Saturday, October 27, 2018

#DhoniDropped & the thankless job

MS Dhoni has been officially dropped from the Indian T20 team. For the first time ever, since his debut, Dhoni misses out on an international game because of being dropped, not rested, not injured, or in case of the longest format, simply retired. He has been dropped. Well, it was coming. A good IPL 2018 season could not cover the fact that Dhoni's power game was on the wane. He is still one of the best wicket-keepers around, but the batting has definitely been on the slide. So what next for Dhoni? No ODIs for quite some time now, and no limited overs domestic matches either. He doesn't play first-class cricket any longer. So turning up for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy is also ruled out. So can he play in Big Bash or other T20 leagues for game time? Will BCCI permit such a thing?

There will be hue and cry on the social media on this drastic step from the selectors. To be honest, when hasn't there been a hue and cry for selections? Being a selector is the most thankless job in the world. After all, in public opinion, the players not selected are often the best in the world. However, being an Indian selector must be an even more thankless job. We have the widest pool of players to choose from (37 first-class teams!). Then our teams are most in demand across the world. We move from one tour to another. And its not just the national team, even the A squad seems to be constant tour. And sometimes there is the Board's president XI or the B team also in action somewhere maybe in a different format! Right now we have India playing the West Indies in ODIs while Deodhar trophy is also underway. That's 4 Indian teams in action simultaneously!

Selectors have simultaneously picked up squads for T20 Internationals at home against West Indies, a T20 series away in Australia, Test series in Australia and "A" Tests against New Zealand! No wonder it is a full-time paid job now. But as usual selections have raised more than a fair share of questions.

How did we pick squads for Australian T20s when we still have West Indies T20 games pending? Given that for home ODIs, teams were first picked for 2 games and then the remaining three? 

Kedar Jadhav does a press conference to announce his fitness and cites lack of communication with the chief of selectors. He has played a Deodhar Trophy match to prove his fitness also. Next day he is added for the remaining matches as well!

Coming to the Test squad now, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma & Parthiv Patel are back. Mayank Agarwal is dropped. Meanwhile Karun Nair is deported to the India A squad. The chief reason cited has been that players with past experience in Aussie conditions have been picked. Lets take it case by case
  • Vijay after being dropped opted to play for Essex in County cricket, and put together a string of good scores . So has got the runs. But is he now the lead opener or back-up to Rahul & Shaw?
  • Rohit Sharma is an ODI legend and a Test misfit. Should have been an automatic choice for the longer formats, but just hasn't got the runs in Tests to justify selection. And hasn't played any first-class cricket either.
  • Parthiv Patel is the back-up keeper. He was also the back-up keeper back in 2002, when an injury to Ajay Ratra got him his debut. He has kept in Australia and sledged Steve Waugh! SO has the experience. Can open also. But it is an intriguing selection
  • Mayank Agarwal forced his way after an almost 3,000 run domestic season. He still hasn't stopped scoring. But now finds himself out of favour without getting even a chance to fail?
  • Karun Nair's case gets curiouser and curiouser. He is dropped after being on the becnh for long time. Now is also not in the squad for the first India A Test against the Kiwis. Although he leads the team for the last two A Tests?  
And how do you prepare for Australia by playing a single 4-day game in New Zealand?

And that is why being a selector is the ultimate thankless job!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Vijay Hazare Trophy 18-19: Jharkhand Review

Jharkhand had a good run in the tournament, reaching the semi-finals on the back of an unbeated run and then being pipped by Delhi by 2 wickets in a close encounter. 

Ishan Kishan led the side. Interestingly last year’s key performer Ishank Jaggi was dropped for failing to turn up for yo-yo test! There was also some confusion on Dhoni’s participation. Meanwhile, Shanbaz Nadeem recorded world-record bowling figures of 8/10 in a List A game! And there was a controversial finish involving VJD method and bad light as well! 

Here is a short summary of Jharkhand’s run. 

Game 1: Jharkhand vs Haryana – Match Abandoned due to rain 

Game 2: Rajasthan 73/10 (28.3) lost to Jharkhand 76/3 (14.3) by 7 wickets. 
Key Performers: Shahbaz Nadeem 8/10 in 10 overs – Best ever Bowling Figures in List A Cricket! Anukul Roy 2/23. 

Game 3: Assam 221/9 (50) lost to Jharkhand 222/2 (31) by 8 wickets 
Key Performers: Ishan Kishan 139 (91), Anand Singh 58, Nadeem 3/47, Utkarsh Singh 2/29. 
Trivia: Assam had Romario Sharma playing for them! 

Game 4: Jharkhand 307/8 (50) beat Tamil Nadu 299/10 (49.5) by 8 runs 
Key Performers: Ishan Kishan 85, Anand Singh 52, Saurabh Tiwary 54, Anukul Roy 3/55, Monu Kumar 2/50 
Trivia: Shahrukh Khan plays for Tamil Nadu! 

Game 5: Jharkhand 221/8 (50) beat Jammu & Kashmir 148/10 (42.2) by 73 runs 
Key Performers: Anukul Roy 96* off 72 batting at No.8, Shahbaz Nadeem 5/17 

Game 6: Bengal 267/8 (50) lost to Jharkhand 264/9 (49) by 2 run (VJD Method) 
Key Performers: Varun Aaron 3/48, Anand Singh 118, Ishan Kishan 56 

Game 7: Jharkhand vs Tripura Abandoned due to rain 

Game 8: Gujarat 107/10 (25) lost to Jharkhand 108/5 (21.4) by 5 wickets. Match reduced to 25 overs each. 
Key Performers: Varun Aaron 3/21, Ishan Kishan 64 

Game 9: Jharkhand 290/10 (50) beat Services 265/10 (47.4) by 25 runs 
Key Performers: Kumar Deobrat 88, Anukul Roy 58 & 4/53, Varun Aaron 4/55 

Quarter-Finals: Maharashtra 181/10 (42.2) lost to Jharkhand 127/2 (32.2/34) by 8 wickets via VJD method 
Key Performers: Anukul Roy 4/32, Rahul Shukla 3/35, Shasheem Rathour 53* 

Semi-Finals: Jharkhand 199/10 (48.5) lost to Delhi 200/8 (49.4) by 2 wickets 
Key Performers: Virat Singh 71, Anand Singh 36 & 3/39 
Jharkhand were just not able to finish it off as Delhi’s 9th wicket pair added 51 to win the game. 

Overall, a good run for the Jharkhand squad. Results are there to see in the Deodhar Trophy squads. After being ignored during the IPL Varun Aaron has forced himself back in the reckoning. Shahbaz Nadeem has belatedly got his share of the spotlight. Ishan Kishan is being talked about as an India keeping option. These three have got into the Deodhar Trophy squads. Meanwhile Anukul Roy has also lived up to his billing Samastipur ka Ravindra Jadeja with a sterling all-round displays and will surely be in the reckoning soon for a zonal call-up.  

Season Stats 
Highest Scorers 
  1. Ishan Kishan – 405 @ 45.00 
  2. Anand Singh – 321 @ 35.67 
  3. Anukul Roy 219 @ 73.00 
Most Wickets 
  1. Shahbaz Nadeem – 24 @ 13.04 
  2. Varun Aaron – 18 @ 18.06 
  3. Anukul Roy – 15 @ 20.00 
Highest Score – Ishan Kishan 139 vs Assam 
Best Bowling – Shahbaz Nadeem – 8/10 vs Rajasthan (New List A World Record) 
Players Used – 14

Monday, October 15, 2018

Vijay Hazare Trophy 18-19: Bihar Review

Bihar made an excellent comeback to the big leagues, topping the Plate group and reaching the Quarter-finals. It was a team of newcomers with 14 players making their List debuts during the campaign. They were also not helped by the loss of Pragyan Ojha midway through the campaign. Ojha led the side till a mid-campaign injury sidelined him and Keshav Kumar took over in his place. Short summary of the team’s performance follows. 

Game 1: Nagaland 253/8 (50) lost to Bihar 254/2 (43.4) by 8 wickets 
Key Performers: Babul Kumar 121*, Keshav Kumar 76* & 2/35, Samar Quadri 3/35 
List A Debut: Vikas Ranjan, Kundan Sharma, Babul Kumar, Anunay Singh, Rohit Raj, MD Rahmatullah, Diwan Khan 

Game 2: Uttarakhand 160/10 (43.2) lost to Bihar 163/5 (37.3) by 5 wickets 
Key Performers: Vikas Ranjan 79, Anunay Singh 3/21, Samar Quadri 3/37 
List A Debut: Ashish Sinha 

Game 3: Bihar vs Puducherry – Match abandoned due to rain. 

Game 4: Bihar 211/9 (50) beat Meghalaya 103/10 (42.5) by 108 runs 
Key Performers: Samar Quadri 5/22, Ashutosh Aman 3/15 
List A Debut: Anshuman Gautam 
Keshav Kumar led the side in Pragyan Ojha’s absence 

Game 5: Arunachal Pradesh 145/10 (45.3) lost to Bihar 150/5 (26) by 5 wickets 
Key Performers: Keshav Kumar 5/23, Ashutosh Aman 3/15, Babul Kumar 57 

Game 6: Bihar 338/6 (50) beat Sikkim 46/10 (31) by 292 runs 
Key Performers: Rahmatullah 156*, Babul Kumar 92, Keshav Kumar, 3/7, Anunay Singh 3/12 
List A debut: Eshaan Ravi 
Record: Biggest victory margin in runs in List A history in India 

Game 7: Manipur 172/8 (50) lost to Bihar 176/2 (29.1) by 8 wickets 
Key Performers: Rehan Khan 3/39, Babul Kumar 100*, Rahmatullah 50* 
For Manipur, Yashpal Singh scored 134 out of the 172 runs! 
List A debut: Kumar Mridul 

Game 8: Mizoram 83/10 (27.2) lost to Bihar 87/1 (15.4) by 9 wickets 
Key Performers: Keshav Kumar 4/21, Ashutosh Aman 3/2, Vikas Ranjan 59* 
List A debut: Manish Rai 

Bihar topped the group and qualified for the Quarter-Finals 

Quarter-Finals: Bihar 69/10 (28.2) lost to Mumbai 70/1 (12.3) 
List A Debut: Vijay Bharti, Sabir Khan 

Overall, a good run for Bihar!They have got a promotion to Group C of the tournament next year, which is a tougher group to qualify through!  

Coming up next: Ranji Trophy also in the Plate League. Given the recent performances and relative strengths of the sides, Bihar should be able to make it through to the quarters from this group. 

Season Stats 
Highest Scorers 
  1. Babul Kumar – 419 @ 83.80 with 2 centuries (earlier represented Jharkhand)
  2. Rahmatullah – 256 @ 85.33 with 1 century
  3. Vikas Ranjan – 247 @35.29 
Most Wickets 
  1. Keshav Kumar – 15 @ 9.40 
  2. Ashutosh Aman – 15 @ 8.40 
  3. Samar Quadri – 12 @ 16.25 (who earlier represented Jharkhand)
Highest Score – Rahmatullah 156 vs Sikkim 
Best Bowling – Samar Quadri 5/22 vs Meghalaya 

Players Used – 18 with 14 List A debutantes