Afghanistan spin prodigy Mujeeb ur Rahman intends to use mystery-ball taught by Ravichandran Ashwin in maiden Test

Waseem Ahmed 12/06/2018
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Mujeeb intends to make his IPL stint count. Image - IPL/Twitter.

Ravichandran Ashwin’s tips to Mujeeb ur Rahman might come back to bite the Indian team in Afghanistan’s inaugural Test which gets underway on July 14.

Having played under the captaincy of Ashwin at Kings XI Punjab in his maiden stint in the IPL, the Afghan youngster has revealed he intends to use a mystery ball taught to him by the senior India spinner when the two teams meet at Bengaluru.

“I spent a lot of time with Ashwin at the nets and it was really helpful. He told me spots where to bowl. He has also taught me a new ball and I am trying to learn it. It is a carrom ball with an off-spin action,” the teenage spin prodigy told the Press Trust of India in an interview.

The teenager picked up 14 wickets with an outstanding economy-rate in the IPL this year before an injury to his bowling hand cut short his tournament. That IPL stint, Mujeeb believes will hold him in great stead when Afghanistan take on the No1 ranked Indian team.

Mujeeb has enjoyed a meteoric rise in international cricket.

Mujeeb has enjoyed a meteoric rise in international cricket.

“I have played high-level cricket already so there is no fear going into the Test. Thanks to the IPL, I know how to handle pressure. I don’t fear playing against any opposition. It used to play on my mind but not anymore,” the youngster stated.

Mujeeb and leg-spinner Rashid Khan are a part of a strong Afghan spin contingent for the historic Test which will be held at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.

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Cricket is shamed by football's World Cup after Scotland 'do an Iceland' to England

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Scotland stunned world No1 England by six runs.

The 2019 cricket World Cup in England will have ten teams. The 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand had 14. The 2017 Champions Trophy had eight teams.

So why is it called a ‘world’ cup? It’s barely a Commonwealth games. With 14 teams, those outside the cricket’s well-established territories at least had the opportunity to show the big boys they can challenge the best in the world.

Gone are the days when ‘minnows’ would be embarrassed by second-string sides of major nations. No rank amateurs here who will be knocked over simply by the reputation of the opposition. Which is why we saw incredible performances like Ireland’s wins over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and against England in the 2011 World Cup.

But now we are down to ten teams for the showpiece event next year. Two more than the Champions Trophy and without the newest Test nation – Ireland. As former Scotland captain Preston Mommsen said it perfectly: “I don’t want to call it a World Cup because it isn’t. It is just a tournament with ten teams.”

On Sunday, Scotland defeated the world’s No1 ODI team England by six runs while defending a massive 371 for five. It was Scotland’s first game after they were cruelly denied a spot in next year’s World Cup by rain and poor umpiring in their final qualifier against the West Indies in Harare in March.

Calum MacLeod cracked 140 while Mark Watt picked up 3-55 against the No1 team in the world in Edinburgh. At a time when cricket fans across the world should be getting an opportunity to witness what hungry players from Scotland and other Associate teams can do, those calling the shots have fenced everyone in and made the World Cup a ‘members only’ club instead of a village fair.

The football World Cup begins on Thursday in Russia. FIFA has accommodated 32 teams in the tournament with two debutants – Panama and Iceland.

Here are some interesting facts about the two teams. The central American country of Panama has a population of 4 million. Iceland has just 340,000. Most big cities in the world have more people than that combined.

Now, they have an opportunity to show 30 other nations from across the globe what they can do. Iceland have done it before. The tiny nation defeated England at Euro 2016 and made it to the quarter-finals where they lost to hosts France.

In the 1950 World Cup, a bunch of semi-professional USA players defeated tournament favourites England. Algeria’s 2-1 win West Germany in the 1982 edition is considered one of the greatest upsets of all time.

But the cricket World Cup seems content as long as there is an India-Pakistan clash early in the tournament and then again in the knockouts which allows the ICC and broadcasters to laugh all the way to the bank.

We now know it’s not about games being competitive because Scotland and Ireland have thrown that argument out of the window. But since TV ratings dictate cricketing schedules and tournament formats, as has become the norm nowadays, none of it really matters.

Cricket’s world will be restricted to 10 teams. Everyone else is welcome to turn on the TV and watch.

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Chance for Shaheen Afridi to make his mark and other talking points ahead of Scotland-Pakistan T20I series

Waseem Ahmed 11/06/2018
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Shaheen Afridi could be the next 'big thing'. Image - PSL/Twitter.

Just two days after Scotland pulled off a most famous win at Edinburgh, they will take on Pakistan in the first of the two-match T20I series on Tuesday.

Incredible scenes were witnessed at Grange Cricket Club on Sunday as Scotland recorded a remarkable six-run win over England in the one-off ODI, their biggest result in their cricketing history.

With those scenes fresh in mind, we take a look at the key talking points as Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan come calling at Edinburgh.

CHANCE FOR SCOTLAND TO SPRING ANOTHER SURPRISE

When England visited the Grange Cricket Club on Sunday, they came in as the No1 ranked ODI team in the world. That counted for nothing in the end as Eoin Morgan’s men were left searching for answers as Kyle Coetzer and his Scotsmen celebrated a win that will be remembered for a very long time.

Now, the Grant Bradburn-coached Scotland team will turn their sights on toppling the No1 ranked T20I team in the world. With momentum on their side, there is every chance that Scotland could add another giant scalp to their kitty.

The two sides have met only once previously in the format when Pakistan emerged victorious by 51 runs in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007.

Scotland can claim the scamp of another No1 ranked team.

Scotland will look to stun another No1 ranked team.

OPPORTUNITY FOR SHAHEEN AFRIDI TO MAKE HIS MARK

The two T20Is will mark the culmination of Pakistan’s extended tour of Ireland, England and Scotland. It has been a largely successful campaign for Sarfraz and his men who beat Ireland in the one-off Test at Dublin before holding England to a 1-1 draw in the two-match series.

They will now switch their attention to white-ball cricket with several youngsters who will be itching to make their mark in the series. One of them will be 18-year-old Shaheen Shah Afridi who has been earmarked as one of the hottest pace prospects in the country after a sensational campaign in the ICC U19 World Cup at the start of the year.

The left-arm pacer then impressed in his maiden PSL campaign before behind handed his T20I debut for Pakistan against the West Indies in April. The youngster has already spoken about wanting to use the series as a launch pad for his Pakistan career and he will definitely be one to keep an eye on come Tuesday.

Afridi has been earmarked as a future superstar.

Afridi has been earmarked as a future superstar.

RUNS EXPECTED TO FLOW AGAIN

Sunday’s ODI at Edinburgh saw a total of 736 runs scored as the boundaries flowed. A lightening quick outfield coupled with a short boundaries and an absolute road of a pitch meant that boundaries flowed at the Grange Cricket Club.

The crowd on Tuesday can expect similar entertainment with the pitch expected to play the same. There is plenty of firepower in the batting department of both teams.

While Scotland’s unbeaten century hero Calum MacLeod took most of the plaudits and deservedlyso, the likes of Coetzer, Matt Cross, George Munsey and Richie Berrington all chipped in with valuable contributions and are looking in good form.

On the other hand, Pakistan have the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik, Hussain Talat and Haris Sohail in their strong batting unit so expect the bowlers to suffer again on Tuesday.

Batsmen should be able to make merry once again on Tuesday.

Batsmen should be on top again on Tuesday.

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