Five teams out for less than 80 in India's first-class tournament

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Image for representation only.

The nature of wickets and level of opposition in India‘s premier first-class tournament – Ranji Trophy – came into focus this week as five teams in two divisions failed miserably with the bat.

The 2019 leg of the Ranji Trophy tournament saw some very ordinary batting efforts. As many as five teams were dismissed for less than 80 with two teams managing to get out for 35.

The most shocking scorecard was that of Madhya Pradesh against Andhra in the Elite Division as they were placed at 35-3 chasing 343. Then the innings derailed in the blink of an eye as MP were incredibly bowled out for 35 with five batsmen out for nought.

Rajasthan crushed new entrants Tripura by an innings after dismissing the team from the north-eastern part of India – recently included in the domestic structure – for 35 and 106. In the first innings, six Tripura batsmen got out without scoring.

The story continued in north India as Services were bowled out for 79 against Haryana while Maharashtra were out for 70 against Railways.

All these matches were held in the Elite Division. In the Plate Group, Mizoram were dismissed for 77 against Bihar in a match that ended on New Year’s day.

Teams like Tripura and Mizoram don’t have first-class history so their results are understandable. But more established teams like MP and Maharashtra getting out for such low scores doesn’t bode well.

Cheap wickets in matches finishing in two and a half days provide an inaccurate account of the level of bowlers while hitting the confidence of batsmen. While some venues could have been affected by the morning starts during the winter season, seeing so many teams get out for shockingly low scores will be a matter of concern for the No1 Test team in the world.

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Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul asked to explain misogynist and sexist comments

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Hardik Pandya is courting controversy.

Indian cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul have been asked to explain comments deemed misogynist and sexist that were made on an Indian chat show.

The BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) Committee of Administrators issued a show-cause notice to the star duo on Wednesday, and sought an explanation from them within 24 hours, reported PTI.

On the Koffee With Karan show, hosted by film-maker Karan Johar, 25-year-old all-rounder Pandya boasted about a string of relationships with multiple women.

Aired on Sunday, both players were asked a number of questions about their personal life. Pandya spoke about how open he is with his parents about his relationships. Pandya later issued a statement saying he got “carried away by the nature of the show”.

“We have sent show-cause notices to Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul for their comments,” CoA chief Vinod Rai told PTI. “They have given 24 hours to give an explanation.”

Hours after the show aired, Pandya was slammed on Twitter for “objectifying women” and being “unapologetically misogynistic”. Finally, on Wednesday, he issued an apology.

“After reflecting on my comments on Koffee with Karan, I would like to apologise to everyone concerned who I may have hurt in any way,” the statement from Pandya read.

“Honestly, I got a bit carried away with the nature of the show. In no way did I mean to disrespect or hurt anyone’s sentiments. Respect.”

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Pacer Jasprit Bumrah as valuable as Virat Kohli for Indian team

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Kohli and Bumrah.

Last season, it was India captain Virat Kohli who took a break almost every other month at home as he complained about a packed calendar.

Kohli’s problematic back gave him lot of trouble over the past few seasons as he raised his fitness regimen to new levels. At one point, there were reports of an impending surgery that could have forced him out for a long time.

But Kohli concentrated on rehab, recovery and proper rest to make sure the rickety back could be managed on the most significant stretch of his captaincy – away tours of South Africa, England and Australia leading up to the 2019 World Cup.

Test series in South Africa and England were lost while the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was won Down Under, as India showed they were dynamic enough to be considered the No1 Test team in the world even though the results didn’t always go their way. Kohli the batsman, meanwhile, proved himself to be the undisputed No1 batsman in the world.

What aided Kohli’s mission on tough away tours was the rise of Jasprit Bumrah as the out-and-out pacer the Indian cricket never had. Yes, India did have a few quicks who blew hot and cold over the years alongside consistent seamers like Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath. But they never had a bowler who could strike fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen, even on flat wickets.

The Indians were themselves surprised when Bumrah made their batsmen hop around in nets during the tour of South Africa in early 2018. They just had to unleash him on South Africa surfaces.

Since his debut in South Africa, the 25-year-old quick has raced to 49 wickets in 10 Tests and emerged as almost as critical a member of the Indian unit as Kohli.

Bumrah bowls well with the new and old ball alike and maintains his lines and pace in subsequent spells. He has all the variations in the book which, when coupled with his unusual action, make him a scary proposition. And he changes his bowling at an instant from red-ball to white-ball cricket.

Bumrah’s value to the team can be gauged by the fact he has been rested from the entire limited overs leg of India’s tour of the antipodes; Bumrah won’t play the upcoming three ODIs in Australia or the subsequent ODI and T20 series in New Zealand.

He will be kept fresh for the ODIs in India against the Baggy Green leading up to the World Cup. His fitness is imperative for the Indian team as the other two regular seamers in ODIs – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya – have broken their back and are yet to regain match-fitness or confidence of the team management.

Left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed – who made his debut last year – seems the only regular seamer in the ODI team who can be relied upon apart from Bumrah. Apart from them, only spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal offer certainty in white-ball cricket. Which makes Bumrah’s well-being the top priority for India, especially since his action puts extreme pressure on his joints and back and creates a constant fear of injury.

The Men in Blue won the 50-over Asia Cup in the UAE without Kohli as Rohit Sharma led the team with great acumen. The Indians have enough firepower in their ODI batting and can even rely on Rishabh Pant who seems made for the white-ball format. But without Bumrah, it will all fall apart.

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