominated world cricket… the West Indies in the ’70s and ’80s, the Australians in the ’90s and the early part of the 21st century. India has that capability,” Lara said when asked to compare. “Obviously at home they are very strong, they’ve always been very, very strong.

“They’re now travelling well, they’re playing abroad and beating oppositions, which is great. World cricket is a lot more competitive now, Australia, South Africa and England. So India will have to do it over a period of time, dominating all teams to be considered. But they are definitely a top cricketing nation at the moment.”

India have developed a formidable bowling attack in Tests. They have Bumrah, Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh as the frontline quicks, while R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav make up the spin department. One area of concern for India over the last couple of years was not having a stable opening pair. With impressive starts to their Test careers for Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw, and now Rohit Sharma scoring centuries in each innings of his maiden Test as opener, the team management has more options to choose from in the near future.

“Indian cricket is heading in the right direction, I think it’s influenced by some of the best people so obviously they’re reaping the benefits of it.”

Brian Lara

“I think Rohit Sharma is an awesome player in all varieties of the game,” Lara said. “Obviously in the limited-overs aspect he’s been all through successful. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be in Test cricket. It seems like he has the passion to play, he wants to play [Tests], he wants to prove himself at that stage as well. To exclude a player like that will be very difficult, with the talent that we see in him. So hopefully, he can be successful. I think he’s got the gift.”

Kohli strengthened his case as one of the best batsmen of this era across formats with an unbeaten 254 against South Africa in the second Test, which India won, making it his 30th win as captain in only 50 games, and also closing in on Steven Smith as the top-ranked batsman in the format.

“He [Kohli] is the ultimate captain in terms of his performances, he leads by example in all aspects of the game, on and off the field as well,” Lara said. “And he came on after MS Dhoni. Obviously, he [Dhoni] laid the foundation, he did things a different way. So Indian cricket is heading in the right direction, I think it’s influenced by some of the best people so obviously they’re reaping the benefits of it.

“I think it stems from the role models. Sachin [Tendulkar] will talk about Sunil Gavaskar as his role model. I feel that in the ’90s, even though they weren’t amazingly successful, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, and what they did and stood for, it was a different sort of Indian cricket team coming in and moulding [mindsets] and trying to play good cricket all around the world and be successful.

“We all still reminisce about Sourav Ganguly taking off his shirt and the success that they had in Australia and in the Caribbean. The team now, using role models of the ’90s is showing how good they are and playing on various conditions around the world.”



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‘What matters is what MS Dhoni wants’ – Sourav Ganguly on retirement

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In November 2008, Indian cricket witnessed one of its more poignant sights when Sourav Ganguly was asked by MS Dhoni, the captain, to lead out the Indian team in the closing moments of Ganguly’s farewell Test. The back story to that decision added to the sentiment of the moment – earlier that year, Dhoni had not picked Ganguly (and Rahul Dravid) in the ODI squad for the tri-series in Australia, forcing Ganguly to return home when the Test-match leg of that tour ended.

Now, 11 years on, the tables have turned to some extent, with Ganguly in a position to influence the final stages of Dhoni’s career, which began in spectacular fashion on his watch. On October 23, Ganguly will take charge as the BCCI president; the next day he will sit with the selection committee to discuss, among other things, Dhoni’s future.

Dhoni has not featured in any limited-overs series India have played since the World Cup, in the West Indies and at home against South Africa. Ganguly has always maintained that Dhoni would need to be clear about the road ahead and communicate that to the team management led by Virat Kohli, the captain, and Ravi Shastri, the head coach, and most importantly the selection panel.

On Wednesday, Ganguly reiterated his stand, saying he would first seek clarity from MSK Prasad’s selection panel. “I need to find out from the selectors when I meet them next. We should find out what the selectors think,” Ganguly told reporters in Kolkata. “It’s not my opinion. I was nowhere in the picture all these days. My first selection committee meeting will be on the 24th.”

He said he might speak to Dhoni if needed. “What he (Dhoni) wants to do, what he doesn’t (want) to do…What matters is what Dhoni wants. Maybe there is clarity between Dhoni and the selectors, but I do not know of it as yet. Neither side has discussed anything with me. They’ll decide on the way forward.”

It’s consistent with his earlier statements on Dhoni’s future, that there was no pressing need for him to leave the game. In March, Ganguly had said if Dhoni continued to be a key performer there was no reason why he should not carry on even after the World Cup. This was weeks after Dhoni finished as the Man of the Series in the three-match ODI series in Australia with three match-turning half-centuries. “Age is never a factor if talent is there,” Ganguly had said.

Post the World Cup, Ganguly said the onus was on Kohli, as captain, to decide on Dhoni’s future. “Virat is very important as to what he is communicating to Dhoni. What he (Kohli) expects of him (Dhoni) is very hard to say. But I don’t think anybody should jump the gun and pass a statement. If Virat and the team management expect Dhoni to come back and play, he will play. If they feel like moving forward, they would move forward. Of course, the selectors will also play an important role.”

Ganguly did point out that Dhoni would need to take that “hard call” every athlete needs to take as the time comes to wind down. But he made it clear that Dhoni was not the “elephant in the room” as far as he was concerned. “I don’t think there is any elephant in the room. Rishabh (Pant) is not Dhoni. Rishabh will not become Dhoni in the next three-four years. It took 15 years for Dhoni to become who he is.”

It was Ganguly as India captain who told senior journalist Pradeep Magazine to watch out for a youngster from Ranchi. Dhoni had impressed Ganguly with his power-packed batting in domestic cricket and he soon made his debut for India under Ganguly’s leadership.

Ganguly would continue to provide confidence, space, and time for Dhoni to convert his raw, brutal strength into something more dependable and consistent. Not just as a batsman but even as a wicketkeeper. Ganguly had even marked Dhoni as a back-up wicketkeeper for the 2004 tour of Pakistan.

In only his fifth ODI, Dhoni was promoted to No. 3 by Ganguly. In the previous four matches, Dhoni’s highest was 12. In Visakhapatnam, the opponent was Pakistan. Dhoni blasted his maiden ODI century – 148 off 123 – which remains his second-highest score in the format.

Fourteen years on, Dhoni continues to be relevant to India. However, he is 38 years old. The selectors think Pant needs more exposure and time to settle, something Ganguly helped Dhoni with when the wicketkeeper entered international cricket. Once again, Ganguly is around and is likely to play a hand in deciding Dhoni’s fate.



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Recent Match Report – Queensland vs South Australia, Sheffield Shield, 5th Match

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Queensland 7 for 242 (Hemphrey 64, Street 53*, Agar 3-29) lead South Australia 221 (Andrews 78, Cooper 69, Neser 5-56) by 21 runs

Patient half-centuries from Charlie Hemphrey and debutant Bryce Street helped Queensland claim the lead against South Australia on a rain-affected second day at the Gabba.

Just four balls were bowled in the morning session as rain denied the Redbacks any chance to make further inroads following Wes Agar’s triple-strike late on day one.

Marnus Labuschagne and Hemphrey batted steadily when play resumed post-lunch building a 63-run stand while the ball still nipped and swung for South Australia’s seam bowlers. Labuschagne’s frustrating run of uncapitalised starts continued when he edged a superb delivery from the Nick Winter to second slip, having been squared-up on the back foot.

Hemphrey was joined by Street and the pair set about recapturing their form from Queensland’s 2nd XI earlier this month where they combined for a sensational 412-run stand against Victoria’s second XI. On that occasion, Street made 345 not out and Hemphrey 151.

Against a highly-skilled first-class attack on a more challenging Gabba strip, they had to settle for hard-working half-centuries in an 83-run stand that took nearly 46 overs to compile. Hemphrey struck eight boundaries in his 64 but would be very disappointed with his dismissal. Having nearly steered Queensland into the lead he inexplicably chipped Tom Andrews to mid-off to expose the lower order against the second new ball with the lights in full effect to brighten a dark grey sky.

Winter returned to wreak havoc. He found the outside edge of Jimmy Peirson with a similar delivery to that which removed Labuschagne, swinging in and nipping away from the right hander from a good length. He nearly trapped Michael Neser lbw first ball with a full inswinger but got him a couple of overs later with one that swerved late back through the gate to finish with three wickets for the day.

Street held firm reaching his maiden half-century in his debut innings with a lovely straight drive. The umpires decided the natural light had faded too much with two balls left in the 87th over and called an end to the day. Queensland will resume on day three with a slender lead of 21.



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