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

© Cricbuzz

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IPL 2017: In season of injuries, Rohit Sharma wants to put his season of injury behind

Rather than thinking what has happened, it is better to think how I am going to make myself ready. That is how I was thinking about all the time.”

Rohit Sharma Rather than thinking what has happened, it is better to think how I am going to make myself ready. That is how I was thinking about all the time.”Rohit Sharma

THE BUILD-UP to IPL 10 so far has been more about those who’ll miss out rather than those who will grace the stage for the big anniversary edition of the T20 extravaganza. But one familiar face will be using the glitzy platform to make a return to big-ticket cricket after a five-month layoff. And Rohit Sharma, who’s led Mumbai Indians to two title triumphs in the last five years, on Sunday sounded both relieved and excited to be back.

This was his first media appearance since suffering a harrowing injury back in late October, and we’re at a posh South Mumbai hotel where he’s flanked by new coach and fellow batting stylist, Mahela Jayawardene. But ask him about the injury and you can almost see him cringe while recalling the moment when he realized his home season was more or less done with. It led to him having to undergo thigh surgery in London that robbed him off some considerable playing time at a crucial stage in his international career. So much so that the sound that he heard while scrambling across for a single during the final ODI of the India-New Zealand series in Vizag, is still very vivid in his memory.

“I was scared when that happened. It’s something which has never happened to me. I heard a very loud noise while taking a run. I was a little scared until we got an MRI done, I did not know what to expect and what it was. But once everything was clear, once the days passed by, we spoke to a lot of doctors around the world and with Patrick (Farhart, the Indian team physio) as well, they all gave me the confidence saying it was not a major problem, it’s just a small injury that you need to go through,” he said.

A lot has changed since Rohit limped off around the time the lengthy home season was just about getting warmed up. India won every series across all formats, and consolidated their reign at the top of Test cricket for starters. A number of Australian players aren’t Kohli’s “friends” anymore and India has a new triple centurion, one who might not have played if Rohit had been fit. In many ways, Rohit will have to start afresh and the IPL, a tournament that he’s taken by storm with the bat very often, could be just the stage he needs to make his presence felt again. Rohit will obviously be a shoo-in for the Indian squad that will travel to England to defend the Champions Trophy in June. But having started off with a special series against New Zealand, which was one of his best in Test cricket, missing out on 10 Tests must have been debilitating, especially since he’s yet to make the longer format his own.

So it was only natural for him to not take too kindly to his rehab stint at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore being referred to as a “holiday” by one reporter. “I was not on holiday. I was in Bangalore (National Cricket Academy) if you want to call that as a holiday destination then you may,” he said before adding, “Most important thing at that moment is your mind-set. Rather than thinking what has happened, it is better to think how I am going to make myself ready. That is how I was thinking about all the time. It was tough to sit in the hotel room, watching the team play. It is always tough. But I guess you have to go through it. I have been through it many times before. These things happen. I was only focusing on how quicker I can get back on to the field.”

While most of the interaction was dominated by queries and responses to how Mumbai Indians are preparing and hoping to fare in the tenth edition of the IPL; the more poignant moments surrounded their long-standing captain’s inopportune injury and how he’s coped with it. But he didn’t quite agree with a suggestion that the layoff had set his career back a few steps. Said Rohit, “I don’t think so. I am just 29. Injuries are part and parcel. Five months of missing cricket does not do any bad. These things are bound to happen. Even in future, these things will happen. The focus is always on, if you get injures, to stay strong and come back stronger. I am looking forward. There is so much cricket coming up.”

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Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/ipl-2017-10/ipl-season-10-in-season-of-injuries-rohit-sharma-wants-to-put-his-season-of-injury-behind-4596890/

We will have solid bench strength in four years: Pullela Gopichand

Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification. (Source: PTI) Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification. (Source: PTI)

Olympic silver-medallist P Sindhu will take Indian badminton “through” for at least the next four years, feels chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, who foresees a strong bench-strength emerging at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Gopichand, who shaped Sindhu and Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal among others, believes it will take some time for the next big star to emerge.

“Sindhu is just 21 and I think she will take us through for the next few years and by the time she is 25, we will figure something. I don’t want to pick a junior name right now, but I can assure you that four years from now we will have solid bench strength in women’s singles,” Gopichand told PTI.

“It will take a little time, we have prospects like Ruthvika and Rituparna, who also have the potential of doing well. There are others in the ranks. I think it is not easy to produce players back to back.”

Asked about the doubles players, Gopichand said: “I think we can say that Pranaav and Sikki have done well and Chirag and Satwik are also there.”

“There are at least 6-7 players under the age of 20 who have the potential to do well, so overall good signs for Indian badminton,” he added.

Talking about Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who recently won their fifth International challenger title at Vietnam Open, Gopichand said: “…they are just 18 and 19 years old and they are doing well for this age. These matches give them a lot of confidence and they are developing very well.

Indian shuttlers have been plagued by a series of injuries and Gopichand admitted things got a bit messed up last year due to the Olympic qualification.

“One can’t predict injuries but last year we messed it up a little bit in terms of the number of tournaments ahead of the Olympic qualification because a couple of them played more tournaments because of the Rio Games. But this season it would be better,” he said.

“I don’t think injuries are a cause of concern. It is a learning curve. Each of them is learning about themselves. Mulyo Handoyo is also working on the players, he has been with us for two months.”

Asked about the status of Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who has been going through a long injury lay-off, Gopichand said: “Kashyap is fine and he should play in China Open in two weeks’ time.”

Asked about his life post-Olympics, Gopichand said: “Fortunately or unfortunately, the Olympics have made my life a little tougher in terms of my schedule, so I have not been able to give much time to all projects. I think a lot still needs to be done in every department.”

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Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/badminton/we-will-have-solid-bench-strength-in-four-years-pullela-gopichand-4596345/