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The difference between a good and a great team.

Cricketers these days are playing more and more matches. With three different formats, games are spread throughout the year. This schedule hardly gives them any time to rest. We see cricketers taking breaks during the gruelling cricket season by skipping less important series and matches (dead rubbers) to keep themselves in top condition for the more important ones. Players are often overworked and are getting injured more frequently than before. Taking such breaks helps the players relax, keep them at the top of their game for a longer period of time and avoid injuries by identifying them well in advance.

Teams typically rely on their top stars to win them matches but if these top players are injured and can’t play, the team’s chances take a massive hit. To minimise this risk, it is very important to have a good bench strength so that the players on the bench can replace the injured players and the team’s chances are not adversely affected. We have seen this with the Australian team in the previous decade when their bench strength was strong and even new players were performing whenever they got an opportunity. For example: Brad Hodge played just six test matches but averaged 56 and scored a double century against South Africa at Perth when he was called upon from the bench as a replacement for an injured player.

Teams also need to have all types of players on their bench i.e., a top order batsman, an all-rounder, a wicketkeeper, a fast bowler and a spinner. This helps the team to have a relevant replacement where the player from the bench can play in his natural position instead of being forced to play outside of their comfort zone. We recently saw this during the Test series between Sri Lanka and India where India’s regular openers, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got injured but their replacements KL Rahul and Chesteswar Pujara were called upon from the bench and both of them played crucial knocks which helped India win a Test series in Sri Lanka after 22 years.

With good bench strength, there will be a healthy competition for spots in the team and players can be rotated as well. Additionally, all players go through form slumps and at times like these, players from the bench can be called upon to replace them. This will ensure that any player does not take their spot in the team for granted and players will strive to perform better so as to hold onto their spot in the team.

As we all know that the playing conditions are vastly different all over the world, we have pitches which suit spinners in the subcontinent and pitches that help the pace bowlers in Australia & South Africa. Teams tweak the playing XI as per the conditions to get the team balance right. The coach and captain are constantly trying to figure out the best combination for different playing surfaces. A strong bench will help the coach & captain pick ‘horses for courses’ and help the team compete in all conditions.

 

 

Players need to avoid these mistakes at all costs.
little things that make cricket interesting  © Red Bull Content Pool

Cricket is a complicated sport with lot of rules and regulations which need to be kept in mind while playing. Some of these rules might slip the mind while playing an intense cricket match. We look at 6 such little things that matter.

1. Grounding the bat

While taking an easy single or double, at times batsmen forget to ground their bat and just plonk it in or just walk into the crease. This is very dangerous as at times the fielder has a shy at the stumps from afar and hits the stumps directly. This sort of laziness has ensured a lot of run outs. It should be avoided and the batsmen shouldn’t hand his wicket to the opposition on a platter.

2. Hitting the stumps while bowling.

Some bowlers like to get very close to the stumps in a bid to bowl a stump to stump line. This sort of discipline is good and makes it difficult for the batsman to score freely but many times bowlers hit the stumps with their bowling hand. As per the latest rules, the ball is adjudged a no ball and the batsman gets a free hit. A wicket taking opportunity is lost for two deliveries and the batsman has the license to go after the bowler on the second delivery. The penalty is extremely harsh and hence the bowlers have to ensure that this isn’t done.

3. Putting the helmet in a safe position

There is a penalty of 5 runs if the ball hits the helmet which is put on the ground, one has to be careful especially during first class/test matches to place the helmets in a safe position where it is very unlikely for the ball to go. Putting it behind the keeper is a safe option. But it shouldn’t be forgotten.

4. Fielders inside the 30 yard circle and in catching positions.

In limited overs game, it is a mandate that a certain number of fielders be inside the 30 yard circle. The number of fielders depends on the match situation. More are required during power play overs and less during non-power play overs. A captain has to ensure the required number of fielders, else it is deemed as a no ball and the fielders have to be alert as well given the captain may forget at times about this. With the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

5. Freakish ways to get out.

Under obstructing the field means a batsman willfully obstructing the opposition fielders by word or action, the umpire can give him out. Also if a batsman changes his path of running so as to hinder the fielder taking aim at the stumps, one can be given out.

Handling the ball is a freak way to get out when the batsman willfully touches the ball with a hand that is not holding their bat. Consent has to be taken from the fielding team before one can touch the ball.

A batsman is timed out if he isn’t ready to face the ball within 3 minutes of the previous batsman getting out. This would be the most unfortunate way to get out as one is out even before coming out to bat. To date 5 batsmen have been timed out in First Class Cricket. In Test Cricket, during the 2007 SA vs India Test match at Newlands, India’s No 4 came out after 6 minutes. This happened as Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t eligible to bat as he was replaced as a fielder for 18 minutes at the end of the South African innings and India lost two wickets quickly. Eventually, Ganguly came out to bat after 6 minutes but the South African Captain Graeme Smith was kind enough not to appeal for a “timed out”

6. No of fielders on leg side

There cannot be more than two fielders, excluding the wicket-keeper, behind the popping crease on the leg side. The ball is deemed a no-ball and with the new regulations a no-ball like this will result in a free-hit.

 

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

Major upsets in cricket

Instances where David beat Goliath or a team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

In matches where we do not have a team to support, we typically side with the underdog or the weaker team. When a weaker team defeats a stronger/established team it makes us happy and is also remembered by people for a long time. For example, unless one is a die-hard Australia fan, they don’t remember all the matches which the great Australian team won at the start of this century. But most people vividly remember matches where they were defeated against all odds. This is one type of upset.

An upset is also an unexpected result; matches in which one team is in a commanding position and is certain of a victory but the other team pulls out a victory from the jaws of defeat.

We look at some of the major upsets in World Cricket in the recent past in all three formats of the game.

T20I

Australia vs Pakistan at Gros Islet, World T20 2010 Semi Final

In a high pressure knockout game, Australia were down and almost out. Chasing 192, they were 105-5 in 12.3 overs. In walked Michael Hussey and played what many call the best T20I innings. He scored 60 runs in just 24 deliveries against world class bowlers like Ajmal, Afridi and Mohd Amir. He took a special liking to Ajmal and scored 30 runs against 7 deliveries.

Zimbabwe vs Australia at Cape Town, World T20 2007, League Game.

The invincible Australian team had recently won their 3rd consecutive World Cup and was the firm favorite to win the inaugural World T20 which held at South Africa. Zimbabwe restricted the powerful Australian batting line up to 138. In a nail biter, Zimbabwe got the 12 runs in the final over to win the game. This was easily the upset of the tournament.

ODI

South Africa vs Australia at Johannesburg, 5th ODI, bilateral ODI series.

This game has been voted as the greatest ODI match of all time. This was the first ODI game where the 400 mark was breached. Australia scored 434 and it seemed improbable that it could be chased down, but South Africa did it to snatch a famous victory.

Bangladesh vs India at Port of Spain, 2007 Cricket World Cup

India had a very strong and experienced team, they had prepared for this tournament for a long time under the leadership of Rahul Dravid & Greg Chappell. But they were bowled out for 191 and a young Bangladesh team chased it. This led to India crashing out of the group stages of the 2007 World Cup.

Test Matches

South Africa vs Australia at Cape Town 2011, 1st Test Match

After the 1st innings was completed in this game, Australia bowled South Africa out for 96 and took a 188 run lead. It was Australia’s game to lose and that they did in spectacular fashion! They got bowled out in the second innings for 47. (They were 9 down for just 21 runs and were on course to post the lowest ever score in test history but a last wicket partnership ‘saved’ them). 23 wickets fell on one day and South Africa managed to chase the target of 236 easily with 8 wickets in hand.

India vs Australia at Kolkata 2001, 2nd Test Match

The Australian team was on a roll and had won the first test match in Mumbai within 3 days. It was also their 16th consecutive win (which is a record that still stands). Australia started as firm favorites for the second test as well. The Indian bowling attack was inexperienced and the batsmen were finding it tough to counter the Australian bowlers. The first two days of the match were along expected lines with Australia posting a formidable 445 and India surrendering meekly for 171 and were asked to follow on. India had promoted the in-form VVS Laxman to number 3 and finished teh third day on 254/4. Day 4 and 5 completely belonged to India. India did not lose a single wicket on Day 4 with VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid hitting the Australian bowlers all over the park and on Day 5, India managed to get 10 Australian wickets in under 70 overs to seal a famous win. Many people call this test as ‘The Greatest Test of All Time’. This test had the stronger team losing as well as the weaker team snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Makes it a perfect upset.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

Breeding ground for future cricketers.

The future of Indian cricket © Ayan Sil

Domestic season in India is a hectic one and there are a lot of tournaments which take place in a period of 6 months. While the zonal tournaments have the best domestic players on show, it is the Ranji Trophy which is highly competitive and intense.

There are 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy and they are divided into 3 groups of 9 with each team playing a minimum of 8 matches. This year, the BCCI has decided to provide a gap between the league stages and knockout stages. From October 1st to December 4th, each team will play eight games of 4 days each. The knockout stage will start on February 3rd and ends on February 28th, 2016. Overall, 115 games will be played during this period.

All this means that players have to acclimatize to a very hectic schedule along with constant travel and new conditions all over India. This tournament is specially important for young players as they need to cope with challenges and perform against the best domestic players in India. This toughens them for the grind of international cricket by giving them ample number of matches to prove themselves.

Most of these youngsters come from different age group teams (U-19, U-21 and U-23) and the Ranji Trophy acts as a stepping stone towards international cricket. The Ranji Trophy gives them the opportunity to interact with senior players from their team as well as opposition teams. They not only learn how to cope with different situations but also learn new tricks or tactics.

There are many rivalries in the Ranji Trophy such as Mumbai vs Delhi, Karnataka vs Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad vs Andhra Pradesh. For Ranji teams, winning against their arch rivals is very important and they give it all in these matches. Verbal duels between the teams are also very common. When youngsters play in these matches, it prepares them well for international cricket.

Selectors monitor the performances of young players since some of these will go on to represent the nation. Doing well in a season of the Ranji Trophy catches their eye and opens the gate for zonal matches too. Consistently performing well in the Ranji Trophy (2-3 seasons) will make it tough for the selectors to not pick a youngster in the A team, which eventually will pave the way for them to make it to the Indian national cricket team. Recently, K.L Rahul made his way into the national team on the back of his exceptional Ranji Trophy performances.

The Ranji Trophy provides youngsters an invaluable platform to be fast tracked into the national team. Performance at the Ranji level can be the difference between getting a national cap and being just a member of the state team.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

Only the most disciplined players can do it.

 

Test matches are considered to be the toughest format of the game of cricket and for good reason. It is the format which tests the players on all levels and only the best of the best can excel. Teams as well as individuals have to perform at their best to be successful over a long period of time.

Some of the best Test teams that have played the game are Bradman’s invincibles of the 30s & 40s, the West Indies team of the late 70s & 80s, Australian team of the late 90s. We will discuss how these teams performed consistently well for so long and what was their recipe for success.

One must remember that a team is as good as its players, so most of the points mentioned below will be applicable for teams as well as individual players.

Practice: Practice makes perfect. Whether it is about perfecting a new shot or a new delivery, it is about putting in long hours to master it and ensure that it is executed perfectly on the day of the match. This is also applicable for fielding as well as team strategies to counter the opposition.

Discipline: In Test matches, 540 deliveries are bowled in a single day. Batsmen should concentrate and not lose their wickets to silly mistakes and bowlers should not provide easy scoring opportunities to the batsmen & keep them on their toes. Slip fielders might get one or two catches a day, but need to concentrate and be attentive for each of the 540 deliveries during the day. Players need to be disciplined and persevere.

Attitude: Even when the team is going through tough times during a Test match, the attitude of the players has to be positive. They should envision their team winning from a difficult position and put in efforts accordingly. This positive attitude can easily rub off on teammates which will go a long way in helping the team win a match.

Balanced Team: The team has to have good bowlers, batsmen and fielders. Cricket is a team sport and all three departments of the game matter. Even if a team has exceptional batsmen, Test matches can’t be won unless 20 wickets are taken. On the other hand, if a team has great bowlers, they can’t take all wickets unless the fielders hold the catches which come their way and batsmen need to score more runs than the opposition to eventually win matches.

Home advantage: When playing at home (in familiar conditions where one has played throughout their life), teams and players need to perform exceptionally well and make it extremely tough for the touring teams to win matches. Good teams rarely lose Test series at home and some venues are called fortresses as the team rarely loses at that venue.

Performing in diverse conditions: What separates a good and a great team is that great teams also win Test series overseas consistently. Test matches are played all over the world and the pitches, grounds & weather vary from country to country. Adapting to these diverse conditions and performing well is imperative for a great team.

Aggressive captaincy: The captain needs to be aggressive in his mindset and should be able to risk losing to win matches. Trying different strategies by proactively gauging the game and never letting the opposition feel comfortable are imperative to be successful in Test matches.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

 

The oldest rivalry in cricket gets exciting with every season.

England and Australia’s cricket rivalry is the oldest in history and players from both teams are always pumped up for matches against each other. Most of the media and public attention is focused on the test rivalry where teams compete to win the Ashes Urn but the ODI rivalry between the two teams is not to be forgotten. The first ever ODI match was played between Australia in England at the MCG on 5th January 1971.

Australia’s ODI team has been an immensely successful one. They have won five World Cups, which is three more than any other nation and has a positive win / loss record against every team they have played against. England, on the other hand, has not been too successful in the ODI arena. They have never won the World Cup and do not have a positive win / loss record against Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies.

The highlight of the Australia-England ODI rivalry has been the 1987 Cricket World Cup Final held at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. It was the closest-ever World Cup final and Australia scraped through with a seven run win over England.

England and Australia have competed in 134 ODIs till date with Australia winning 79 and England winning 50. That’s a win / loss record of 1.58 in favour of Australia. Only South Africa (1.18) and West Indies (1.19) have better records than that against Australia. This shows that England has historically performed better than most other teams against the Australians.

In matches played in Australia, England has lost 44 and won just 21 matches. But it is a close affair when you look at matches played in England. Australia leads England by a slender margin of two matches, the current record stands at 29-27. Also, in the recent past England has started performing well in ODIs at home. They have won series against Australia in 2010, 2012 and also defeated Australia in the 2013 Champions Trophy. It also has to be noted that England made it to the finals of Champions Trophy and lost an extremely tight contest against India.

In 2013, Australia won the ODI series in England at 2-1 and is looking to win the series again this time against a rejuvenated England who defeated World Cup Finalists New Zealand 3-2 recently. The new English Team has batsmen who can score quickly and good all-rounders which ensures that they bat very deep and are never out of the game.

Australia has a new captain after the World Cup and are looking to build on that success and win the ODI series comprehensively. They were well on their way and won the first two matches quite comfortably. Despite the whole controversy about Ben Stokes ‘obstructing the field’ in the second game at Lord’s, Australia were always in the driver’s seat and won the game comfortably. Eoin Morgan cleared the air after the discussion with his counterpart Smith when he said, “I gave my thoughts, and he gave me his. It’s nothing big. I don’t think it was the winning and losing of the game. So it’s not a big deal, just his view against mine.” England bounced back admirably and handed a heavy 88-run defeat to the Australians in the third ODI. It will be very interesting to see how the ODI series ends. With the Stokes incident fresh in players’ minds, both teams will surely be pumped up to give it their all to win.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here

They say, “Quit while you’re still winning.” Sri Lanka’s best batsman is doing just that.
A warm farewell to Sangakkara © Creative Commons

One of the legends of modern cricket, Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara, is retiring after the second test of the ongoing Sri Lanka-India Test series. He has taken the decision on his own terms and the cricketing world has been putting out glowing tributes for the past few weeks.

Sangakkara is retiring at a time when he is in his best form and is scoring runs at will. He scored the most international runs in a calendar year in 2014. He was in sublime form during the 2015 World Cup as well, where he set a world record by becoming the first person to score 100s in four consecutive ODIs. Sangakkara had long mentioned that he would retire from ODIs after the Cricket World Cup 2015. “It is always better to retire when people ask you ‘Why now?’ than when they ask ‘Why aren’t you retiring?’”

In the recent past, we have seen some cricketing legends prolong their careers in search of milestones. Such extension of careers hurt the team and also blocks deserving youngsters to play for the country. A team’s pursuit of victory should always be the priority over personal milestones.

Sangakkara could have extended his playing career for a few years and could potentially have broken a host of records including most Test centuries, most Test Double centuries, Highest number of Test runs, etc. But he was never keen on pursuing those. This is what he had to say about retiring now: “If setting individual records is the only reason you want to prolong your career, then it is really time to say, ‘Thank you very much.’ I want to be able to look at my teammates in the eye and say, ‘I went out there because I really wanted to do well for the side, and it was nothing to do with individual records.’ I can do that right now. Extending my career for a year doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Sangakkara is Sri Lanka’s best Test batsman in the 21st century. He has scored the most runs in Tests in this century ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting. He averages 68 in 85 Test matches where he has played as a specialist batsman. No other batsman in this time period has even touched 60. To average that high after so many Test matches speaks volumes about his consistency and quality. At the start of his career he was burdened with the responsibility as a wicket keeper and was batting in the top order. He averaged 40 with the bat in 48 Test matches when he was keeping wickets. It was after he gave up the gloves and concentrated totally on his batting that he blossomed as a Test match batsman.

Sangakkara has 38 hundreds in Test cricket and has scored hundreds against all Test playing nations. One point which his critics harp upon is that he hasn’t scored many runs/centuries in overseas conditions. Unfortunately, out of 130+ matches Sangakkara has played till date, 97 of them have been in Asia with just 6 of them in India and he has never been a part of a 4-5 match Test series.

Sri Lanka mostly plays 2-match Test series overseas and they are tough for batsmen as they don’t get enough time to adjust to the alien conditions and given the short tours these days, there aren’t many practice games to acclimatize as well. To put the lack of matches into perspective, after Sangakkara made his debut in July 2000, Sri Lanka has played 7 Test matches in Australia. During the same time period England has played 20 and India has played 16 Test matches.

These factors need to be taken into consideration while evaluating Sangakkara’s record. He has overcome these difficulties and has performed exemplarily over a long time period. This makes him the best Test batsman in the 21st century.

The cricketing world will sorely miss watching Sangakkara’s effortless batting. He leaves a huge void in the Sri Lankan batting unit which might never get filled. One thing that we will surely miss is Sangakkara’s cover drive, arguably the most beautiful cricket shot. From now on, we will only have to watch videos of his cover drives.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here
What weapons does the Indian Test captain Virat Kohli have in his arsenal?
Virat Kohli © Creative Commons

Mahendra Singh Dhoni took up Test captaincy in 2008 and had a formidable Indian team at his disposal. A very tight batting lineup with Gambhir in his best form, Sehwag still going strong and Tendulkar, Laxman & Dravid doing extremely well. On the bowling front, Zaheer was leading the attack, Harbhajan picked up wickets consistently and youngsters like Ishant were contributing to the team’s success. It also helped that Gary Kirsten was a level-headed coach.

The Indian team was phenomenal at home and also performed well at away matches. For the first time ever, it reached the No. 1 ranking in Tests. The captain with his on-field tactics can make an average team good and a good team great. When the experienced players weren’t performing in accordance to their calibre, India’s horrid performances in the Test arena had begun, they lost a Test series to England at home after 28 years. The new team was showing signs of promise but they faltered during the English and Australian tours.

A change in leadership was on the cards but very few expected that MS Dhoni, the most experienced player in the Indian team at that time, would retire from Test Cricket. The current team has a lot of talented young players but it lacks the experience of senior players. Virat Kohli has been tasked with the tough job to lead this young Indian team. An advantage he has is that there are no tough overseas tours on bouncy tracks (Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand) scheduled in the near future. This will help him build the team and identify a core set of players for the team.

Let’s take a look at India’s Test schedule for the next two years. From August 2015 to January 2016, India plays 3 matches against Sri Lanka, 4 matches against South Africa and 2 matches pitted against Pakistan. The series with Pakistan is subject to government clearance. Moving further down, from June 2016 to March 2017, a series of matches unfurl. India is scheduled to play 1 match against Zimbabwe and 4 matches against West Indies. Post that, there is a sigh of relief as the Indian Test squad plays on home turf for the rest of the season. There is one match lined up against Bangladesh, 3 matches against New Zealand, 4 matches against England and 4 matches against Australia. This is going to be the real test of strength and character.

As you can see, none of these 27 Test matches in the next two years are tough overseas tours. India has lost all its recent Test series in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia with just 1 win and 7 losses in 13 games. Some of the defeats were quite heavy and the young team crumbled under relentless pressure put up by the opposition in alien conditions. Upcoming matches in relatively easy playing conditions will help the captain become more aggressive and will also allow players to express themselves freely.

Virat Kohli’s form in the above mentioned overseas tours has also been inconsistent. He was unable to cope up with the not-so-easy batting conditions against a disciplined bowling order in England and had a series to forget where he averaged a dismal 13.4 in 10 innings. He did perform very well in Australia where the conditions were surprisingly batsmen friendly. Being one of the key batsmen in the Indian team, Kohli has an additional task to ensure that his captaincy does not affect his batting.

The first challenge will be the tour of Sri Lanka, where India surprisingly hasn’t done too well historically. They have just won 4 out of 18 Test matches and haven’t won a Test series in Sri Lanka for 22 years. If weather permits, it will be very interesting to see if Kohli’s aggressive five-bowler strategy works out or not. His first full-length Test series as a captain might mould Kohli as a leader on how he approaches the game. Even if the results aren’t favourable in the beginning, Kohli should be given a fair run as a captain as his aggression, while in stark contrast to MS Dhoni, can only be good for the team. Also, chopping and changing the leadership too often will only hurt the team in the long run.

We’d wait and witness how Virat Kohli fares as a captain during the Sri Lankan series.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here
The keys ‘battles’ to look out for in the last match of Ashes 2015.

If the action we have seen till now in the first four tests is anything to go by, the final two of the Ashes series should be very interesting. England has already won the series 3-1 but Australia has the last test to play for pride. Having said that, both the team have had their fair share of problems. Coming into the Ashes, England drew a home test series with New Zealand which highlighted the issues they were facing as a team. The heavy defeat at Lord’s exposed how fragile England’s batting is. Australia’s form has also been a bit disappointing of late. It has been fourteen years since Australia won an Ashes series in England. The fifth and final test is going to be Michael Clarke last test match before he hangs his helmet. He would certainly want to finish on a high.

As we have seen in the first four tests, the batting line-ups of both teams are prone to collapses and it is very unlikely that we will see a test match draw in this Ashes Series (unless the weather decides to play a major spoilsport).

We look at some of the players which will have an important role in determining the course of the fifth and final test:

  • Steve Smith & Joe Root : Steve Smith is ranked as the number 1 Test batsman in the world and is in the form of his life. His average is over 90 in the last year and his career average is getting close to 60. Those are some phenomenal numbers. Currently, he is Australia’s best batsman by a distance. He was brilliant in the Lord’s Test where he scored his maiden double century and Australia ended up winning the Test convincingly. He failed in both innings at Birmingham and Australia lost the test in less than three days. At the age of 24 years, Joe Root has established himself as a premier batsman for England. He averages over 60 in 19 test matches played in England and will be batting at the crucial fourth position to strengthen the English ship. Like Smith, England won both the games when he scored runs and lost the game when he failed. Both these players are very crucial to their team’s fortunes and when they bat well, their team invariably wins.
  • Michael Clarke & Alistair Cook : Both of them are the most experienced batsmen in their teams. And both haven’t been in great form. Cook has just 150+ runs in 6 innings and Clarke has 0. Clarke has been struggling as a batsman and will be looking to score some runs and lead from the front. Cook has shown us that he can be innovative with his field positions and bowling tactics as well. Clarke has lost more Ashes tests than any other Aussie captain. It remains to be seen if he can bid adieu to international cricket with on winning note.
  • Mitchell Johnson & Stuart Broad : With Ryan Harris’ retirement, Mitchell Johnson has been leading the Australian bowling attack on pitches which are not conducive to his style of bowling. Mitchell Johnson’s bowling average is 21 when Ryan Harris is in the playing XI and it inflates to 31 when Ryan Harris isn’t in the playing XI. He hasn’t been as effective as one would hope him to be in this series. The only game where he did bowl well and had the batsmen under pressure was the one at Lord’s which Australia won. With James Anderson injured, the responsibility of leading the attack fell on Stuart Broad. We have seen time and again that he comes up with match-changing spells. England is hoping that he delivers again and they win one of the upcoming two matches to seal the series. Ashes 2015 series has been more or less dominated by bowlers and they have been able to force the results. And therefore, this battle assumes even more importance.

The three battles which have been described above will more or less determine who will take victory at the last and final test. Will England seal a 4-1 thrashing or will Australia regain some respect? Let us know your thoughts in the box below.

This post was originally published on redbull.com and can be read here 
Are fans losing interest in Cricket because of an over packed calendar?

The Cricket Calendar is packed with more matches than ever these days. In fact, the Indian Cricket Team plays all throughout the year except when the IPL or CLT20 is going on. The players aren’t getting much rest and the fans are also being bombarded with a LOT of cricket. Let us look at India’s schedule in the recent past and the near future.

June 2014: 3 ODIs in Bangladesh

July to September 2014: 5 Tests, 5 ODIs and a T20 in England

September – October 2014: Champions League T20. Technically a break for Team India, but most Indian players are involved in it and fans also watch the tournament.

October 2014: 4 ODIs vs West Indies in India

November 2014: 5 ODIs vs Sri Lanka in India

December – Feb 2014: 4 Tests and a tri-series (Aus, England) in Australia.

Feb – March 2015: Cricket World Cup

April – May 2015: IPL

June 2015: 1 Test and 3 ODIs in Bangladesh

July 2015: 3 ODIs and 2 T20Is in Zimbabwe

August – September 2015: 3 Tests in Sri Lanka

September – October 2015: CLT20 / CLT20 replacement

October – November 2015: 4 Tests, 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is vs South Africa in India

December 2015: 2 Tests, 5 ODIs, 2 T20Is Pakistan vs India (Proposed)

January – February 2016: 5 ODIs, 3 T20s in Australia

February 2016: 3 T20s at home v Sri Lanka

March 2016: World T20 2016 in India

April – May 2016: IPL

That’s a lot of cricket which India is going to play, the schedule is more or less similar for countries like England and Australia. All these three countries have big loyal fan bases who watch their matches. The cricket calendar was never this crowded, it was far more spaced out and teams used to play a lot of tour games and we even had rest days in between test matches. Now, all that is gone and a team will be lucky if they can squeeze in more than 2 tour games on a tour.

The cricket fan of today can’t afford to watch every match live on TV given their work commitments. They keep a tab on the scores during the day and catch the highlights of the match after work. If the series isn’t a marquee one or if it’s against a weaker team they sometimes don’t even bother to follow the scores or watch the match. From an Indian standpoint, almost every fan was interested to know about the score of match in the ‘90s or early 2000s; but given the packed cricket calendar, that enthusiasm is no more.

The interest level for the recent India vs Bangladesh test match amongst Indian fans was low. It is not that the Indian fans do not care about their team but they are tired with so many India matches taking place. They haven’t lost interest in the game or the team but they prioritize which matches to watch. Stadiums aren’t full for Test Matches and ODIs involving India in India. A decade or so ago, all stadiums were full for ODIs and we had decent crowds for Test matches as well. Similar problems are being faced in countries like South Africa, Australia, West Indies and to an extent England as well.

Fans aren’t eagerly looking forward to most matches of the team they support anymore, they await marquee contests. The current cricket calendar is over packed and interest of fans for non-marquee series is decreasing. The players are also over-worked and injuries are very common as they aren’t able to cope up with the hectic calendar. The top players are not playing all the matches and that also contributes to fans not showing as much interest towards these games.

It would help the game if the cricket boards realize that and cut down on the number of matches their team plays. A right balance has to be found. This will help fans retain interest for all the games their team plays and eventually benefit all the stakeholders – the cricket boards, players and fans.