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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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Virat Kohli: MS Dhoni played a big role in my becoming captain

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Virat Kohli has credited MS Dhoni with playing a significant role in anointing him as his successor as India captain.

Kohli took over as the full-time Test captain when Dhoni retired from the format midway through India’s tour of Australia in 2014-15, and later became captain across formats when Dhoni quit his limited-overs post in early 2017.

Kohli said the process was a gradual one of “earning trust” over several years.

“I was always inclined towards taking responsibility,” Kohli said of his early days in the India dressing room, during an Instagram chat with team-mate R Ashwin. “After that it was all about just wanting to play, wanting to be in the XI regularly. I didn’t play all the games, but I wanted to be discussed, that ‘whether this guy is good enough to play or not.’ That is a transition that slowly happens.

“Then with your interest in the game you start talking to the captain regularly. I was always in MS’s ear, standing next to him, saying, ‘We can do this, we can do that.’ He would deny a lot of things but he would discuss a lot of things as well. I think he got a lot of confidence that I can do this after him.

“A large portion of me becoming captain was also to do with him observing me for a long period of time. It can’t just happen that he goes and the selectors say, ‘Okay you become captain.’ Obviously the guy who is there takes responsibility and says, ‘Okay I think this is the next guy. I will tell you how it is going.’ And then slowly that transition is formed. He played a big role in that, and that trust you have to build over six-seven years. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process.”

Kohli was first appointed vice-captain for the 2012 Asia Cup, which followed India’s tour of Australia for a Test series and a tri-series in 2011-12. In a tour that otherwise went poorly for India, who were blanked 4-0 in the Tests and failed to reach the tri-series final, Kohli emerged with distinction. He scored his maiden Test century in the fourth match at Adelaide, becoming the only India batsman to reach three figures in that series. In the ODIs, he made his then highest score in the format , smashing 133* off just 86 balls as India chased down a target of 321 in 36.4 overs to keep their hopes of making the final alive.

Kohli said that tour helped him become aware of his game and hone it significantly. “I remember that whole season,” he said. “It was from that Test hundred in Adelaide to continuously stringing scores. That was a phase of six to eight months where I really realised a lot about my own game and came into my own as far as my skills were concerned.

“I was very competitive but I wasn’t very sure or in control of what I wanted to do before. When you come in new, you’re still figuring out how to go about it. At the international stage you want to be feared, you want to be respected. You don’t want to walk in and hear, ‘He’s one of the youngsters, we’ll just knock him over.’ We all play for that. That was a phase where I started to realise this.”

In the Asia Cup that followed, Kohli made 183 in another tall chase, against Pakistan. He revealed that during this knock, he had negated the threat posed by Saeed Ajmal by treating the offspinner as if he were a legspinner.

“I told myself I’m going to start playing him like a legspinner,” Kohli said. “Because his doosra was quite difficult to face and his offspinner was not that lethal. So I said I’m going to try and hit him over cover consistently, and it just paid off. As soon as I negated his doosra, the potency of his threat became lesser and lesser.

“In that game I scored most of my runs against him through the off side [29 off 10 balls on the off side and 7 off 7 on the leg side]. My only aim was I’m going to make him unsettled with his doosra. He should fear bowling the doosrato me, then I’m on top of my game.”



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Rohit Sharma nominated for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award

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The BCCI has nominated Rohit Sharma for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India’s highest sporting honour. The board has also nominated India fast bowler Ishant Sharma, opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan and India woman allrounder Deepti Sharma for the Arjuna award.

Rohit’s Khel Ratna nomination comes on the back of an outstanding 2019 with the bat: 556 runs at an average of 92.66 in five Test matches, all while opening the batting for the first time; and 1657 ODI runs at 57.30, including the unprecedented feat of five centuries at a single World Cup.

If Rohit wins the award, he will become only the fourth cricketer, after Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, to do so.

“We went through a lot of data and considered various parameters before shortlisting the nominees,” Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, said via a media release. “Rohit Sharma has set new benchmarks as a batsman and achieved scores people thought were not possible in the shorter formats of the game. We feel he is worthy of getting the prestigious Khel Ratna award for his commitment, conduct, consistency and his leadership skills.

“Ishant Sharma is the most senior member of the Test squad and his contribution has been vital in Indian team’s long run as the No. 1 Test side. Fast bowlers are prone to injuries and Ishant has had a fair share of them but he has fought hard to be back on the park every time. Shikhar has been consistently scoring at the top and his performances in the ICC events have been significant. Deepti is a genuine allrounder and her contribution to the team has been vital.”



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Kent and Mohammad Nabi agree to cancel T20 Blast deal

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Kent and Mohammad Nabi have mutually agreed to cancel the Afghanistan allrounder’s contract for the 2020 Vitality Blast, due to uncertainty around the English summer caused by Covid-19.

Nabi had been due to return for his second season at Canterbury, having made an impact with bat and ball in 2019. He scored 147 runs at a strike rate of 153.12 to go with eight wickets, as Kent narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout stages.

“There was a lot of excitement around Nabi returning as a Kent Spitfire in 2020, but unfortunately the uncertainty around the cricket schedule during this current crisis means that this isn’t possible this year,” Kent’s director of cricket, Paul Downton, said.

“He was very popular amongst the squad, staff and supporters here last season and it was great to bring his experience to the club first time around. Hopefully there will be an opportunity for Nabi to join us again in the near future.”

All professional cricket has been put on hold in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there are hopes of playing some County Championship games, as well as the T20 Blast from August.



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