Injuries, familiar problems stand between RCB and silverware

INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE, 2017

Injuries, familiar problems stand between RCB and silverware

MS Ramakrishnan • Last updated on Sun, 02 Apr, 2017, 09:57 PM

In Kohli and Rahul’s absence, AB de Villiers will have to shoulder much of the batting responsibility at the start of the season. © BCCI

Royal Challengers Bangalore are easily one of the most entertaining teams in the IPL. There’s a Virat Kohli-led enviable ensemble of batters on the field, well complemented by raucous supporters in the stands and millions on YouTube channel. It’s perfect… nearly. For, all that’s missing now, is silverware.

RCB’s batting unit has World Cup and World T20 winners, the No. 1 batsman of the format and even a proven IPL performer. And yet the team has failed to be crowned champions. But it’s also easy to see why they haven’t tasted glory – they’ve been a lopsided, batting-heavy line-up. Kohli left peers, opponents and every single pair of eyes on last year’s IPL, dumbstruck with his unmatched form with the bat. He amassed 973 runs, with four centuries, and single-handedly powered them to the final.

A brand, new edition of IPL, after a long home season, has opened a different, potentially debilitating challenges for RCB. Even their stronger batting suit will now have to be shouldered by different heads following injuries to Kohli and KL Rahul. The captain will be reassessed for participation after a couple of weeks while Rahul, behind only Kohli and de Villiers in the team’s batting charts last season, will give the whole season a miss.

The team were dealt a massive blow when Mitchell Starc – their most potent weapon in the bowling department – opted out of the tournament’s 2017 edition. This meant they had to go hammer and tongs at the auction for a top-class bowler. They showed that by going the distance with a whopping INR 12 crore bid in an intense four-way bidding war for England fast bowler Tymal Mills, who has earned the reputation of being a versatile fast bowler – a prerequisite for one plying his trade in T20s.

The team management seemed to have gone into the auction with a clear mindset, wanting to beef up their bowling battalion. The second most notable addition to the squad was Rajasthan’s left-arm seamer Aniket Choudhary, who was bought for INR 2 crore from a base price of 10 lakh. In fact, when the auctions were happening, Aniket, who bowls at a decent pace and swings the ball, was actually bowling to Virat Kohli in the nets to prepare India for the Starc test ahead of the four-match series against Australia.

RCB look a very good team on paper and with a lot of uncertainties over the reshuffling of squads for IPL-11 next year, they’d hope to give their 100 percent for the title this season, for it could be tough to assemble such a formidable unit.

One individual who’d desperate to perform well on the field is Chris Gayle, who had an average season in 2016. In fact, it was just the second season with RCB where Gayle did not record a triple-figure score, after 2014. He was no more a sure-shot selection in the playing XI despite his decorated T20 career, so much so that he was even left out of the eleven a few times last season. With Rahul ruled out, the need for Gayle to rekindle his best form becomes imperative.

The build up to IPL-10, however, has not been great for the left-hander, with quiet outings in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Pakistan Super League that followed. A good season is vital to Gayle’s future at RCB, especially with the aforementioned shuffling of squads in 2018.

Strengths

RCB’s batting line-up is undoubtedly the best in the tournament. Even with Kohli out for a couple of weeks at least, Gayle, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson should be able to pack enough in their punch to put bowling sides in trouble and turn games on their head.

Weaknesses

A no-brainer really. There is absolutely no doubt that accuracy with the ball, especially in the death overs, has been a major problem for RCB. Barring Starc, who could nail reverse-swinging yorkers at will, they haven’t managed to snap up any special talent. Their big-money buy Mills has the opportunity to rid RCB of their bowling woes.

Opportunities

Yuzvendra Chahal’s rise as a quality leg-spinner has been quite impressive with his RCB showing, so much so that he made the national selectors take note and even earned an India cap. This season, he plays a key role in their bowling plans and his consistency levels will be closely monitored.

Pawan Negi, their newest buy, had a forgettable outing last year after going for a massive bid of INR 8.5 crore from Delhi Daredevils in the 2016 auction. This time around, at RCB, he could well be named ahead of Iqbal Abdulla – their second-choice Indian spinner in 2016 – because of his potential to hit the ball long and clean.

Stuart Binny has not quite managed to be in the limelight at the international circuit since the emergence of Hardik Pandya. With RCB likely to have three front-line pacers, the Karnataka all-rounder gives them the extra medium-pace option with swing up front with the new ball, in addition to his big-hitting abilities with the bat. An excellent season could give him a great chance of knocking on the selectors’ doors once more, with India set to move out of their home comforts in the coming seasons.

Many eyes will be on Kedar Jadhav – the finisher. He gave India a lot of hope of fitting into the role in the middle-order during the ODIs against England and his ability to handle pressure situations is something the selectors would want to zoom in on during this season.

Threats

Yes, the Chinnaswamy stadium is a great place for fans to enjoy T20 cricket, but the bowlers are generally none-too-pleased. The reason, you ask? Short boundaries and a batsmen-friendly strip. No target is safe and the toss becomes far too vital. It is for this reason, the Chinnaswamy has never quite evolved into a fortress for the home side.

What the schedule holds

RCB would want to have a close eye on how they begin the season. Winning just two out of their first seven games put immense pressure on the team last year, although they won six games out of seven in the second half of the tournament and even managed a top-two finish.They have an even spread of home and away games and also finish off their two games against bogey team Sunrisers Hyderabad well in advance. They close out their season with two games and an away trip to Delhi. It is an itinerary that could have so easily been worse.

The team would be better served if the middle-order manages to stay in good touch through the league phase, should they progress beyond. Kohli and de Villiers batted out most of the overs last year – but the chances of the duo having such a dream season simultaneously yet again could be too much to ask for, even if the two are known to defy the law of averages and probabilities on a routine basis.

Ideal Starting XI: Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, AB de Villiers (stand-in captain), Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Pawan Negi/Iqbal Abdulla, Yuzvendra Chahal, Tymal Mills, Sreenath Arvind/Aniket Choudhary

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West Indies vs Pakistan, 4th T20I, Pakistan tour of West Indies, 2017

Sarfraz marches up, collects the silverware and calls his team upon to pose with the Champions board. If this series was any indication, this could well be the first of a few more on this tour. A huge moment this for all the youngsters, products of the PSL, who’ve stepped up here in rescuing their side just when things seemed to slip away from there. Until the seventh of April, it is time for us to pack our bags from the Caribbean. I’ve been Vineet Anantharaman in the company of Sagar Chawla and Venkatesh bringing you the action. Ta ta!!

Shadab Khan, Man of the Series: “I was bowling slightly faster yesterday. I worked on that and it made a huge difference as I was getting the ball to turn. I don’t mind bowling to either left or right handers.”

Brathwaite: “I really cannot put my finger on anything but we just did not do well today. After the start we had, we were looking to cruise to a big total. We were planning to set a total of 150 but we did not even get close which cost us dear. Rotation of strike is very important but so is keeping wickets in hand. Had we had around 50 dot balls, it could have been different. As a team, the attitude and the fight that we showed would hold us good going forward.”

Sarfraz: “Credit goes to the players, especially the bowlers who did the job for us. The plan was to use Shadab outside the powerplays. The fielding was the best we’ve seen in a long time. Looking forward to the ODI series coming up.”

Hasan Ali, Man of the Match: “The plan was to bowl wicket to wicket. Yesterday’s match wasn’t all that good but the plan was to bowl into the pitch today. Yes, there was a bit of reverse swing around.”

Pakistan wouldn’t complain, not everyday do you get to inflict a 3-1 drubbing away from home. Against the World Champs too. This Windies side had some serious world beaters too, most of whom would now be on their flight for the madness in India. Sets the remainder of the One-Day leg up perfectly for them. Hang in there, the presentations coming your way..

All too easy. Pakistan did try their best towards the end in spicing up matters. But in the end, a target as sub-par as this just did not merit any competition. A good time for Shehzad to hit his straps and find himself some form and he used the opportunity to get himself some spot-saving runs. Babar Azam once again showed how it looks to be elegant while spanking boundaries. Nothing went the way of the Windies in their defence of 125. Pollard hurting his knee at the fence, catches being put down, misfields and some wayward bowling. Eventually, it was the 66 dot balls with the bat in their hands that came back to haunt them.

18.6 Holder to Shoaib Malik, FOUR, seals it in style. Gets a wide tired full toss for help and Malik this time stoops, crouches and stabs it square. That’s the series to Pakistan. 3-1

18.5 Holder to Sarfraz, 1 run, a desperate adventurous tap and a run. To cover. And had he connected with his throw, it could have been curtains. 2 runs needed. Final delivery?
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SRH expect Mustafizur to join squad on April 7

IPL 2017

SRH expect Mustafizur to join squad on April 7

JAC Gladson • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 07:16 AM

Mustafizur is not expected to be available for many games this season. © Getty

Slowly but surely, the Sunrisers Hyderabad are hitting their stride. Their training schedule was thrown off gear by a virus that had laid the first batch of players low, including their bowling mentor Muttiah Muralitharan. But they have recovered from that blow and it’s all systems go for the defending champions what with most of their players joining the team on Sunday (April 2).

However, Mustafizur Rahman, their bowling mainstay last season, will miss the opening match of IPL 10 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on April 5. The Bangladeshi leftarm seamer, who confounded many batting line-ups to finish fifth in the bowling charts with 17 sticks last season, will join the team on April 7 and is likely to play only a few matches this season.

Coach Tom Moody confirmed the development. “We’re expecting him (Mustafizur) to be here on the 7th. Unless we hear differently from the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), we’ll continue to expect him.

“One of the reasons why we secured both these talents (Ben Laughlin & Chris Jordan) is we knew Mustafizur is going to be available for only small portion of the tournament. We felt it was important to fill that gap and these guys have got excellent skills that enable us to have that option to be able to finish games,” he said.

The SRH coach was also confident that skipper David Warner, who with 848 runs finished No.2 in the batting charts after Virat Kohli (973), would be fresh and raring to go despite the gruelling Test series against India.

“We’ve given him (Warner) an extra couple of days in Sydney to be with his family. We recognise as a franchise that family is important and in also keeping players fresh mentally. He’s sending possible XIs for the games, so he hasn’t switched off. He’s just having a chance to recharge those batteries. Physically he’s absolutely fine. 100% fit and I think the extra couple of days the franchise has allowed him back home with his two young daughters and his wife will pay dividends as the tournament unfolds,” he said.

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County Championship: Know your squads – Part I

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

County Championship: Know your squads – Part I

Rob Johnston • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 12:20 AM

Essex won Division Two last season © Getty

Derbyshire

Last season: 9th in Division Two

It has been all change at Derbyshire over the winter with Kim Barnett, installed as the club’s new Director of Cricket, wasting no time in putting his mark on things. It was clear that something had to be done: Derbyshire finished bottom of the County Championship without a win last season.

There is genuine hope for better this time out, though, much of it due to an influx of players which has given the squad a depth it lacked last year. Ireland’s Gary Wilson, signed from Surrey, and a trio of South Africans, Imran Tahir, Hardus Viljoen and Daryn Smit, the latter two on Kolpak deals, have all arrived and will add much needed experience and quality to the squad.

The signings of Tahir and Viljoen in particular, will give captain Billy Goddleman a cutting edge that Derbyshire lacked last season when they garnered the least bowling bonus points of any county. Throw in young leg-spinner Matt Critchley, who spent the winter in Sydney working with Stuart MacGill, and reliable fast bowler Tony Palladino and the attack has a decent look to it.

Barnett has also introduced a revamped coaching structure which will see Goddleman and the players effectively managing the Championship and 50-over teams without a head coach. The hope is that this will force the players to take more responsibility for the success of the side. For the T20 campaign, John Wright has been hired as a specialist coach.

Despite the improvements to the squad, expectations should be tempered with a dose of realism. Come the end of the season, Derbyshire are unlikely to be in the mix for promotion but they should fare better than last year and pick up a few wins along the way. After a harrowing campaign last season, that should be regarded as success in itself.

Durham

Last season: 4th in Division One (enforced relegation by ECB due to financial failings)

The sanctions placed on Durham by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for financial failings were intended to act as a warning to other counties but they are clearly punitive. Not only will Durham be playing in Division Two this season, they will start with a 48-point penalty.

Typically, Durham have faced their situation with stoicism. Ian Botham has been appointed as chairman and has been bullish in his still targeting promotion while Keaton Jennings, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood have all remained with the county when they could have been tempted elsewhere.

Durham could not, however, hang on to everyone. Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, both of whom scored over 1,000 Championship runs last season, have moved to Surrey, which leaves the batting looking short. Much will be expected of Jennings, although he should be with England for much of the Test match summer, and captain Paul Collingwood.

The additions of Test batsmen South African Stephen Cook and New Zealander Tom Latham as overseas players will also certainly help plug some of the gap and young Jack Burnham will have to step up as well.

Conversely, the bowling looks strong with Wood, Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth all top-class operators and young left-arm seamer James Weighall showing glimpses of potential. Spinner Ryan Pringle will hope to do better than last year’s disappointing showing, particularly as Durham will be without Borthwick’s leg-spin.

Despite the points penalty and departures, Durham certainly have the class and character to challenge for promotion this season. The strength of their bowling attack should be too good for many of the sides in Division Two and this will give them every chance of reclaiming their position in the top flight at the first time of asking.

Essex

Last season: 1st in Division Two

After a fine season last year, Essex will be an unknown quantity in their first appearance in the top flight since 2010. A group of young cricketers have to prove themselves capable of performing against better teams, but in Nick Browne, Jamie Porter, Dan Lawrence and Aaron Beard together with Tom Westley, Essex have a strong nucleus of homegrown talent.

They have also recruited well. Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater, two players with top-flight experience, have arrived, as has top-class South African spinner Simon Harmer on a Kolpak deal. Add in New Zealand fast-bowler Neil Wagner as an overseas player for the start of the season and Essex’s squad looks deeper and stronger than for many a year.

Importantly, Alastair Cook will also be available until July and should play nine or ten Championship games in all. The former England Test captain will be relied on, together with the experienced duo of Ravi Bopara and captain Ryan ten Doeschate, to help the younger batsmen adjust to the greater intensity and quality of Division One’s attacks.While the batting is clearly Essex’s strength, the bowling attack looks perhaps short of another fast bowler. Porter, 23, who has 121 first-class wickets at 27.73, and Matt Dixon will lead the attack with Wagner and Beard and Paul Walter will also have opportunities. Harmer’s spin will be important on the better pitches of Division One but whether Essex can take 20 wickets regularly remains to be seen.

The first target of coach Chris Silverwood will be to avoid relegation but if they have a good start and Cook finds form, they may spring a surprise towards the top half of the division. For the likes of Westley and Browne, a stellar season could also see them pushing for England spots. The future at Chelmsford looks particularly bright.

Glamorgan

Last season: 8th in Division Two

On paper, last season was a pretty dismal one for Glamorgan. They finished second-bottom in Division Two and won just three games all year. Worse than that, they lost half of their Championship games.

Yet there were signs that the county may be about to have a decent period. A group of excellent young batsmen in Aneurin Donald, David Lloyd and Will Bragg announced themselves with some standout innings even if the consistency required at first-class level was somewhat lacking. These three have the ability to be the heart of Glamorgan’s batting for a decade.

In the bowling department, there was perhaps less to shout about even though Tim van der Gugten and Michael Hogan shared 105 Championship wickets between them. Spinner Andrew Salter has not kicked on and Graham Wagg and Craig Meschede failed to deliver in any consistent way and will need to do better. Young seamer Lukas Carey should get more opportunities this term after impressing in limited opportunities so far.

Hopes for a better 2017 will depend largely on the inexperienced batting line-up finding more consistency, which will need captain Jacques Rudolph, who averaged under 25 last season, in form, and the back-up bowlers giving Hogan and van der Gugten more support. There is plenty of talent in the squad but they need to deliver on a more regular basis.

Eight losses in 16 games last year suggests a lack of fight when the going got tough but it was largely due to a lack of experience amongst a young squad, one further depleted this season by the retirement of Dean Cosker after 20 years. They will be better for it and although a mid-table finish, and no more, is likely this term, Glamorgan are moving in the right direction.

Gloucestershire

Last season:6th in Division Two

Gloucestershire started their outdoor season earlier than any other county, playing Oxford University on 16th March, and coach Richard Dawson hopes this will give them the ability to start well in the first four games, matches he has targeted as setting the tone for their first-class campaign. There has been no overhaul of the squad despite a middling Championship season last year with only four wins from their 16 games. Experienced wicket-keeper batsman Phil Mustard has joined from Durham and Australian Cameron Bancroft will replace fellow Western Australian Michael Klinger who will only play limited-overs cricket for Gloucestershire this season.

Dawson wants his current group to step up more consistently than last summer, something that will be even more important without Klinger, who averaged over 70 last season, and Hamish Marshall who has retired. Much will be expected of Chris Dent, who scored three Championship hundreds last year, and Graeme van Buuren to replace those runs.

The bowling attack looks marginally the stronger suit with fast bowlers Craig Miles, Liam Norwell and David Payne all proven performers and young Josh Shaw, 21, having plenty of promise too. If Gloucestershire can score enough runs, that attack should have enough about it to take 20 wickets although they do lack a spinner of note for when the pitches firm up in mid-summer.

Gloucestershire may have to settle for a mid-table finish once again in the Championship. Their squad looks more suited to one-day cricket and lacking in four-day class which shouldn’t trouble the better sides. They do have enough about them though to pick up a few wins along the way.

Hampshire

Last season: 8th in Division One (retained top flight status due to Durham’s relegation)

Whatever the wrongs or rights of Durham’s relegation, Hampshire, the beneficiaries, are keen to focus on putting right a season they felt should never have seen them relegated anyway. They lost just four games in 2016 but drew ten which ultimately saw them finish just below Lancashire and, until Durham’s demotion, headed towards Division Two.

This year, the Hampshire squad has a stronger look to it than last season which has given them hope of being involved at the top end this time out. Michael Carberry has returned after a battle with cancer and Reece Topley is also back fit after missing most of the year with injury. James Vince, away with England for much of last summer, will also likely be around far more.

Added to those three has been some canny recruitment. Two high-class South Africans, Kyle Abbot and Rilee Rossouw, have arrived on Kolpak deals and George Bailey will fulfil the overseas duties and captain the team in Championship cricket. Highly thought of young all-rounder Asher Hart has also arrived from Durham.

Throughout the squad there is strength and experience. Liam Dawson, fresh from an impressive Test debut, and Mason Crane, recently selected for New South Wales after a stellar season in grade cricket, are two good spinners and fast bowler Brad Wheal and batsman Tom Alsop, who spent his winter with the England Lions, are two highly promising cricketers. Jimmy Adams and Will Smith lend further experience to the batting line-up.

Whether Hampshire have enough staying power to challenge the best teams over the course of a season is the biggest question mark this year. Too often last season, they lost big moments in games which was one reason why they won just two matches all season. With the extra class of Topley and Abbot in the bowling attack and more batting depth too, Hampshire could well be the surprise package this season.

Kent

Last season: 2nd in Division Two

In any other season, Kent would have achieved their goal of promotion to Division One of the Championship last year. With the restructuring of the top division to include just eight teams only one side was promoted which left Kent rueing their misfortune at finishing second behind Essex.

Sam Northeast’s team look well placed to be there or thereabouts this time round and should benefit from some limited but shrewd recruitment. Young batsman Joe Weatherley, on loan from Hampshire, and all-rounder Will Gidman, signed from Nottinghamshire, have arrived to complement a talented squad.

Sam Billings is one of England’s brightest prospects and will add much to the squad once finished at the IPL and opening batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond starred for the England Lions in their recent one-day series with Sri Lanka. Fast bowler Matt Coles is perhaps the best quick bowler in the second division and experienced duo Darren Stevens and James Tredwell still have plenty to offer.

It’s also a pivotal season for Northeast himself, described by new coach Matt Walker this week as the best captain in county cricket. Fresh from a hundred during the recent North-South series in the UAE, Northeast is starting to get the recognition with the national selectors that he deserves. Leading Kent to promotion will do his cause no harm.

If there is one area where Kent will look to do better than last season, it is converting handy positions into wins. Eight draws last year was perhaps two too many and much will depend this campaign on whether Coles, Gidman and Tredwell are able to bowl sides out regularly. The bowling attack does look short of another high-class fast bowler.

With Durham and Nottinghamshire both looking strong after relegation from the top flight, Kent will not have it all their own way this season. They do, however, have an experienced and deep squad and the shrewd Northeast at the helm which should see them challenging for promotion at the end of the season.

Lancashire

Last season: 7th in Division One

Lancashire approach this season with a good mix of young potential and experienced campaigners within their squad. Last summer’s seventh placed finish, narrowly avoiding relegation, was not what a club of Lancashire’s size expects but nevertheless was a good result for a squad dominated by young, inexperienced players.

One of those, Haseeb Hameed, made his Test debut for England and another, Liam Livingstone, may not be far away either after a fine winter with the Lions. Rob Jones, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson were others who shone at various stages and all of them with be better for the experience of last year.

New coach Glen Chapple has recognised the need for some experience to complement the youthful talent and has recruited well. South African wicket-keeper Dane Villas and West Indian batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul have been signed on Kolpak deals and Villas’ fellow South African Ryan McLaren will be the club’s overseas player.

James Anderson will also lead the attack in early season and should be available for more games than last summer even if the England management will want to keep him fit and fresh for a rigorous programme of Test matches over the next year. Anderson will form a high-class new-ball partnership with Kyle Jarvis.

It is unlikely Lancashire will be challenging at the top of the table but nor is it certain they will be involved in another relegation battle. Without Anderson, the attack looks short of class and depth but if experienced players like Chanderpaul, Villas and McLaren can add some nous and backbone to the abundant skill and talent of Lancashire’s homegrown youngsters, they may have a decent year.

Leicestershire

Last season: 7th in Division Two

Leicestershire’s four Championship victories last season were further confirmation of progress in four-day cricket after winless campaigns in 2013 and 2014 but it is too soon to yet expect them to be challenging at the top of the division.

New coach Pierre de Bruyn, who replaced Andrew McDonald after he returned to Australia, will have a large squad of 25 players to pick from this season which means competition for places will be high. Whether there is enough quality, however, particularly in the batting, remains to be seen.

Some decent players have arrived over the winter to add more depth. South African’s Colin Ackerman and Dieter Klein have been recruited on EU passports while all-rounder James Burke has arrived on loan from Surrey and seamer Gavin Griffiths has joined from Lancashire. Australian Mark Cosgrove will captain the side and his compatriot Clint McKay will lead the limited overs teams.

Alongside those recruits are a host of young players who have shown glimpses of promise. Adil Ali, Lewis Hill, Harry Dearden and Tom Wells are a quartet of youthful batsmen and Zak Chappell is an all-rounder with plenty of potential but it feels as if much of the run scoring will have to be done by Ackerman, Cosgrove, Neil Dexter and Paul Horton.

The bowling attack will rely on McKay, Ben Raine and Charlie Shrek who combined to take 135 Championship wickets last year. Behind them, though, is little proven depth, even if the recruitment of Griffiths should help. The lack of a frontline spinner hindered Leicestershire last season on good pitches and will likely do so again. Callum Parkinson, 20, signed from Derbyshire, has promise but also a lot to learn.

De Bruyn has spoken of his desire for Leicestershire players to get more out of themselves this season and professes himself impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment he has seen in pre-season. That only goes so far, of course, and although Leicestershire will be competitive this season, they still have work to do before they can think about anything more than a mid-table finish.

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KKR’s batting needs to be top class: Gambhir

IPL 2017

KKR’s batting needs to be top class: Gambhir

Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Sun, 02 Apr, 2017, 09:08 PM

Gautam Gambhir came to the defense of Sunil Narine, who seems to have lost a bit of zing since remodelling his bowling action © BCCI

With the changing nature of the Eden Gardens surface, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir reckons his team’s batting has to be top class in the upcoming season of the IPL.

“From a track that used to favour spinners, it now has good deal of pace and bounce in it. With that as a background, batting has to be top-class,” Gambhir told PTI on Sunday (April 2). “The rival team fast bowlers will come hard at us and we have to be ready for that.”

The core of the batting includes him, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan. KKR even added domestic performer Ishank Jaggi to the side, but the likes of Uthappa and Suryakumar haven’t been in the best of touch. However, the biggest problem that KKR face this season is the absence of their lynchpin – Andre Russell, who has been ruled out of the season after being handed a one-year ban for violating anti-doping whereabouts regulations.

To fill the void, KKR paid a hefty sum to procure the services of Chris Woakes as a like-for-like replacement, but the English all-rounder is yet to prove his destructive prowess in Indian conditions. Gambhir believes while Russell’s absence is a big blow to the side’s balance, it is also an ideal opportunity for someone else to stand up and be counted.

“There are two ways to look at such situations in life,” Gambhir said. “Either we can see Russell’s absence as a challenge or look at it as an opportunity in bold letters. I as an individual, and KKR as a group, are looking it as an opportunity. Maybe a combination of Manish Pandey’s batting and Ankit Rajpoot’s bowling can get us what Russell did. Not only Woakes but the entire team can try to fill-in for Russell and for that you don’t necessarily need an all-rounder. May be some other pair can do this.”

KKR have depended heavily on their spin bowling in the recent seasons, but have opted to assemble one of their strongest fast-bowling attacks for the upcoming season.

“We had left-arm pacemen in Jaydev Unadkat and Pradeep Sangwan in the past and understand the value of this skill that Boult brings in. Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Umesh Yadav, Ankit Rajpoot and Woakes. We have all bases covered when it comes to fast bowling.”

The left-handed opener also said that Sunil Narine, who has lost a bit of his magic touch after remodelling his bowling action, could be a threat again.

“I think we start judging people a little too soon. You can’t expect a golfer, who has changed his swing to be the same force from day one on the greens. I have changed my stance (to open chested) and it’s been close to two years now and I am still settling with it. Give Sunil some time and some space and he will show you his wares again,” Gambhir said.

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Shehzad, Hasan Ali shine in Pakistan’s series-winning performance

PAKISTAN IN WEST INDIES, 2017

Shehzad, Hasan Ali shine in Pakistan’s series-winning performance

Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 06:14 AM

Disciplined bowling followed by Shehzad-Azam’s 70-run second-wicket stand sealed the fourth T20I in Pakistan’s favour. © AFP

The fourth Twenty20 International (T20I) between Pakistan and West Indies ended up being a no-contest as the touring side outclassed the hosts in all departments to take the series 3-1 on Sunday (April 2) at the Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad. Unlike the popular case is in most T20Is where the bat dominates the ball, this contest was marked by a slightly unheard or unused word in the format – middle overs. After choking the hosts to a mediocre 124 and setting out to chase it down, the tourists romped home in a canter, winning the game by seven wickets with an over to spare.

All eyes were on Evin Lewis after Pakistan invited the hosts to bat first, but the danger was doused off as early as the third over when Imad Wasim drew first blood. Chadwick Walton went after the bowling, hitting as many as four sixes to hold the West Indies in good stead. But once Shadab Khan removed the wicketkeeper-batsman for his 31-ball 40, West Indies’ innings reared off into the dark.

Hasan Ali, who was bowling his second over, troubled Jason Mohammed throughout the over before sending him back on the final delivery with a sharp inswinging ball. When he came back to bowl his next over, Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels departed off back to back balls, leaving no scope for the hosts to recover from there. By the end of that over, Hasan Ali had bowled back to back maiden overs.

A flurry of dot balls in the middle overs, if they ever existed in this format, choked the West Indies and by the time, their skipper Carlos Brathwaite struck two sixes and two fours during his 24-ball 37, the West Indies had already done much damage to themselves to only end up with 124 for 8 in 20 overs. Having played out 66 dot balls in the innings, the hosts had pushed themselves against the wall and it would have needed an outstanding bowling effort to deny Pakistan the edge in reply.

On a wicket that was being used for the second time in as many days, Pakistan openers put together 40 runs, dismissing any debate about the slowness of the wicket, if at all. Once Kamran Akmal was dismissed after playing a smart hand of 20 runs, Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam got together for the best partnership of the match, stringing together 70 runs. The duo ran 30 of those runs, while finding the fence quite regularly.

Shehzad raised his 6th T20I fifty in the 16th over and with only 15 more needed to win, he shuffled across too much to be bowled around his legs. The other set batsman in Babar Azam followed his partner back into the hut, having added valuable 38 runs.

Shoaib Malik was joined in by skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and they completed the formalities without much hassles. Malik was dropped on 2 but he quickly redeemed himself to hit a four and take the visitors over the line. In the process, the former skipper also became the second-highest run-getter for Pakistan in the shortest format of the game.

Brief Scores: West Indies 124/8 in 20 overs (Chadwick Walton 40, Carlos Brathwaite 37*; Hasan Ali 2-12, Shadab Khan 2-16) lost to Pakistan 127/3 in 19 overs (Ahmed Shehzad 53, Babar Azam 38; Kesrick Williams 2-16) by seven wickets.

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IPL 2017: Variety in our bowling is a good headache to have, says Yusuf Pathan

Yusuf Pathan side will miss out on Andre Russell because of an anti-dope code violation. Yusuf Pathan side will miss out on Andre Russell because of an anti-dope code violation.

Senior Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Yusuf Pathan feels that the variety in their formidable bowling attack will make it very tough for the team management to choose their preferred men in the playing XI.

“It will be a tough selection. We have a lot of variety in our bowling. There’s depth in batting, we have a lot of all-rounders. We will see how we combine as a team,” the 34-year-old Pathan told reporters on the sidelines of their training session at the Eden Gardens.

The 2012 and 2014 champions have reinforced their pace attack with the trio, who are also handy with the bat down the order, while the sizzling form of Umesh Yadav is an added bonus to the side.

Yusuf was all praise for chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who recently had an impressive Test debut against Australia.

“Kuldeep has a bright future. He made a great debut. Also Umesh has done well whole season. He’s doing well with the new ball… We have quality in (pace) bowling which we were lacking earlier,” the big-hitting batsman.

They purple-and-gold brigade will miss out on Windies bighitting all-rounder Andre Russell because of an anti-dope code violation.

“This (Russell’s absence) does not put us on backfoot. He has done well for the team. He brings an air of positivity to the changing room. We will definitely miss him. But there are other players, who will have to live up to the challenge. We are focussed on that.”

KKR begin their campaign with two away matches beginning with Gujarat Lions in Rajkot, and Pathan sees a positive side to it.

“I don’t think it’s a disadvantage. It’s good that we’re playing away. There won’t be much pressure of playing at home. Besides, we know the conditions well with 10 years into IPL. I don’t think it will make much of a difference.”

April marked the sixth anniversary of India’s World Cup triumph at the Wankhede, which came after a long gap of 28 years since 1983.

“It was a proud moment not only for me but for the whole country. We won it after a long gap of 28 years. It will always remain fresh in everyone’s memory,” he said.

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Maturity came after marriage, says Umesh Yadav

Umesh Yadav has grown leaps and bounds as a bowler over the years. Umesh Yadav has grown leaps and bounds as a bowler over the years.

It took some prodding from wife Tanya and vital tweaking in bowling to find the correct length and focus for Umesh Yadav as he transformed from erratic tearaway to dependable spearhead. Bharat Sundaresan listens in as India’s latest pace sensation traces back his run-up to success…

You have found new ways to take wickets this season, intimidating the Aussies in Dharamsala to beguiling them with cutters in Bangalore.

I have been working really hard over the last 10-12 months. The first thing I was focusing on was getting consistent with my line and length. To ensure that I land the ball exactly where I want to land the ball at will. Then it came to getting batsmen out. These days I keep an eye on batsmen a lot more, observe their footwork closely. I have also started using the crease to develop new angles of delivery this season, especially the last 6-7 months. I first study the batsman, to see what ball is troubling him, which ones he’s comfortable against. On that basis, I make my plans. So if I see he’s playing me off the back-foot then I know I have to keep targeting him with full-length deliveries. Because he’s waiting to play me off the backfoot, and a full ball will trouble him.

That’s how I plan. Then there are batsmen who stand covering the off-stump, so I have to get them out by using a wide angle. If I keep bowling from close to the stumps every ball, they’ll get used to me. So I make sure to bowl from wide of the crease. But when I can bowl from the corner of the crease, and then get the bowl to swing away from the right-hander from that angle, that becomes difficult for him. He will play with the straight bat, and will get into trouble. Anil bhai (Kumble) and Sanjay bhai (Bangar) have been of great help. Sanjay bhai was the one who told me about working with these angles. He said you have pace and everything else. But if you start using the angle then you will become more dangerous with that variation. It took me 4-6 months to get comfortable with it.

Former bowling coach Bharat Arun said you like to practice something new with the action before feeling comfortable…

I tried it out in the nets. You have to change your run-up a little. Different bowlers try different ways to do it. Some just run in straight like they do normally and then jump wide, others start running in from wide. Some corner to corner. It all depends on your jump and landing. It takes some time for your muscles to get used to that movement. Initially there will be some issues. Kabhi aapka angle galat ho jaata hai. You want to pitch it somewhere, but you end up sliding it wide. That’s why you need to practise it a lot before trying it in the match.

The Umesh Yadav of old would bowl a lot of great spells but wasn’t known to be someone who thinks batsmen out…

These things come through when you start playing a few matches on the trot. Your confidence keeps improving, and you get more match experience. So once I started playing matches continuously, I started having conversations with Sanjay bhai and Anil bhai, to get an idea. They told me when you are bowling, “batsmen ke upar focus rakha kar ki woh kya kar raha hai“. From then I started studying batsmen a lot more closely, and their movement, like are they going from leg-stump to off-stump or front to back.

So is this more satisfying, to think batsmen out?

Definitely. When you are bowling to get a batsman out with a plan it’s a lot more interesting and challenging as compared to just trying to get him out. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying it. There really isn’t one specific wicket that I planned and succeeded that I rate above the rest. I have always been someone who believes in taking wickets. That’s what gets me going. I don’t count kisko out kiya, or kaise out kiya. Whether it is a tail-ender or a top-order batsman, it’s the wicket that counts.

Yes, there doesn’t seem to be a bias in terms of who you’re dismissing. 16 righties and 14 lefties, and 16 out of 30 have been in the top 4, and 12 in the tail. But what’s been amazing is the number of times you have come on in a spell taken a wicket, Matthew Wade in Pune and Adil Rashid in Chennai come to mind.

Fitness is of course the key. But it’s more about when a bowler is enjoying his bowling and is confident about what he’s doing, things start happening. It’s all a result of the hard work that I have put in over the last 10-12 months. These days, I don’t feel any pressure. It’s not like oh, ab wicket lena hi hai come what may. It’s just that I know taking a wicket is my role and it’ll happen. A fast bowler will always stick to the best ball, which he knows will get him that wicket. I have the confidence that if I bowl that ball, which for me is on a length at full pace, often enough, I can get any batsman out in any spell, on any pitch and in any situation.

You keep talking about the hard work in the last two years. How has it been different to before?

Before that I used to play on and off, and often I wasn’t getting wickets. I was left out of a Test, I was left out of a certain series. I never felt settled. But I think the maturity that I have now came after I got married. Then you start thinking about the other person, and know that there’s someone there for you always. Then you start thinking about the future more practically. Once my wife (Tanya Wadhwa) came into my life and the first 2-3 years (they married in 2013) she saw the ups and downs, she started pushing me harder. She was like yes you’re doing well and trying hard, but I think you can try harder and do better. She kept saying, “Umesh you have that ability. I think you’re not doing as much as you can.” To the extent that when there were times when I felt like let me just take a break today from training and sit at home, she’ll say, “Koi chutti nahi. Practice jaani hai toh jaani hai.” So I couldn’t bunk or even go late for practice. She was like “tum training karke aao phir free time mein jo karna hai karo“. This is your job. This is your passion, pursue it. Hearing those words from someone so close and to see her support made me realize again that cricket is my life. Sab ki nazaron mein toh theek hai, uski nazaron mein apne ko iss kaabil banao ki she thinks yes my husband deserves this and he’s got it. That was the starting point of the transformation. Those words always remain etched in my head.

It was a good fun some where in between the Hills Mulshi @y_umesh 😊 pic.twitter.com/IJaC2jOZfr — tanya umesh yadaav (@tanya_wadhwa) 27 February 2017

So she continues to push you then?

Yes, I don’t think I’ve reached the level at which she wants to see me. She wants people to come up and say Umesh is a world-class bowler. I want to keep working hard to reach a point where she gets to hear that.

She’s in the fashion line . So when you look into the mirror, you don’t just see a better fast bowler but a more stylized person?

She’s in fashion retail. And she takes the call on most things. Even when I wanted to renovate my house, I just let her take all the calls. I can say that it’s not just my bowling that has improved but also my style and lifestyle that has improved since she came in. I have always had a passion for shoes and clothes, but these days my wife helps me a lot in my choices.

How did you two meet?

We met through a common friend. We dated for two years and then we decided it’s time we got married. Hame woh pasand aa gayi, hum dono ke aadate hume acche lagne lage, toh socha shaadi kar le. Right partner at the right time, what else can you ask for.

How did maturity reflect in your training?

I was always hard-working. But at times you aren’t as focused as you need to be. You are bowling a lot but you aren’t training with any direction. Then you realize something’s missing. What it is, you just can’t identify on your own. You need to have the mindset and focus to be the No.1 bowler in the world. Only then you can get there. So after I heard her say those things, I also realized I have pace and swing, it’s just about becoming a regular part of the team, and not just be in and out of the team anymore. It also helped that the Indian team was becoming a great unit and we got great coaches in the mix. They helped a lot in building my confidence. All my teammates are so supportive and I’m having fun in the dressing-room. And jaisa chah rahe ho, woh ho raha hai. Technically, I haven’t changed much. It’s just a clarity of thought that was needed.

Virat Kohli would always lament in his early days as captain about how his fast bowlers never had the same intensity in their later spells when the match was at the crossroads

The boys are now aware of how to deal with a spell once the body is tired. The idea is to set your field for one plan and keep bowling on that spot, and let the batsmen make mistakes. Just ensure you don’t make any mistakes.

Your career can be divided into two halves, pre-Delhi Test and post-Delhi Test..

Everyone has that Test after which you get that confidence and you get positive reviews from everyone and your own team. The management starts talking you up, then you realize that I only have to look ahead now. No point looking back. Basically in Delhi, I tried different things, like using angles from wide of the crease, dropped my arm and bowled side-arm because the ball was reversing. Because I wasn’t bowling with my natural release it was swinging late, the batsmen was confused by that movement. And it clicked.

Your economy rate and Pujara’s strike-rate always get debated over. It’s dropped drastically in your case.

It’s about focus again. Earlier what would happen is if I wasn’t getting wickets, in that quest I would bowl some half-volleys or stray down leg. Now I know what my length is and that if I keep bowling on the right spot, I will get wickets. So I realized that if I keep doing that my economy rate will come down and enhance my chances of getting wickets.

Bharat Arun had also said that you would get affected by getting hit for boundaries but that has changed…

Yes. It used to happen earlier, when you are playing one match, and sitting out the next. You get hit for a boundary, it does affect your confidence. And you start thinking about kya kare, kya na kare boundary chale gaye toh. But you learn. I have learnt to calm myself down in those scenarios, how to forget that ball and bowl a better delivery, that’s my greatest strength now I feel.

You have a background in fitness with your dad and him making you run around as a kid. But has it changed much of late and were you wary of playing nearly all of the 13 Tests in the home season?

My fitness routine is still the same. The trainer gives me a program and I stick by it. I have always known what I need to do and what I shouldn’t. My recovery, my strength program I stick to religiously. I know how much I need to train in a day. It’s very important to know your body. It comes from family background too in my case. I got it in my genes, my focus is to maintain it for as long as possible. My body is more suited to dealing with fatigue, maybe it’s God’s gift, but even when I’m tired, the body works at that same speed and intensity always without going down. My athletic background, sprinting and other sports that I played, have kept my body fit and flexible.

❤😘 pic.twitter.com/3OY3avuVj3 — tanya umesh yadaav (@tanya_wadhwa) 14 February 2017

Did you have to change your diet. You used to be a Ghee fanatic.

No, I still keep eating ghee. No problem. Haven’t changed my diet much. I eat what I should as a sportsperson. Avoid sweets, don’t eat much fatty food, only what is required for the body. I have ghee one time a day for sure.

But a fast bowler sporting a Buddha tattoo and bowling bouncers?

I had a Mother Mary tattoo made for my late mother. Then you get that chaska. So got two more made. Shiv ji ko maanta hoon toh unka tattoo. I bowl bouncers only to get batsmen out, that’s my job so I do it, but otherwise my nature is the same like Buddha, calm and cool.

You seem to produce deliveries that fly off the wicket even on slow, low tracks…

I think if you’re confident enough and are powerful in body and mind you can produce those deliveries on any kind of wicket. You have to be aggressive as a fast bowler. I’ll bowl a bouncer on a paata and a bouncy wicket with the same intensity. Fast bowling is similar to batting in the sense like they say you have to positive and confident while playing a shot, it’s the same for a fast bowler. He has to think he’ll take a wicket on any pitch.

You have been this shy guy who seems like a reluctant star, so how are you dealing with this all this sudden-adulation?

It’s good for me. When you are so focused on doing well, and things start going your way, you stop worrying about negative things. You don’t waste your time on them. You’ll go to the ground, training and come back home. I am only focusing on what’s important for me in life, my wife, my dad, family and my cricket. The other things will take care of themselves.

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Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/maturity-came-after-marriage-umesh-yadav-4595721/

Zaheer happy playing sidekick to strong pace contingent

IPL 2017

Zaheer happy playing sidekick to strong pace contingent

Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Fri, 31 Mar, 2017, 09:15 PM

The Delhi Daredevils squad is replete with pacers including Morris (l), Rabada, Cummins & Shami. © BCCI

Despite not having played competitive cricket for close to a year, since featuring in the previous edition of the Indian Premier League, Delhi Daredevils skipper Zaheer Khan is confident that he can ease into his bowling role, albeit a supportive one.

Speaking to the media ahead of the 10th edition of the tournament, the 38-year-old left-arm seamer said he was up for the challenge. “It’s very difficult to not play any match and then to turn up here and play the whole season. I look at it as a challenge. I stick to my routines along with discussion I have had with my trainers and physios,” Zaheer said.

“The process remains the same. I picked up the ball around December, got into it slowly and here I am now, ready to take on another IPL season. Every time I get on the field, the excitement comes back. It’s the right dose of cricket for me at this stage of my career.”

The Delhi franchise has a host of options when it comes to the pace department, with the likes of Mohammed Shami, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada part of the setup, along with allrounders like Chris Morris, Angelo Mathews and Carlos Brathwaite. Zaheer, who is pleased with his team’s quick-bowling arsenal, is happy to play second fiddle to them.

“I have supreme fast bowlers who will take the pressure off me. I’m not playing the lead role, but just the support role. I’m playing the role I enjoy the most. This is my way of giving back to the game,” he said.

A canny bowler during his India playing days, Zaheer is considered a master when it comes to bowling despite fitness limitations. The experienced pacer, who retired from international cricket in 2015, said that managing the workload was closely related to the bowling rhythm, and that the work hours don’t matter as long as the bowler in question understands those nuances.

“When I was playing, I preferred to play more and more. When you’re in rhythm, you can maintain that. You can maintain workloads at practice. Someone like Umesh, who has played all season, he isn’t going to realise when 20 overs are done. That’s the beauty of bowling fitness.

“With all the bowlers who’ve been playing Tests and some level of cricket, it will be easier in terms of bowling fitness. The more you bowl, the better you will get. I’ve always endorsed match practice is the best practice,” he said.

Delhi’s batting order though does not threaten to take the tournament by storm unlike their bowling, with key players like Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy missing from action due to varied reasons. Zaheer, however, is confident that the young Indian batsmen can deliver effectively.

“We’ve always believed in youngsters and the potential they have. If you look at last season’s squad, you’ve got someone like Karun Nair, who has a triple century at the Test level. Shreyas Iyer has made his mark, he’s part of the Test team. These youngsters are no longer youngsters, they’re seasoned campaigners now. That is the strength of DD this year.

“You’ve got an Indian batting line-up which is more experienced and know more about of their roles. The squad is settled. We’re sitting pretty despite JP and Quinton’s unavailability. If you look at all the squads, you will find players who are missing out because of international duties and injuries. We’re prepared for the uncertainties,” he added.

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The Wild thing – born to bowl fast

FAST AND FURIOUS

The Wild thing – born to bowl fast

Tristan Lavalette • Last updated on Thu, 30 Mar, 2017, 02:17 PM

It was a sight to behold when a trademark Shaun Tait in-swinging delivery sent Geraint Jones’s off-stump cartwheeling © Getty

September 12, 2005, is undeniably an indelible date in cricket history. Although, Australians may disagree as it was the fateful day their long-suffering arch-nemesis England finally ended a 16-year Ashes drought. Australia was thwarted by Kevin Pietersen’s memorable cavalier debut century on the final day at the Oval to ensure the fifth Test ended in a draw and a 2-1 series victory for England in a major boil over.

However, that result was not a foregone conclusion earlier in the day with a swirling belief that Australia – who were at their peak of their powers and hadn’t lost a Test series in four years – could conjure a miraculous victory like they had summoned so many times before. Almost inevitably, legendary bowlers Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne – playing their last ever Test in England – had a slew of early wickets to give Australia hope.

With the Ashes – and legacies – hanging in the balance, Australian captain Ricky Ponting leant heavily on his two prized bowlers and paceman Brett Lee for the breakthroughs in what was essentially a three-pronged attack.

Neglected and seemingly forgotten was Shaun Tait, the then 22-year-old firebrand, who was anchored to the boundary and copping a mouthful from hardy English fans sensing history was in the making. Tait already had built a formidable reputation for having an innate ability to scythe through batting lineups. However, that rarefied talent was juxtaposed by an unfortunate knack of spraying the ball and leaking runs.

Ponting, quite clearly, didn’t have faith to bowl the youngster, who was playing just his second Test, under such a bright spotlight with the Ashes hanging delicately in the balance. With Australia’s three main bowlers tiring, Tait was belatedly given the ball in the 56th over of the innings. Promptly, almost confirming Ponting’s suspicions, Tait was immediately smashed for consecutive boundaries off a rampaging Pietersen.

However, three balls later, Tait’s mesmerising talents harnessed when a trademark in-swinging delivery sent wicket-keeper Geraint Jones’s off-stump cartwheeling. It wasn’t quite a knockout punch but nevertheless it was a breathtaking moment which even had unruffled veteran ABC broadcaster Jim Maxwell in hysterics as if he was Bill Lawry.

The vital wicket briefly reignited Australia’s faint flicker before Pietersen’s heroics snuffed out the bold comeback bid. Tait only bowled four more overs before Ponting’s patience wore thin. Still, the utter destruction of Jones indicated Tait’s future was bright in a shining light amid the gloom for a humbled Australia.

“I was young and embarrassed… frustrated because I hadn’t bowled that much,” Tait recalls in an interview with Cricbuzz. “The crowd was ripping into me and I was just relieved to get that wicket because I hadn’t done much. But we lost the Ashes that day, so it isn’t something that I look back fondly on.”

Tait’s unbridled fury tested the speed guns numerously in his career © Cricbuzz

Succumbing to injuries due to a demanding unconventional bowling action, Tait wouldn’t play Test cricket again until January of 2008, where Australia’s 16-match winning streak stunningly ended against India at the WACA. It proved to be his third and final Test, as he soon made the tough decision to call time on his First-Class career at the age of 25. Incredibly, during such a high period of success for the team, Tait never tasted a Test victory and the losses at Nottingham – during his debut in the fourth Test – and the WACA were Australia’s only defeats during that 30-month period.

Tait’s brave decision to stop playing red ball cricket caused a stir at the time but proved the right call as he enjoyed the fruits of a long and decorated career as a Twenty20 specialist. The now 34-year-old officially retired from cricket on March 27 due to a chronic elbow injury, which hampered him during the recent Big Bash League (BBL), where he played for the Hobart Hurricanes.

The injury shelved plans to continue playing for a couple of more years but Tait is grateful the advent of Twenty20 provided him with an alternate pathway. “I knew I was going to retire after the BBL…I was done. I was struggling to play,” he says. “I copped a bit of flak for concentrating on T20 cricket and I had to wear that. But I was able to play a fair bit and T20 suited me and was my best format so it worked out well.”

Tait’s unique slinging action, marked by a heavy exertion of the shoulder, was physically demanding and the subsequent toll derailed his career numerously. As he rose up the ranks of South Australian cricket, numerous coaches attempted to tinker with Tait’s action and the bowler himself deep down knew he needed to stymie the exertion on his body.

However, Tait, nicknamed ‘Wild Thing’, was innately a gunslinger and all he really yearned for was to bowl as fast as humanly possible. Always bigger and stronger than his peers, a 17-year-old Tait was recorded bowling at 142km/h at an amateur fast bowling competition.

“Growing up, I loved watching Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Curtly Ambrose…I wanted to bowl quick like them,” he says. “Coaches told me to change my action but it got hard to do that after a while. I wanted to consistently bowl 150kmh. I wanted to be an entertainer.

“I was born to bowl fast and it bored me bowling slower.”

Tait’s unbridled fury tested the speed guns numerously in his career, most notably when he bowled a 161.1 kmph thunderbolt against England in 2010. It is the second fastest recorded delivery in cricket and was just 0.2 kmph short of Pakistani paceman Shoaib Aktar’s all-time mark.

“In my thinking, I wanted to reach 160kmph and just try to bowl as fast I could,” he says. “I was probably never going to play 50-100 Tests because I just wanted to bowl express pace and that’s hard on the body. Although bowling fast is what got me picked in the Test team so I’m thankful for that.”

Tait’s international career may have been limited but being an important member of Australia’s unbeaten 2007 World Cup team stands out as his crowing achievement. During a memorable two-month stretch in the Caribbean where his talents meshed physically and mentally, Tait superbly replaced an injured Lee to claim 23 wickets at 20 to help Australia claim their third consecutive World Cup.

“I didn’t get to win that much in my career but to be part of the 2007 World Cup triumph is something no one can ever take away from me,” he says. “It was just a really memorable two months and the thing that sticks with me was the team environment. We just loved being around each other both on-and-off the field.”

With retirement from cricket coming a little earlier than expected, Tait says he will take some time to consider the next phase of his life. Having an Indian wife and recently becoming an ‘Overseas Citizen of India’, Tait foreshadows spending plenty of time in the subcontinent.

“I would possibly like to get into fast bowling coaching but I’ll sit back and have a think about it,” he says. “If you’re not used to India, it can test you with the sheer amount of people and traffic. But I’ve grown to love the place and no doubt will spend some time over there in the future.”

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