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Posts Tagged ‘harbhajan singh’

India are hosting Australia for a seven-match ODI series, which normally would have been hyped for weeks (if not months) in advance, but the Ashes (and its attendent ODIs) blurred into the Champions Trophy which blurred into the Twenty20 Champions League which only finished yesterday, so it’s almost as if the series has crept up on both sides.

For India, the headline news is the return of Virender Sehwag and the injury worries over Yuvraj, but it’s the bowling attack which is arguably under pressure after a poor run of late. Munaf Patel returns to give the seam bowling a little more control, whilst the pressure is mounting on Harbhajan to shrug off his recent slump and return to the form he showed before the Champions Trophy.

For Australia, there are fewer concerns, although the absence of Michael Clarke will probably necessitate some tinkering with the batting order. Most of the side will be familiar with Indian conditions through IPL and more recently Champions League experience, although the fatigue factor after exertions in the latter may come into play with regard to the likes of Brett Lee.

Although those Aussies who played for NSW in the Champions League will be a little on the tired side, I would expect Australia to have the upper hand in the series unless India significantly up their game. The hosts’ poor showing at the Champions Trophy has cast doubt on their ambitions to be the worlds’ best.

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Rahul Dravid is set to return to One Day International cricket after being included in India’s squad for the upcoming tri-series in Sri Lanka and the autumn’s Champions Trophy. Although Dravid hasn’t played an ODI since 2007, his performances in this year’s IPL and the relative weakness of India’s middle order in the World Twenty20 have encouraged the selectors to bring back ‘The Wall’ in place of Rohit Sharma.

Sachin Tendulkar also returns to the side after sitting out the ODI series against the West Indies, but Virender Sehwag is still out with the shoulder injury that caused him to miss out on the World Twenty20.

The squad in full is: MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh,Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, RP Singh, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, and Abhishek Nayar.

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India’s squad for their upcoming tour of the Caribbean makes interesting reading. In the absence of Sehwag and Raina (injured), Tendulkar and Zaheer (rested), and Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan (dropped), there are one or two names that require a little mental exploration before recognition is achieved.

Ashish Nehra hasn’t played for India since 2005, and Abhishek Nayar, is, I must confess, a mystery to me – although he has made an impression on some, and his 99 in the Ranji Trophy final (as well as his IPL experience) marks him out as someone to keep any eye out for.

Ravindra Jadeja is also a relative newcomer to the full Indian side, having only played a single ODI, but he has impressed in the past for the Under-19 side, and featured in the World Twenty20 side.

The squad in full is as follows: MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Yusuf Pathan, Murali Vijay, Subramaniam  Badrinath, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Ashish Nehra, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik.

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Kings XI Punjab
Punjab have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, having added only Jerome Taylor, Ravi Bopara, and the previously obscure Burt Cockley. Sarwan has departed – having apparently only been on a one-year contract – and a number of key players will only play part of the season (Shaun Marsh, Brett Lee and James Hopes are all likely to be called away by Australia).

As with last season, much will rest on the shoulders of Yuvraj, who will be expected to provide batting pyrotechnics every time he plays. If he can find form whilst the Australians are unavailable, and Marsh can continue his impressive form from last year, then the Kings XI are capable of mounting a strong challenge.

Kolkata Knight Riders
The KKRs build-up has been dominated by talk of multiple or rotating captains, but the unusual situation has partly arisen out of the fact that the side has so many top-class players at its disposal. Chris Gayle is made for Twenty20 cricket, as is Brendon McCullum (who should be available for the whole season). David Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Ajantha Mendis will probably only play cameo roles, but home-grown talents such as Cheteshwar Pujara will be available throughout.

Sole auction signing Mashrafe Mortaza probably won’t alter the balance of the side much, but Umar Gul’s bowling will be missed, putting a lot of pressure on Ishant Sharma.

Mumbai Indians
A disappointing start last time around saw Mumbai fail to make the play-offs, and the Sreesanth slapping incident stirred controversy. He’s out with an injury, so discipline may be less of an issue in 2009. Dwayne Bravo’s recent form has been impressive, suggesting that he will be a key player with both bat and ball, and the additions of JP Duminy and Graham Napier should boost the batting.

Zaheer Khan has also come in for Robin Uthappa, whilst a number of the overseas players can offer something with both bat and ball, leaving the side well-balanced in the middle order. Harbhajan has so far failed to impress in Twenty20 cricket, but is likely to feature throughout.

Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan confounded a lot of people’s expectations with their victory last season, but key player Shane Watson could miss much of the 2009 season due to international call-ups. Tyron Henderson comes in as cover, but the lack of big-name players (Graeme Smith’s recovery from injury may also prove more costly for the Royals now that they have lost the element of surprise.

Rajasthan, of course, are nominally my team, so all the best to them.

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Lots of things have happened in the last 33 years. Punk, Margaret Thatcher, Chernobyl, a cloned sheep, and my entire life. Until today, that list didn’t include an Indian Test win in New Zealand.

India’s 10-wicket win in Hamilton was effectively sealed by Harbhajan Singh‘s 6 for 63 in the second innings, but it was Sachin Tendulkar who deservedly claimed the Man of the Match trophy following his sublime knock yesterday.

For India, the next goal is their first ever series win in New Zealand, which few would now bet against. For the Black Caps, getting anything out of the series will be an uphill struggle, especially given the poor showing with the bat so far from everyone other than Ryder and Vettori (without whom, New Zealand’s first innings would have been even more embarrasing).

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India go into the ODI series against Sri Lanka riding a run of good form – the tourists beat their hosts 3-2 last year without Sehwag or Tendulkar, and have since pummelled England 5-0 at home. Aside from tournaments such as the Kitply Cup and Asia Cup, their last series defeat was way back in 2007, and their professed desire to be the best in the world is constantly gaining credibility, especially now that the pace attack is so strong.

That pace attack is likely to comprise Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and one other, given the fact that chief spinner Harbhajan is injured. The batting line-up looks as strong as ever, even if Tendulkar isn’t the archetypical modern ODI opener.

For Sri Lanka, much will depend on whether Muralitharan and Mendis can improve on the less-than-exemplary performances they put in the last time these two sides met in an ODI series (which of course followed a Test series where they had made mincemeat of India’s batsmen). The former is poised on the verge of a world record, which should be motivation enough. If those two take wickets and Nuwan Kulasekara continues his recent good form, India will have their work cut out for them.

Nevertheless, India will be favourites, given their form and the sheer quality of their side.

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England were looking a little wobbly in their second innings of Second Test at 43/3, but arguably the two least glamourous batsmen in England’s lineup put them back on track. Strauss and Collingwood, neither of them what you might call marquee players, put on an unbroken partnership of 129 runs to leave the tourists with a 247-run lead, 7 second-innings wickets in hand, and two whole days of play left.

Strauss in particular seems to have rediscovered his best form – he now has nearly 200 runs in the match, which is remarkable given his relative lack of preparation. Collingwood, under pressure from Shah for his place in the side, slipped somewhat under India’s radar to make a solid 60 not out. If the two of them can stay there for a period tomorrow morning, the hosts could find themselves with a very large target to chase.

Earlier in the day, India had been dismissed for 241, 75 runs short of England’s first innings total. Flintoff and Panesar both finished with three wickets as only Dhoni and Harbhajan offered any real resistance, putting on 75 for the 7th wicket.

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