Hardik Pandya’s hitting and wrist spinners’ efficiency just what Indian team needed

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Hardik Pandya has established himself as a quality all-rounder.

By the time the first ODI in Chennai wrapped up, the Indian team management was grinning from ear to ear. India’s scoreline of victory by 26 runs in the rain-affected match didn’t reveal the margin of difference between the sides.

Australia’s fast bowlers were brilliant with the new ball, Nathan Coulter-Nile in particular making the most of his sizeable IPL experience and reducing the hosts to 11-3. The sluggish nature of the pitch and overcast conditions played their part, but the Aussies did their bit perfectly. At least until MS Dhoni dropped anchor and guided Kedar Jadhav (40) and the rambunctious Hardik Pandya (83 off 66 balls) to power India’s innings to a more-than-adequate 281 for seven.

Dhoni is now well and truly the glue that holds the innings together. The lack of experience in India’s middle and lower order has forced the veteran gloveman to adapt his game accordingly and the results there for all to see. In 14 innings in ODIs this year, Dhoni has scored 627 runs at an average of a tick under 90. His average has undoubtedly been boosted by seven unbeaten innings but you can’t ask for more than one century and five fifties in 14 outings.

What must have truly impressed the Indian team management is the efforts of Pandya and the wrist spinners.

India’s search for a high-quality seam-bowling all-rounder is all but over following the giant strides made by Pandya the bowler and batsman. Virat Kohli has identified Pandya as the one for the future and entrusted him with greater responsibility with the ball, making him open the bowling and also bowl at the death.

But it’s with the bat that Pandya has made the bigger impact. His clean hitting on a tough Chepauk wicket on Sunday settled some of the nerves in the dressing room which was desperate to find a quality replacement for the out-of-favour Yuvraj Singh. They can now bank on Pandya’s reliable seamers and resolute batting in all conditions.

The other major talking point before the start of the series for India was spin bowling. Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja don’t meet the requirements in limited- overs cricket anymore, even if the management doesn’t say it in as many words. But it is clear they want wrist spinners who can take wickets in the middle overs on unresponsive wickets – which will be the case in England during the 2019 World Cup.

The wicket in Chennai had enough for the slower bowlers but since it was a rain-curtailed game and the spinners had to bowl with new-ish balls throughout the 21-over long innings, the efforts of Yuzvendra Chahal (3-30 off five) and Kuldeep Yadav (2-33 off four) deserve all the credit.

The only way spinners can survive in limited-overs cricket now, it seems, is by taking wickets and wrist spinners inherently have a greater ability to beat the bat by extracting more out of the surface.

Chahal (eight wickets in five ODIs in 2017 at an economy of 4.84) and Yadav (13 in eight games at 4.24) have the goods, they just need greater exposure in more trying circumstances.

India still don’t know what their ideal batting combination is as KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey haven’t yet nailed their spots or positions. But Pandya’s all-round skills and the promise shown by Chahal and Yadav have taken a couple of prickly issues off their table.

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Players part of something more important than just themselves, says World XI's Darren Sammy ahead of Pakistan tour

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West Indies' Darren Sammy captained Peshawar Zalmi at the PSL this year.

Members of the World XI that will take on Pakistan in the Independence Cup T20 series starting in Lahore from Tuesday are in Dubai to train for the historic tour. For West Indies star Daren Sammy, it’s an opportunity for cricketers from across the globe to play for a greater cause and help Pakistan cricket take another step towards international inclusion.

The World XI, which includes star names like Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Sammy, Tamim Iqbal and Imran Tahir among others, will play three T20 matches in Lahore and Sammy, who played for Peshawar Zalmi during the PSL final in Lahore this year, is glad to be part of the reintegration process.

“We have a reason, for a greater cause. Everybody here has accepted they are part of something more important than just themselves. For me, it’s a place where I have great connection. If we could be part of history and greater purpose of helping fans in Pakistan watch cricket again… it is a wonderful thing,” Sammy said in Dubai on Saturday.

“At the PSL final, once I stepped onto the field, it felt like playing in St Lucia. The people are just hungry for cricket. That’s what I told the coach (Andy Flower) when he asked me about my experience.”

When the PSL final was scheduled to be held in Pakistan, there was a lot of apprehension among international players regarding security. After a lot of deliberations, the match went ahead with players like Dawid Malan, Marlon Samuels and Chris Jordan in the mix. Sammy shared his PSL experience with his current team-mates and only had positive things to say.

“I briefed players quickly about my experience in Lahore during the PSL final. It’s important… I get to play in front of my fans in St Lucia and see how passionate they are. (For Pakistan fans) to get that opportunity after so long, very happy to be part of that process.

“The time we went to the PSL final, I heard soon after about the World XI. I would have been very disappointed if I was not part of that team,” the two-time World T20 winning captain added.

While it is being seen as a some sort of a goodwill tour, these are still international matches and Sammy said it was important for players to keep their focus on being competitive.

“I know this is for a bigger cause but cricket is the most important thing. As professional, you take pride in what you do. And that in itself brings out the competitive edge. And this goes on your stats as well. Andy (Flower) and captain Faf will ensure we are competitive. Because that’s what fans are paying their money for.”

Their opponents Pakistan are on a high having clinched the 50-overs Champions Trophy following a crushing win over India in the final. Sammy believes while the format is different, Pakistan will take confidence from the manner in which things are falling into place as far as limited overs cricket is concerned.

“This is a different format. They won the Champions Trophy in England. It shows PSL has done a lot in unearthing talent. If you look at their current stars like Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman… these are all guys who got a chance to play in the PSL and share the dressing room with international players.”

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How long before Indian cricketers demand their share of the IPL revenue pie?

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Indian players don't get a share of the IPL revenue.

The IPL is always loud and big. Nothing about the league slips under the radar and the TV rights auction, therefore, was always going to generate a din. Big numbers emerged from the sale of IPL media rights, with Star India lapping it all up with a combined bid of $2.55bn (Dh9.7b) for global TV and online rights over the next five years. The TV deal works out to around $8.4m (Dh30m) per game, which is more than what Star India pays to the India board for an international home match – $6.7m (Dh24m).

Both rights are now owned by the same broadcaster. With the difference in valuation, it can be safely deduced that TV bigwigs believe an IPL match is the most valuable product out there.

The India international TV rights will be up for sale again after the current deal with Star India runs out this season. There is speculation that the broadcaster may give up on the India team rights. Even if they don’t, the likelihood is that per match valuation will remain the same or even witness a dip. In the two scenarios, IPL looks set to remain the most coveted commodity. Let’s not forget, the IPL title rights went for $341m (Dh1.2bn) earlier in the year, pushing the value of IPL deals this year close to $3bn (Dh11bn).

The new deal is great for the BCCI and also the franchises. Franchises are expected to be profitable from next season as their annual share of the TV deal and title sponsorship deal – at least Rs 1.5bn (Dh85m) – will be more than the running cost of the team – around Rs 1.2bn (Dh68m) as of now on average. The BCCI earned a profit of Rs 2bn (Dh114m) in 2015-16 from the IPL. With the new media rights deal, that is expected to jump too.

But what about the players? As of now, Indian players only receive the amount franchises bid for them during the auction. In fact, Indian cricketers don’t get a share of any IPL surplus.

The highest paid Indian in IPL is Virat Kohli with a salary of $2.26m (Dh8m). Franchises are bound to spend no more than Rs660m (Dh 37m) on salaries. Sometimes, they pay players less than the amount deducted from their kitty, as is the case with Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir. When you look at the numbers Indian cricket continues to pull in, how long before players start to demand a share of the IPL revenue pie?

Australian cricket doesn’t generate nearly as much revenue as IPL and Indian cricket but that didn’t stop Aussie players from locking horns with the board to ensure the continuation of a revenue sharing model, a dispute that only ended last month with the players securing 27.5 per cent of all the revenue Cricket Australia generates over the next five years.

While Indian cricketers are well compensated compared to the cost of living in the country, it is difficult to overlook that their services generate a gargantuan sum of money unmatched in cricket.

This is not to say Indian cricketers too should go on strike. However, it won’t be surprising if they demand more money for all players. Earlier this year, it was reported Indian players were not entirely happy even after their national Grade A contract was doubled to $300,000 (Dh1m). Australia captain Steven Smith’s annual retainer is $1.2m (Dh4.4m).

So as the mega IPL deal threatens to become a bigger entity than Indian cricket itself, players have the right to look at their own interests and demand more. It is the cricketers who bring in the crowds and eyeballs.

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