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Truthful Tuesday | Why Jasprit Bumrah shouldn’t play Tests in India at all
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Even in full-blown wars, the ace is only unveiled in special scenarios. Scenarios which can't be unlocked with anything but the X-factor, the special weapon that holds the audacity to be a differentiator, a differentiator needed when the run-of-the-mill stuff can no longer work.Jasprit Bumrah is that precious jewel, the X-factor, the special weapon, the differentiator in Indian cricket. The skills, the temperament, the confidence, he is one of the best that Indian cricket have had in ages. He's arguably the best pacer across all formats in world cricket at the moment. Short run-up yet great momentum. A chutzpah-laden jump, whiplash action from hyperextension, raw pace, dipping slower balls, killer yorker, wide-angle of attack. An ability to move the ball both ways, with accuracy and control, the deceptive change of wrist. And above all, a sharp brain, to work out a batsman's technique, play with his head, and attack where it hurts the most. He's GOLD for India. A bowler, who should be wrapped up in cotton wool and preserved. There have been great batsmen in the country, but very rarely as good fast bowlers. And that is why there is a greater need for India to be more cautious with him than others. No other bowler in the country walks into the XI across different formats, different conditions, and different countries but Bumrah. But that also means he is likely to be exposed to far more cricket than he ideally should be. And that is precisely where India will need to be careful.Given the team's fast bowling resources for Tests in India, there is a strong case to not play the 27-year-old in home conditions at all. Even his selection for the ongoing Test series against England didn't make much sense given the amount of cricket he had already played. He entered the home series having played 15 matches in IPL, three ODIs, one warm-up game, four Tests since September 19. He sent down 159.4 overs in these many Tests. He was even ruled out of the Gabba Test, which might well have been triggered as a result of his workload. In the hot conditions of Chennai, he had to bowl the most in an innings he ever had. No wonder the Indian pacer was rested for the second Test. But his selection in the squad itself was hard to comprehend, at least for me, given India have to play a lengthy white-ball series later, then there is the IPL and the much more important England tour lined-up. Not to forget, in the World Cup year, it will be great to try different combinations with Bumrah in the side so as to build up the team ahead of the megaevent than in it like the 2019 WC.Let's take a look at how Indian pacers have fared in the last five years in India with a minimum of 10 wickets: Indian pacers at home in the last 5 years  © Cricinfo Statsguru India have quality pacers in Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, and now Mohammed Siraj, all of whom are good enough with reverse swing and the old ball. And given how much of a factor India's batting and in particular spin bowling assumes, there is hardly any need of Bumrah’s presence. Why expose him when India already have enough firepower for familiar home conditions? So, they shouldn't. Also, in all honesty, Bumrah in India doesn't make as massive a difference as he does in SENA, for him to toil hard on flat, unresponsive Indian surfaces or the ones that are tailor-made for spinners. However, in SENA conditions, he is invaluable given he leads the Indian bowling attack and turns into an X-factor, with his top-notch skills which are better than most others pacers as the below stats reflect. Indian pacers in SENA in the last 10 years  © Cricinfo Statsguru Bumrah has the best bowling average for any Indian pacer in SENA nations in the last decade. He is the third leading wicket-taker after having made his debut in 2018 in South Africa, which shows he is a class apart. The difference in his bowling average with others shows the gulf between him and everyone else and his significance.And when it comes to limited-overs cricket, he is unrivaled in the Indian team with his value arguably even greater than Virat Kohli given Rohit can make up for his failures but there's no other pacer who comes even close to the diversity of the skills that Bumrah possesses. There is no better death bowler in the world than him forget India, where there is dearth of such options. And unlike Tests, India lack quality bench strength or even as many options in the colorful jersey. So, his value in white-ball cricket goes unabated just like SENA. Bumrah is a generational talent. India are lucky to have a match-winner like him. Now, it's on the selectors, team management, and captain whether they use him in the best manner possible or leave a room for injury with the amount of workload there is for an Indian cricketer, who happens to be a fast bowler, a regular across formats, and an IPL star. He certainly can't be wrapped up in a cotton wool and be preserved but used as judiciously as possible. To ensure that his body doesn't break down due to excessive cricket and he continues winning games of cricket in years to come. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Shutting noise – the Rohit Sharma way 
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It's Gabba. Series decider. Rohit Sharma is in the middle. He's looking great at 44 off 73. He's surely not going to throw it away like SCG. He's a senior man. But Rohit goes for a big lofted hit off Lyon. He's caught. What have you done Rohit? Sunil Gavaskar is livid. Ricky Ponting is critical.It's Rohit vs the whole world. Making him deputy to Ajinkya Rahane is being questioned. His away record is again in focus. His shot selection. The inability to convert a start again. The baffling nature of the dismissal from a seasoned campaigner in his 15th year of international career. The game situation. Where India are in the series.Rohit comes out in the presser. He's chilled. But his defense of the dismissal is dismissive. After a good long explanation, he intently expresses, "Like I said, those are my shots and I will keep playing them." This is some statement. His way of saying, 'talk as much as you want, for I, don't even give two hoots about it'. This is Rohit Sharma. He does things his way. It's my way or the highway. There isn’t a bigger believer in the mantra of ‘live by the sword, you die by the sword’ than him. That's how it's been in the lead up to the Australia tour. Let's go back to November, 2020, UAE, IPL. Rohit Sharma's fitness, injury and rehabilitation have become the mystery of the Indian cricket. This is Indian cricket's own Bermuda Triangle. Rohit is practicing in one of the videos released by Mumbai Indians. But he isn't in the squad for Australia. There's no official statement from BCCI about his hamstring injury. The heavyweights of Indian cricket Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri are warning him against rushing into playing for Mumbai Indians. India's head coach is recalling how he could have extended his career by half-a-decade had he not rushed back from injury, trying to knock experience into India’s white-ball vice-captain. On November 4, BCCI's President, the most powerful man in Indian cricket, is warning Rohit not to rush back. But on the same day, in the evening, Rohit comes out to the toss in the playoff against Delhi Capitals. The cricketing world goes into a meltdown. Rohit is trending everywhere. He’s being criticized as much as BCCI.He continues playing amidst putting a lot of men who matter in Indian cricket into a state of embarrassment. The 33-year-old keeps playing until Mumbai Indians bag the IPL glory yet again. He's at the forefront of all things good for the Men in Blue. He makes a final winning fifty unfazed and unconcerned by all the fuss outside for MI. For him, he does what he wants. He achieves what he sets out for himself. But not without all the criticism that comes along. He goes for rehab to the NCA. As it emerges, he's not able to fit in the side till the third Test against Australia. The club vs country debate is also going on in full swing. Amid all this, he also bumps himself into trouble with the alleged bio-bubble breach in Melbourne after joining the team. More so, because Rohit is a senior man expected to behave more responsibly. All this had happened, also the SCG late in the day dismissal yet the aggressive batsman came out with all the conviction of still going for his shots at the Gabba off Nathan Lyon. That's Rohit Gurunath Sharma for you. But then came another low. India lost for the first time in a Test at home since 2017 in the Test series opener against the Three Lions in Chennai. The veteran opener again failed. His age. Mayank Agarwal's ouster, which for many was gross injustice. Everything was stacked up against Rohit. This was Rohit Sharma vs the world world again. Another failure in Chennai and the criticism would have grown stronger than ever before. But in the very first session of the ongoing second game, what can be a series defining Test - Rohit came out with all guns blazing. The same attitude that was getting him flak for the last few months kept him going at the Chepauk. The art of being unfazed. The art of keeping the noise out. The art of not giving into intense criticism. The art to be himself. The Rohit Sharma we know. Free flowing, playing his shots, a bit of audacity, full of chutzpah, just the Hitman style.The first day pitch was tricky unlike the first Test. The ball was turning and the puff of dust kept coming off a lot of deliveries. The ball was stopping a bit too. Jack Leach had a more than accurate partner in Moeen Ali. Stuart Broad with fresh legs and mighty confidence of being at his peak. Olly Stone with the pace, the early wicket, the hit-the-deck-hard mantra of Jofra Archer. Cheteshwar Pujara got out to a sharp turner. Virat Kohli was done in by a classic offie that came back sharply to leave him stunned. This wasn’t a flat pitch. Raging turner as Rohit would term it later in the press conference. But it was a blockbuster Rohit Sharma show. The one for which Chennai crowds won't mind creating a hole in their pockets. There was application, there was discipline but also the daredevilry to play shots at free will. The audacious pull six off Ben Stokes in the 12th over with deep square leg in place was as big a statement as when he started sweeping Jack Leach for all his money. It was interesting to see Rohit coming down the track to counter spin and also play sweep shots. Generally, a batsman does either of the two but not a freak like Rohit. He came down the track to 24% of the deliveries he faced from spin at one point in the day, well up on his career average of 10%, as revealed by CricViz. Also, he would lunge forward to play one ball, which is dangerous, but then also would go back and punish loose balls, which is just mastery of playing spin bowling. When India reached 50, it was Rohit with 42 of them. When they reached 100, it was 75 of his runs, and he kept dominating England. By the time he got out, India had made 248 of which the right-hander made 161. He had racked up 80* runs by the time first session was done, and, notably, only three times had an Indian opener made more runs in the opening session of a Test, two of which was achieved by Virender Sehwag, that too on a turner. No wonder India made runs quickly at 4.1 rpo in the first session, or else, they could have been in a dire situation, especially given they don't play six specialist batsmen in India and in this game, there was no Washington Sundar either.But Rohit wasn't only about attack. In the second session, the elegant batsman showed he was there for a long shot. The daddy hundreds, which daddy Rohit loves. There was composure. Temperament, which was missing at times, in the last few months. When he reached his hundred, his celebration gave out a lot. Virat Kohli was crazily excited like ever. His wife Ritika Sajdeh, a cross between relieved and nervous. But when the camera panned on Rohit, he was not over the moon, rather steely determined with a bigger pursuit. Not too bothered about hundred or as much as he's when people write against him. He was eyeing a big one. That's a hallmark of his game, when he gets a hundred, he makes it a big one. In the process of reaching the three-figure mark, he became the opener with most Test centuries since the time he started opening for India in 2019. He also became the batsman with most (19) international hundreds since 2018.Rohit kept on piling runs as his partnership grew bigger with Ajinkya Rahane taking the game further away from England after early inroads. He kept on making run-scoring easy, when it clearly wasn’t. He got out on 161 but not before putting India in a commanding position. The value of his runs magnified when during the fag end of play, someone like Joe Root was spitting venom off the surface. To think of what he did - make 161 off 231, on a turner - it was arguably Rohit's best Test knock yet, given the context and what all he had to go through since IPL. To be a successful sportsman, the art of living in a bubble is paramount. The ability to filter out noise from intense criticism. To have faith in your game when the whole world is against you. Today, the Mumbaikar embodied the same spirit that helped him turn into the Hitman of Indian cricket from the most trolled player. From one intensely disliked to having one of the biggest fan bases. Rohit's approach of 'my way or highway' can polarize opinions but not his performances as long as they keep coming, like the epic today.Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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IND vs ENG | Chepauk Day 4 Talking Points: Washington’s crazy potential, England’s clinical display and same old ‘SG’ ball
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England had another great day in the opening Test as they continued to dominate India in all departments of the game. Despite Sundar's wonderful 85*, England ended India's innings on 337 and then were quite proactive to score 178 on a tricky surface to leave the hosts with a record chase of 420.Washington Sundar's unflappable temperament Washington Sundar is an anomaly. Someone with as little experience as the left-hander in first-class cricket has no right to show so much maturity, compactness, a solid judgement of off-stump, ability to soak in pressure, hit elegant shots and all that at the age of 21, which is crazy, given how much he can develop in times to come. When he bats, one thing that is apparent is he can bat up the order than seven.One thing in common in the first three Test innings of Washington has been the pressure situations that he has been subjected to and how beautifully he has conquered them to prove a point. Pretty much like the Gabba Test, Washington arrived at the crease, when India needed a solid performance from him. They were 192 for 5 in response to England's massive 578. He started with some magnificent shots. But as soon as Rishabh Pant got out, he took the role of the senior man and batted with a lot of application to add 80 runs for the seventh wicket with Ashwin.He showcased discipline that was missing with most of the Indian batsmen, who had endured soft dismissals, all this in his second Test and only third innings. His judgement of the off-stump stood out whenever the pacers tried to test his technique. And against spin, he's master at work as such is the ease with which he milks the slower bowlers. He had endured a horrible time with the ball, but like a true all-rounder, he left behind a major impact with the willow in hand and if not for his well-made 85, India wouldn't have reached 337 from 225 for 6 given India's poor tail. India have found a solid talent in the all-rounder to invest in for future. England's clinical approach Swat-sweeping, slog-sweeping, switch-hitting, reverse-sweeps, flicks, England put an exhibition on a tricky fourth-day pitch as India opened the bowling with R Ashwin and Shahbaz Nadeem and even got the breakthrough on the first delivery of the English innings. It was as if the World Champion ODI team had turned up than the Test side as such was the audacity and attacking intent with which England batsmen countered Indian bowlers led by their skipper Joe Root who made a 32-ball-40. The pitch is such now that any ball can have your name written on it. The dismissals of Joe Root and Daniel Lawrence showed how difficult it is to bat on this wicket with invariable bounce on offer for pacers while spinners were getting good turn and bounce off the deck. There is a good length area too which explodes when the ball hits the deck there, all of which rings the alarm for batsmen.England, who were well ahead in-game with a big lead of 241, pretty well knew all they needed to do was to get to 150-175 and not 70-80 total to put India on to the back foot, which they duly did. They were disdainful on Nadeem as he wasn't allowed to settle in again and the tourists didn't even let Ashwin take a breather as Root again put up a sweep masterclass on display even though the offie was among wickets unexpectedly. Even in terms of bowling, after getting R Ashwin out, England didn't let Washington get away and took last three wickets for just 32 runs, which was worth gold given how complex it was supposed to bat in their second innings given the threat Indian bowlers possessed on a fourth day Chepauk wicket. Same old soft 'SG' ball and Kohli's tactics One of the overlooked things in this Test has been the use of a modified SG ball between India and England. There have been some complaints from senior Indian players in the past about the ball turning soft quite early with R Ashwin even stating that "The SG ball used to be top-notch, and you could bowl with it even after the 70th or 80th over. The seam used to be standing up strong and straight. But it is not the same anymore."In this Test SG ball with a pronounced seam, harder core and with a darker shade of red is being used but to no avail. The ball was expected to retain the hardness till 60th over but today, it went soft from the 11th over itself, maybe because of the dry nature of the Chepauk deck or reasons best known to the ball manufactures. Bowling in India has been a nightmare in comparison to bowling with the Dukes, or even the Kookaburra ball and it doesn't seem to be changing any soon.Virat Kohli was good with his captaincy today in terms of tactics and aggression but not starting with the Jasprit Bumrah who is tailor-made for exploiting the fourth-day Chepauk surface with invariable bounce was hard to comprehend even if we weigh up what Nadeem offered, extra bounce, and he returned sans a wicket, giving 23 runs in six overs. Kohli didn't bring Bumrah till the 22nd over, who got the danger Root early and troubled English batsmen a lot. Also, not giving the ball to Ashwin post-tea session early was surprising given the offie had already taken three wickets and looked the most dangerous alongside Bumrah. Also, Root was constantly targeting the vacant mid-wicket region by sweeping the bowlers, with Kohli slow to fill in the gap.Sloppy India India have overstepped the line too often in this Test. While England only bowled one no-ball in their innings, India delivered 20 no-balls in the first innings and 7 in the second, to end up with 27 no-balls. Also, India were quite slow in their over-rate today, which has been the case earlier too in the game and can prove deferential as World Test Championship points are docked for slow over-rate.  Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Has fatigue impacted India’s performance in the Chepauk Test?
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It's almost crazy when you think of it. It has been 165 days since 11 of the 22 players who made it to  the India squad for England Tests have been in a bio-bubble which started in late August. Any gap in between? Yes, just one five-six day gap in between after the end of the taxing Australia tour.Cricket is generally never ending, hectic and overstretched  in India’s cricket calendar. But the fact that there hasn't been any change to the way things work with the newly introduced mentally taxing bio-bubble in cricket has been surprising. India are playing back-to-back four-match Test series. There is hardly any respite. Hard quarantine, innumerable COVID tests, travel restrictions and not being able to meet family frequently have added to the woes apart from the apparent physical and mental challenges of overdose of cricket, which is already a big challenge to contend with.For instance, Jasprit Bumrah played 15 matches in IPL, three ODIs, one warm-up game, four Tests since September 19. He has bowled 153.4 overs in the last four Tests (end of England first innings). Cummins also bowled like a machine in the hot summer Down Under but right now, he's resting on his couch or sunbathing on beaches than sweating in hot Chennai. Ajinkya Rahane, after being part of the IPL, played two warm-up games and this is his fifth Test in the last 50-odd days that he’s playing and will feature in three more Tests in the next four weeks. The grueling Australia Tests ended on January 19 and just after a few days, India were back to quarantining and playing another testing series at home. And that too as big as four matches. Fatigue is not only physical as pointed out about Bumrah or Rahane but mental as well. Being on the road for such a long time is extremely challenging. Even when a player isn't playing, he can't let his guard down and has to stay mentally confined to cricket with little or no access to the outside world. Being mentally fresh and up to the task is as complex, especially in these times of bio-bubble restrictions.When asked ahead of the Test series opener about the mental fatigue and tiredness, India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane had stated that, "We are not mentally tired at all - we’re really tough mentally."But when India were batting on day three in their first innings, there were at least a few dismissals which showcased lack of application, seemingly, borne out of tiredness than complacency. Even before the penny could drop in Ravi Shastri's words and India could soak in, reflect, relax, sink in the feeling of back-to-back Test series wins Down Under, they were facing a relentless and rampant England. One of the hallmarks of Rohit Sharma's batting in Australia was the application and discipline he would show up in the first 20 overs, exhibiting good judgement of the off-stump and playing the hard way. Batting in India, he becomes even more disciplined in his game in easier conditions. But on day three, on a flat wicket, Rohit missed out, much to everyone's surprise. He was guilty of hanging his bat out even when the ball wasn't heading to the stumps and pushed at the ball. Perhaps, the hard two-week quarantine in Australia, two tiring Tests, fielding for 190 odd overs had got to his batting as his fielding when he had dropped a sitter too long ago. Even Shubman Gill, one of those players, who have been on the road for 165 days in three bio-bubbles with a short break, which can be termed as negligible rest and relaxation period after Tests Down Under, showcased the class but not the temperament like in Australia. The right-hander, who had been part of 14 IPL games, one ODI, two warm-up games, and was playing his fourth Test in a short period of time, played an impatient drive too early. Perhaps, in his head, he was still in Australia or a little tired.Rahane, who generally shows a lot of restraint and application, was also seen coming down the track and getting out to a full toss, that too on the sixth delivery he faced. It came as a surprise given the team was expecting far more from their vice-captain after Kohli had got out shortly before with England having a big score on the board. For all the character, grit, determination, application, and persistence shown in the last Test series, it was the stark opposite. And not only in batting, even Indian bowling lacked plans unlike Australia. The fielding was extraordinarily poor and the body language was not up to the mark with shoulders down. It was a tired and worn out side on the field, which gave a feeling that there is more to the tiredness than just being out in the park for two days on a flat pitch. They just looked out mentally. And given how extensively India had talked about not being complacent, that was surely not the reason behind such a lackluster display.In comparison, England's rotation policy that had seen them resting Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes for the Sri Lanka series, rotating Anderson and Broad, then giving a breather to Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood for the first two India Tests, it was all making more and more sense. They had a fizz, clear batting plans, no signs of exhaustion, spring in their steps on the field, which saw them taking three brilliant catches, and it all transpired into beating India in their own game of posting big first inning score and then bowling out opposition for lesser runs to get into a position of ascendency.When England was facing criticism for not putting their best team on the park owing to rotation policy, someone like Jofra Archer had rightly emphasized that “Anyone that’s criticizing [player rotation] has never stayed in a bubble. At the end of the day, humans are social people, especially when you’re not having a great game. There’s no escape, nowhere to go." Even senior player Jos Buttler had opined that, "You do find it challenging having to stay away from your families, being in quarantine and locked up in hotels. ECB has been forward-thinking in rotating players for this series. At times, it's frustrating as you want to have the best players on the show all the time but it's not possible with the amount of time that one spends in a bio bubble. You can't expect people to keep doing that," The first few days of the ongoing Test series has certainly proven how England with their rest and rotation policy out-thought India  which has reflected in how they emphatically have been mentally and physically all over the hosts. And even if we take out the performance part, this way of functioning for India isn’t sustainable for too long.Both Bumrah (36) and Ashwin (55.1) have already bowled the most overs they have delivered in a Test innings in their career in the heat of Chennai. Notably, both had got injured and missed out on the Gabba Test, which was most likely induced due to their workload. England's first innings vigil was the longest first-innings total in Test cricket since South Africa's 510/9 decl against India in 2005 in Kanpur, in which the tourists had batted for 190.4 overs. It is likely to have taken a huge toll on both the premier Indian bowlers. Three Tests remain and India might not want to be too stubborn with their players. With a limited-overs series coming up, followed by IPL and then an away Test series in England and a T20 World Cup later this year, India will need to plan carefully and purposefully going ahead if they want the best out of team sans injuries and exhaustion. Perhaps following the England route of rest and rotation might not be a bad start. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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IND vs ENG | Chepauk Day 3 Talking Points: X-factor Jofra, complacent Indian batsmen and the alluring Pant-Pujara stand
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Three back-to-back days and it has been an England domination all the way in the ongoing Chepauk Test, much on the unexpected lines. Today, Indian batting disappointed largely as they batted with little or no application barring Pant-Pujara as England ended on top with Jofra on fire from the start. X-factor Jofra Archer's top-notch skillsRaw pace, height, bounce, skills, intelligence - Jofra Archer wasn't designed in any laboratory though he may seem like one with what he offers. Right in his fifth delivery in Asia, a 141kph delivery hits good length and raises a puff of dust from the surface and the ball races past the outside edge of Gill like a quick leg cutter. Jofra hits it where it matters. It's enough to create doubts as after fielding 190 odd overs, Indian openers must have realized it ain't as flat especially when Archer has the red-cherry.It is a third-day pitch but then why James Anderson wasn't as threatening? This is about what Archer brings to the plate - pace and bounce. The right-arm pacer gets the reward soon, Rohit who averages 88.33 and is invincible at home gets out early as all it takes is nine deliveries for the lanky pacer to get off the mark in India. He does it with a short of length nipping away delivery after steaming in at pace. Soon enough the dangerous-looking Gill is also dismissed as Archer takes two wickets in his first spell.Then walks in India's Test kingpin - Virat Kohli. And the one ball that pretty much typified the threat that Archer brings on these surfaces came on the third ball of the 20th over. He beats Kohli's outside edge. It could have been a half-volley had he taken a stride forward points a TV commentator. But why he didn't? Because Jofra has threatened Kohli's head and gloves with vicious bouncers and has created enough doubts in his head not to lunge forward easily as he does to Anderson. Archer has already brought many modes of dismissals to play on a flat pitch. This is the X-factor that he brings, which they otherwise wouldn't have managed.Lack of application from Indian batsmen Undoubtedly, this is a third day Chennai pitch. It's doing more than the last two days but anything worth being 73 for 4 when England made 578? Not quite. Especially the way the Indian openers got out it was as if they were expecting things to fall in place for them just because it's a flat pitch and should be easy to motor along. Rohit Sharma, who was guilty of throwing away his starts be it taking on the bouncer in closing phases of the SCG Test or his Gabba attempt to hit a maximum off Lyon, was at it again.Archer did bowl a good delivery to Rohit but the senior batsman was hanging his bat out even when the ball wasn't heading to the stumps and pushed at the ball. Openers are supposed to be tested on the off-stump line with the new ball no matter where you play and Rohit just didn't show enough discipline to counter early overs. His junior partner Gill also followed in his footsteps too. He was creaming the ball with the ease of a master batsman at his peak. Nothing seemed to faze him and a big knock beckoned. But he played an uppish on-drive too early to a freebie full ball as if its white-ball cricket or he's in some rush.Virat Kohli got out playing away from his body which is risky when the ball has turn and bounce, quite opposite to what he does, let the ball come to him. And the Ajinkya Rahane dismissal just summed India's expectation of carrying over from Australia without breaking a sweat. It was one heck of a catch but Rahane also got into a position that he played an aerial shot at a time when India needed stability. Just poor application. Period, which put the responsibility back on Pujara-Pant partnership. 'Ice' Pujara and 'Fire' Pant and the art of fightbackCheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant, these two are the personnel of a contrasting world. One will kill by squeezing every ounce that there is in a bowler while the other will keep hammering till you tap into submission. But this pair combines well. Never have I felt opposites attract as much the last three Tests that India have played with this pair as they have strung together stands of 53, 148, 61, and 119. This is how well these two have done together for the side.One thing common between all these partnerships and these two has been the resolve to fight back for the team when the chips are down. Today again, like the SCG and Gabba Tests, they came with the team needing a solid performance from them. At 73 for 4, with all batsmen getting out sans application and a big deficit, they got into their element. It was Pant again, who started putting back the pressure on England as he attacked Jack Leach, taking him to the cleaners and kept attacking, showcasing audacity that made him a hero at Gabba as he replicated the confidence from Down Under.On the other hand, Pujara also looked at ease. He played the spinners in his trademark fashion of coming down the track to not let it spin much. He was solid against fast bowlers. And if not for an unlucky dismissal, he was set for a big knock. The partnership between the two might well have ended on 119 but they again showed how two extremes can succeed together yet again and have developed into a dependable combination. Moreover, it helped India get out of extreme trouble after they have been on the back foot since day one, even if it was only for a short duration. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Joe Root – He came, he saw, he conquered
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Welcome to a Joe Root masterclass. Unlike AB de Villiers, who played his 100th Test amid much fanfare in India, Root's historic moment came in an empty stadium in the silence of Chepauk. But the delicious cover drives, reverse-sweeps, clips, flicks, pulls and punches - this was pure gratification.Somewhere in the world of Steven Smith's madman consistency, Virat Kohli's overpowering persona, Kane Williamson's gentlemanly class and Babar Azam's crazy potential, we forget Joe Root. And we are as guilty as his dwindling Test form over the last couple of years. But when he is in his element/trance, he's a different class altogether. The masterfulness and ease with which he dominates opposition sets him apart. Someone watching Joe Root for the first time today would be surprised to know that Joe isn't from India as he looked more at home than even the hosts. This was a massive test. Not only because the right-hander was becoming part of few elite men to have played 100 Tests from England, but a rampant Indian team needed a strong challenge from English talisman before the aura and grandeur of India took over in the head of England, which is often the case for visitors. It's a battle of mind as much as skills and stamina. Root was at the heart of England’s momentous effort today. The visitors despite a solid opening stand found themselves in a vulnerable spot as they were 63 for 2 when Root arrived. On the very first ball, Ashwin sent Root a gentle reminder that this ain't Sri Lanka and the challenges will be greater and the bowling tighter as he induced a leading edge with his well disguised drift. The fast bowling challenge was also never going to be as easy as Bumrah kept him at his toes with his in-dippers. The Pacers were getting a hint of reverse swing. The first 50 balls had eclipsed and Root's sweeps had still not seen the light of the day. For Root, sweeps in Asia are akin to cover drives for Kohli. It is that feel good factor that helps him get into his zenith. But you just don't play 100 Tests and average close to 50 sans top-notch quality. Root's plan was simple. He was baiting India with the silence before the storm. All that he needed was the introduction of inexperienced Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem as he was going to feast on them all day long. This is Test cricket after all. The longer you survive, the greater the chances of inflicting greater damage. For Root, he had a lot more on his head. Stokes and Pope were to come minus much match practice. India's ability to induce collapse is as known as England creating a hole. Well, he was also part of the 2016 Chennai Test where he had seen England go down like a pack of cards in the final two sessions of the Test. And this India had no net or tired bowlers. They had only grown in confidence as the team was coming after a high of back-to-back series wins Down Under. But Root wasn't going to gift wrap his wicket to Sundar like Steven Smith. Instead, he launched a scathing attack on him. He was back to sweeping the spinners. The reverse-sweep was out. So was the disdainful slog sweep off Shahbaz Nadeem in the 48th over when he fetched the ball from wide outside the off-stump for a dismissive four. It was a clear-cut statement that Nadeem is no Lasith Embuldeniya and was going to be treated accordingly. The Yorkshireman’s confidence in sweeps were at all-time high as he was coming after hitting 53 and 52 sweeps in the last two Tests against Sri Lanka with his sweep averaging a mind-boggling 299 runs per dismissal, as per CricViz. To add to that, had Joe Root only scored runs with sweep shots in 2021, he would still be the 12th highest run-getter in Tests.The sweep shot in essence opens up the whole field. And this is the checkmate moment for Root. Who said only bowlers set baits and trap batsmen? Top-class batters do the same to bowlers. They make bowlers bowl in their areas of strength, which they can second guess beforehand. The Ashwin vs Root battle was always going to be fascinating despite the English no.4 having a better record against the offie having scored 251 runs and losing his wicket only three times with Root's SR of close to 60 coming into the Test. But Ashwin is a master of his craft, who's always reinventing himself and evolving with time. Given how he had worked over Smith, there were similar hopes in this Test. A major question was how would Ash deal with Root's sweep assault? Right, after the first time the Englishman swept him, it was set to be an alluring battle. Next two deliveries, Root defended the ball off the backfoot. Root is as nimble and decisive with his footwork. He can come forward and defend and also go back and block the ball as well. No wonder he’s a complex nut to crack for spinners.After that Ash delivered two loose half-trackers, which was Ashwin's way of staying one step ahead of Root as he was expecting the cross batted sweep. But it was not to as Root pulled and punched the premier Indian offie for back-to-back boundaries. After that, the battle was as good as dead. At the end of the day, Root had collected 26 off 38 against Ashwin at a SR of 68.42.After that he was creaming the ball past cover, kneeling down to sweep, slog sweeping, playing dabs, even switch-hitting, the late cuts, the flicks, the punches, it was a Joe Root exhibition. There wasn't even one area where the English skipper didn't score runs. The sweep remained his most productive shot as he collected 26 runs off it. He played arguably his best Test knock in his 100th Test to make it truly memorable. Root finished the day unbeaten on 128. He came, he saw, he conquered. The way he annihilated the Indian bowlers had inkling of the Kevin Pietersen's 2012 Wankhede epic as such was the way he forced the Indian bowlers into submission at their own backyard in one of their most loved venues to set up the tone for the series, which has certainly sent India the warning signal that this is England side ain't any pushover, especially as long as Joe Root is at the forefront of the side. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Friday Fights | The Big ODI Fight – Andrew Flintoff vs Shaun Pollock 
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Two mavericks of the game, Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock were the go-to-bowlers for their respective countries and on their day, could contribute in an efficient manner with the willow in hand as well. Today, these two resilient cricketers will lock horns in an epic boxing bout.Those who have seen the princely peak of Andrew 'Box-Office' Flintoff still can't stop but gush at his maverick ability to change games of cricket with his power packed performances.  6 ft 4 inches tall, ability to clock 90mph, reverse the ball at high pace, get the big fishes out, unleash powerful batting performances at the biggest of stages, Flintoff was a revered artist in the world of cricket. If Flintoff was an artist, Shaun Pollock was a machine. Hailing from a cricketing family with some big names, yet being able to turn out the best of all, pressure was something that he always created than succumbed to. One of the premier new ball bowlers during his heydays, he was a match-winner with his impeccable accuracy that he used to perfection to make batters dance to his tunes. Also, he was a very solid lower-order batsman, who could chip as and when the team required. Today, these two phenomenally gifted players will don the boxing gloves and take on each other in a head-to-head boxing battle to go one up on each other and emerge as the ultimate champion. Let's get started, folks:ROUND 1 -BATTING AVERAGE: Flintoff hits Pollock outta parkFlintoff is off to a flyer. Known as a quick starter, he gets on to the front foot, and creams his punch like a cricket ball to down Shaun Pollock in the opening round of the much anticipated battle. The English showman's batting average of 32.02 is too hot to handle for Shaun, who averages 26.46Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7ROUND 2 -BOWLING AVERAGE: So close yet to so far Shaken up by Flintoff's punch in R1, Pollock shows he’s a resilient man. This time, he takes the initiative and goes for a series of attacking punches on the Englishman. But, Freddie was no muck with the white cherry in hand, and with an average of 24.38, he takes all the punches in his stride before unleashing an aggressive hook to win the round over Pollock, who averages 24.51 with the ball in a close clash.Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9ROUND 3 -WICKETS PER INNINGS: Freddie, the PRO BOXER turns up One of the most critical aspects of boxing or cricket is how you use aggression to your advantage. And Flintoff, who has been a pro boxer himself, apart from being a cricketer, surely knows how to translate aggression into uppercuts. And this time, he doesn't even let Pollock to lay his finger on a bull like Freddie as with 1.42 wickets per innings, he's too big an impact bowler to even get challenged by Pollock's 1.32 wickets per innings. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 8 ROUND 4 -ECONOMY RATE: Sigh! Pollock is finally on board Much to the relief of the crowd present in the stadium, who have come to witness an enthralling battle, Pollock is finally off the hook. Flintoff, with an ER of 4.40, gets a tad too aggressive and as a result, in a bid to repeat his uppercut from the last round tries to replicate the same and gets imbalanced. All that Pollock with an economy of 3.68 needs to is to connect his punch accurately which he does with the ease of a master as such was his ability with the ball too. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10 ROUND 5 -BOWLING AVERAGE IN ICC TOURNAMENTS: This is Freddie's world Big ticket tournaments, pressure, box-office environment, the world is watching, and it's hardly a surprise that Flintoff turns up the heat and packs a punch. It's a no-contest as Pollock lives up to the 'C' tag and turns out to be an underperformer in the ICC tourneys. Flintoff's bowling average of 21.47 is far better than Pollock's 27.46 in big ticket ODI events. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7 ROUND 6 -NO. OF BALLS BOWLED PER GAME: IT AIN'T OVER YETShaun Pollock has largely under performed in this fight thus far, but he makes a comeback with a thumping win this round. This turns out to be the last man standing sort of contest. Both the fighters go hard at one another. No one is ready to give up. But Pollock with 52.9 balls per game lasts longer as Freddie with 47.2 balls fails to keep fighting and loses the round. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 7 -BOWLING AVERAGE AT HOME: Jeez, Pollock is up and running nowThat's the beauty of fights between two talented boxers. No matter how dire the situation becomes for any of them, they keep gutting it out till the last ounce they got. And that can be said for Pollock too who at one stage was trailing 1-4, as he registers back-to-back wins. Making full use of the momentum that he gained after R6 win, Pollock brings up a surprise move- THE RIB CAGER. With an average of 20.20 at home, he tears into the rib-cage of Flintoff, who loses the round with an average of 21.32.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 8 -BATTING AVERAGE AWAY: You can't keep a pro boxer out for longNow, this is where the experience of being a pro boxer once comes into play. Flintoff knows how to turn the tide, be it with the bat in hand or the boxing gloves. Pollock, buoyed by his last two round wins, with an average of 24.34, tries to hook Flintoff to the ground but the Englishman ducks and later with 27.11 overpowers him with a killer uppercut. Crowd goes berserk, what a move Freddie boy.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 7ROUND 9 -BATTING STRIKE RATE: And the big man Flintoff knocks out PollockThis was always coming. Pollock, after a great R6 and R7 lost the last round, which meant he had to fire with all his guns blazing in R9 to fight for another day. But Freddie was always a great striker of the cricket ball with his hand-eye coordination and that is what he uses to perfection in boxing as well. With a strike-rate of 86.7, Pollock tries a half-hearted punch but Flintoff, with a strike-rate of 88.82, steals the thunder with a HOOK to down Pollock for once and all. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9WINNER BY KNOCKOUT - Andrew Flintoff FINAL SCORE: Flintoff 85-77 Pollock   Let us all admit that we did expect Andrew Flintoff to turn up the heat in this bout but could anyone anticipate the fight not even being a close one? I, for one, didn't as such were these big names and the stature and respect that these two command. But Flintoff was like a relentless machine and kept taking his game to the next level with every subsequent round. Pollock did try to find his feet later on but it was too little and too late. But one thing which we all learnt today is how good Andrew Flintoff is, as he emerged as the ultimate champion in this clash of titans. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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