India Versus West Indies – 1st T20I Review

After an extremely one sided test series which India took 2-0(4), the action shifted to a format which evened the scales. The reigning World T20 champions took on the Men in Blue in the first of the 2 T20I. The last time these two teams had squared up, India suffered an emotional loss at home in the World T20 semifinal. What made this contest more exciting was that it was played in Florida, cricket’s newest market.

India won the toss and as expected, elected to bowl. What followed was nothing short of a brutal carnage. The Windies openers, Charles and Lewis led the hostile takeover as they took the attack to the bowlers from the word go. The very first over of the match bowled by Shami bled 17 runs and there was no looking back. Charles was bludgeoning the ball while Lewis was milking runs at ease. 78 runs from the power play and a whopping 132 from the first 10. If India thought that the storm was over, they were in for a huge surprise. Lewis took a liking for Binny and smacked 5 sixes of his only over, the eleventh of the innings. He completed a well-deserved century before falling to Jadeja. Russell, Pollard and Brathwaite chipped in with useful contributions as West Indies amassed a mammoth 245/6.
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India had to conjure a lot of brilliance to pull off this heist. Rahane fell early courtesy a good low catch by Bravo and when Russell snarled Kohli inside the power play, the writing was on the wall for the Men in Blue. Rohit Sharma and Lokesh Rahul had other plans as they went about their jobs with utmost ease. Sharma was carting the bowlers to heaven and back while Rahul was stamping his increasing authority as a T20 batsman. Both reached their half centuries in good time and more importantly, they didn’t let the required rate get out of hand. Sharma’s departure in the 12th over brought Dhoni to the middle. Rahul was unfazed by the mounting pressure. He kept harassing the West Indian bowlers and completed his century of 46 balls. India did tremendously well to reduce the target to 8 of 6. What then should have been a routine chase especially with a centurion and a well set MSD in the middle turned out to be a nightmare. With 2 needed of 1, Bravo held his nerve as Dhoni was caught by Samuels at short third man to hand West Indies a thrilling 1 run win.
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The action will resume less than 24 hours later as Lauderhill, Florida prepares for another edge of the seat thriller.

The Ninth Life

Summers were very different ten years ago in our country. It was a time when kids were excited to go out and play in the sun and vacations hogged the limelight.  That one event has changed the entire concept of a summer is hard to fathom but when we dig deeper into that enigma, we’re bound to stumble upon the intensity of a simple idea. When implemented perfectly, that basic thought has the potential to turn into worldwide phenomenon and in many ways that perfectly sums up what the Indian Premier League has been.

The obvious difference going into this year’s extravaganza is the absence of CSK and RR. CSK have been one of the most consistent and feared sides while on the other hand, RR have relied on exciting young talents to regularly punch above their weights. Though we’ll still see their players turning up for the Gujarat Lions and the Rising Pune Supergiants, their 2 year exile is definitely a huge blow for the fans.

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On the brighter side, the draft picks and the player auction have produced interesting combinations. All the squads including those of the new teams look strong and relatively balanced on paper. RCB have bolstered their side by signing Watson and Binny. The all-round option provided by these two will come in handy for Kohli who will look to lead his side to a first IPL triumph. Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils will look to put last year’s disappointments out of the way and will want to start afresh under their new captains David Miller and Zaheer Khan. Though a grey cloud looms over a few key players of KKR and MI including the likes of Sunil Naraine and Lasith Malinga, they have enough depth in their squads and are always a force to be reckoned with. SRH have never really set the stage on fire and a lot will depend on how David Warner rallies his troops if they are to make it to the play-offs this year. The newbies will want to get into the groove quickly and considering that almost all of them have had a substantial taste of the IPL, it should happen sooner than later.

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One of the best features of the IPL is its ability to find and mold unknown commodities and at the same time be a shot at redemption for some of the overlooked seniors. Ravi Ashwin’s commendable performances for CSK were what catapulted him into the national mix. Uthappa and Nehra have their impressive IPL showings to thank for their return to the international scene. Bumrah, Pandya, Negi, Axar Patel and a number of other youngsters have benefitted immensely from the experience they gained during the IPL. We can expect more of the same trend with the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Vijay Shankar, Deepak Hooda, Barinder Sran and many more ready to express themselves.

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Another heartwarming fact has been how the tournament has evolved over the last decade. Initially, this was all about how hard the batsmen can hit. Now, it’s safe to say that such narrow minded thoughts are well behind us. As always, it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, keep conjuring your best as all it takes is one catch, one throw, one cameo or one over to turn the tide completely. But of course, you must be willing to put yourself out there, be willing to take the hit in order to truly rise. Playing in front of huge, vociferous and passionate crowds, the fact that almost every player exudes this trait is what has set the IPL apart and is what will lay the base for all the moments of brilliance over the next 50 days. Welcome to the carnival!

The Marauding Kiwi

It takes a combined effort from 11 individuals to have a successful day at the cricketing office. Of course, it is not always an equal contribution from all of them. On a given day, some may produce the performance of a lifetime while others might just want to crawl back into the dugout. As the sun dawns in Christchurch on the 20th morning, the country along with the rest of the cricketing world will prepare to see a champion in action for one last time. Over the next 5 days, New Zealand will be hoping that their most valuable impact player, Brendon McCullum, gets the perfect swansong.

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The journey started on the 17th of August 2002 against the Kiwi’s Trans-Tasman rivals. A young, brash wicket keeper batsman was representing his country on the international cricket scene for the very first time. Almost 14 years down the line, it is nothing short of inspirational to see how that young bloke contributed significantly in sharing his country’s affinity for rugby with cricket. A paradigm shift in people’s interests does not come about easily, especially in the case of sports. Riding on his aggressive batting, smart glove work and most importantly, his intuitive leadership, he brought about that change almost singlehandedly.

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Baz did most of his talking with the bat. He got his first test hundred against Bangladesh, a brilliant 143. Since then, he has gone on to make 10 more centuries including 4 scores of 200+ which is a national record. Though rued for his inconsistency, McCullum is the only player to have played 100 consecutive tests since his debut and has smacked 100 sixes in the process, a shared world record. It is a fact that his swashbuckling style has got him into trouble a lot but every time we thought he was down, he came back in a way only Baz could. A memorable, match saving 302 at Wellington against India is undoubtedly his best effort in whites.

New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum celebrates his triple century against India on the final day of the second test  at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, New Zealand, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

McCullum was a bigger threat in the shorter formats and it is safe to say it was his intent at the top which set the tune for the Kiwis. He quickly evolved into a destructive opener who could take the fight to any opponent and punch them out of the game in a very short time. He set the IPL on fire with a breathtaking unbeaten 158 against RCB in the very first match of the inaugural edition. Since then, he has jumped from team to team but finally found a second home in CSK where he combined with Dwayne Smith to form a wonderful opening partnership. As of today, he is the leading run scorer in T20’s. One Day cricket brought about no changes in his style as he continued to provide the required impetus at the top. His juggernaut up front played a pivotal role in New Zealand’s successful 2015 World Cup campaign where they reached the finals.

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As a leader too, Baz was a winner. He has 11 test wins as the captain of the Black Caps which is second only to Stephen Fleming. More than the numbers, it was the attitude which he instilled into his team that caught the eye of many. He pushed the Kiwi’s to play an attractive and effective brand of cricket which lured fans from all over the world. Be it having 5 people in the slip cordon in a T20 match or setting about to chase an improbable target, he made sure that his team never gave up and always improved. As he takes the field for his final international match, Baz will expect one more fight from his boys to overcome their Big Brother and level the series. Irrespective of how that goes down, irrespective of how many sixes he hits, irrespective of how much he scores, the entire cricketing fraternity is going to come together and say ‘Thank You’ to one of their all time favorites.