Overlooking KL Rahul for ODIs against New Zealand a big mistake by Indian team management

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Up until last season, the Indian team was all about making players feel comfortable inside the dressing room.

With Anil Kumble in charge as coach, the team management made it clear it wanted to inculcate an atmosphere of confidence where players don’t have to worry about their spots in the team when they get injured.

It was normal, in all team sport, for performing players to be laid low by injury only for their replacements to come in, do a good job and take up their position. But the previous Indian set-up was clear that wasn’t going to be the case.

Which is why when Parthiv Patel came into the side during the Test series against England last year for the injured wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and did a splendid job by hitting two fifties in four innings, he had to make way once Saha got fit as the selectors made it clear the management wants first-choice players to be back in the side whenever fit.

It looked like a perfect formula on paper as players could recover from injuries in peace and also not conceal injuries out of fear of being left out and then forgotten.

This year, that formula seems to have been thrown out of the window. At least in the case of top order batsman KL Rahul. In 2016, the Karnataka batsman was the only first-choice opener across formats. Then injuries started to take their toll.

He was ruled out of the third Test against England late last year after aggravating a forearm injury and then this year, missed out on the entire IPL and Champions Trophy due to a serious shoulder injury.

Before June, Rahul averaged 44 from 17 Tests, 55 in six ODIs and 56 in eight T20s. He is one of only 12 players to have centuries in all three formats.

But when he regained his fitness for the Sri Lanka tour in August, he was forced to bat in the middle order in ODIs as openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had taken the world by storm during the Champions Trophy, finishing as the top two run getters in the tournament with more than 300 runs each in five innings.

Rahul played three ODIs in the middle order in Sri Lanka and failed. After that, he was selected for the limited overs matches against Australia but didn’t get to play a single match as the Indians won the rubber 4-1.

And now, Rahul finds himself dropped from the side for the upcoming ODI series at home against New Zealand as the management is now happy with Sharma and Dhawan as the front-line openers, Ajinkya Rahane as the back-up opener and Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav in the middle order.

Suddenly, the once first-choice opener doesn’t fit anywhere. Rahul made his name as an opener,  was pushed to the middle order, tried out for three games and then basically cast aside.

If the same yardstick had been used in the case of Saha, Patel should have been given an extended run as he is the more accomplished batsman, can bat anywhere in the order and is a dependable gloveman, albeit not as good as Saha. But India gave up on the batting skills of Patel in favour of Saha’s better glovework. By the same parameter, Rahul’s superior technique and higher scoring rate should have put him ahead of at least Manish Pandey, keeping in mind the fact the next world World Cup will be played in England.

Whatever logic the management puts forward, losing out on an all-round top-order talent like Rahul looks like a monumental waste.

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New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson welcomes ICC's Test Championship model ahead of India limited-overs series

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Williamson was speaking at a press conference in Mumbai ahead of India ODIs.

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has given his complete backing to ICC’s newly introduced Test Championship set to kick in from 2019.

Speaking at a press conference in Mumbai on Sunday, the Kiwi skipper hailed the new concept as a positive step for Test cricket.

ICC’s latest model will see the top nine teams in Test cricket play three series away and an equal amount at home in a two-year cycle, with the two teams with the most points competing in a World Test League Championship final at Lord’s in London.

“It’s really a positive step forward to have to a championship to give Test cricket a little more meaning and it’s great for the viewer as well,” the Black Caps skipper said on being asked about the new model.

“When we do start that, there will be a lot more clarity around rankings. The viewer can see where teams are progressing and what each game stands for. In the past, although Test cricket was the pinnacle of the game, we were probably guilty of having a volume of cricket that perhaps people hadn’t quite understood what relevance was went on to add.

Williamson believes ICC's latest model will give Test cricket more relevance.

Williamson believes ICC’s latest model will give Test cricket more relevance.

Speaking ahead of the three match ODI series with India starting on October 22 at Mumbai, Williamson was also full of praise for the hosts’ all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

Certainly in the last year or two, he’s been playing outstandingly well. We saw it in the IPL. And even in the series against us, he bowled very well. Now, we’re seeing him come along with the bat and making contributions that any team would be pretty happy to have from their all-rounder,” he said about the India man.

“He’s a very vital player for the Indian side in terms of a fast bowling all-rounder that I suppose in these conditions, it accommodates the spinners so much, but to have a fast bowling all-rounder that bowls good pace and hits it out of the park is always exciting to have,” added the 27-year-old.

The Kiwi skipper was lavish in his praise for India's Hardik Pandya.

The Kiwi skipper was lavish in his praise for India’s Hardik Pandya.

Williamson answered questions on a wide range of issues in the press conference including the Kiwi’s familiarity with Indian conditions owing to their Test and ODI tour of the country just last year.

The right-handed batsman explained that the visitors need to adapt well and be flexible in their approach during the limited-overs series.

“The thing with the wickets over here is they vary so much within the country,” Williamson said.

“So, you are required to adapt. I think from ground to ground you are never quite sure of the surface that you are going to get. And, I guess part of the adapting is the conditions and the surface but also the climate that you are in. So it is nice to be here a few days early and get guys used to the heat and the humidity.

“A number of guys have had experiences over here which is always helpful, but saying that we still want to prepare well. These two (warm up) games coming up are important for us and our preparation and hopefully we will hit the ground coming into the first one-day.”

The Kiwis will play two warm-up games against the Board President’s XI on October 17 and 19 at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai before moving on to the Wankhede stadium for the first ODI on October 22.

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India skipper Virat Kohli praises Afghanistan cricket in heartfelt video message

Ashish Peter 15/10/2017
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Virat Kohli's message was posted on Afghan Cricket Board's Twitter.

In a heartfelt message to the Afghanistan cricket team, India skipper Virat Kohli praised their efforts for the recently concluded Shpageeza T20 cricket league.

In a video posted on the Afghan Cricket Board’s (ACB) official Twitter, Kohli praised the team for their exemplary efforts in the last few years which has seen Afghanistan rapidly rise in the world of international cricket.

The star Indian batsman recognized the courage shown by everyone involved with Afghanistan cricket to successfully conclude the Shpageeza T20 league despite a suicide bomb attack near the stadium during the tournament.

The local Afghan T20 competition saw massive crowds and interest in its fifth edition. However, on September 13, during a match between the Boost Defenders and the Mis-E-Ainak Knights in Kabul, a suicide bomb was detonated outside the stadium.

Despite this, the tournament went on with popularity and interest not subsiding among the fans.

“I want to congratulate you on your T20 tournament and also wish you all the very best for the future and for the journey you’ve had in cricket so far. It’s been amazing to watch and I’ve been always following, to see what you guys have been doing,” Kohli said to start his message.

“I haven’t been to Afghanistan but I have heard a lot about it, your vision is very strong and I can see the passion, especially when I see the cricketers play,” he added.

“What I have learnt in my small journey so far is that self belief and hard work will get you success for sure in whatever you do in life. There will always be some distractions but if you remain true to yourself, then success will come to you for sure. So whatever you do, do with full passion and work really hard towards it. That’s all I wanted to say and send across this message.”

Also, I want to say that create your own ideas, create your own identity. You always learn from people but never blindly follow anyone. You must always have your own character and have enough belief in that character.”

Afghanistan along with Ireland became the latest entrants in the Test cricket club after they were awarded full ICC member status in July this year.

The team has currently arrived in Hong Kong for the four-day intercontinental Cup.

Kohli and his mean meanwhile are fresh on the back of a 4-1 ODI victory over Australia and will now turn their attention to the visit of New Zealand with the first ODI starting on October 22.

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