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Posts Tagged ‘ishant sharma’

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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After the sugary delights of the World Twenty20, it’s back to the slightly more balanced diet of 50-over cricket for the West Indies and India with the four-match ODI series which starts tomorrow at Sabina Park.

The tourists have been hit by injury (Sehwag, Raina) as well as the desire to give some key players (Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan) a rest, but a ‘weak’ Indian side still contains the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma and Gambhir. Whilst their performance at the World Twenty20 was a disappointment, a disappointed India often bounce back strongly, and the inclusion of fresh faces may well prove to be the catalyst for a revival of their fortunes. Dhoni, as ever, will be key.

For the West Indies, an encouraging home Test series (at least in terms of results, the WICB‘s reputation took a bit of a beating) against England was followed up with a seemingly jaded performance against the same side away from home, and the contrast between the Chris Gayle who grumbled and griped his way thought that series and his swashbuckling Twenty20 alter-ego was vivid. The Windies will be hoping that they have the latter at their disposal for the next couple of weeks, as well as his partner-in-boundaries Dwayne Bravo (who is joined by brother Darren in the West Indies side for the first time). Sulieman Benn is also likely to have to play at his best, as he will face a tough examination of his bowling from the side who are traditionally considered the best in the world at playing spin.

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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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It’s more than a year now since I named my 11 to watch, so it’s probably time to weigh up (briefly) who’s lived up to their potential and who hasn’t:

Nasir Jamshed is still under 20, but had little chance to impress this year given Pakistan’s effective exile from international cricket; Virat Kohli made some waves, and is still well-placed for a call-up to the Indian Test side after some good ODI performances and a strong showing in domestic cricket; Tamim Iqbal has shown some promise, but Bangladesh’s continued position at the bottom of the cricketing pile has frustrated his ability to shine; Fawad Alam is probably the one that got away; Steve Davies has finally been called up to the England side, and looked good for a while when he got his chance; Adil Rashid has also won some recognition from the ECB, and will probably play Test cricket in the next year or two; Beau Casson has sunk from the international picture seemingly without trace; Sulieman Benn gave England a torrid time in the Tests and looks set to be a part of the Windies side for some time to come; Tim Southee hasn’t quite lived up to the early hype but still shows promise; Ishant Sharma continues to scare batsmen (especially Ricky Ponting) the world over; Mitchell Johnson continues to do the same to everyone that isn’t Australian.

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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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All over England, people are bemoaning the national side’s run of ODI defeats to India. Some are pointing to an outdated attitude to the batting order, others to a fundamental misjudgement of Indian conditions, yet others to the general attitude to limited overs cricket that, it is argued, persists in the UK.

There is another possibility, though. What if India are, simply put, now the best One Day side there is?

From the breakneck acceleration of Sehwag and Gambhir, through the middle-order fireworks of Yuvraj and company, the Indian batting lineup is as good as any in the world. Although Tendulkar isn’t quite as ‘modern’ in his approach as some of the younger stars, having a player of such quality in the side is anything but a hardship.

As for the spin bowlers, only Sri Lanka can table a serious claim to superiority over the likes of Harbhajan. In comparison, the part timers of Australia and England are hardly worth considering.

Even the seam bowlers, traditionally India’s weak spot, are world-class. Ishant Sharma has exploded onto the international scene, and Zaheer Khan continues to attract plaudits from all directions.

The experience that most of the Indian side have gained, partly from two recent confrontations with Australia, partly from the brave new world of the IPL, has given them an edge over most, if not all, of the planet’s One Day sides. Whether or not they can maintain their current form for long enough to overhaul Australia and South Africa at the top of the ODI rankings, and whether they can produce such electric performances away from home, remains to be seen – but I wouldn’t bet against it.

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