Stakes high as six teams prepare for battle in Abu Dhabi T20

Denzil Pinto 19:38 03/10/2018
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The captains pose at the Abu Dhabi Corniche

The six teams competing in the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 are eager to make a big impact when the tournament begins on Thursday.

Yorkshire Vikings (England), Boost Defenders (Afghanistan), Hobart Hurricanes (Australia), PSL’s Lahore Qalandars, South Africa’s Multiply Titans and New Zealand’s Auckland Aces make up the line-up as they vie for glory at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

The tournament will see some big names in action. Ex-South Africa all-rounder Albie Morkel (Titans), compatriot Colin Ingram (Boost Defenders) and New Zealand batsmen Colin Munro and Martin Guptill (Auckland Aces) are among the stars featuring in the three-day tournament.

Captains of the competing teams insist the tournament is crucial for their preparations for the season ahead.

“We just started our pre-season at home and started the four-day competition so we have not had much time to back our T20 skills. But hopefully we will make those change quite quickly,” said Titans skipper Morkel, who has played 50 T20Is for the Proteas.

“It’s a short tournament so we don’t have much time for recovery and we have to tick all the boxes from the start.”

He added: “It’s a great opportunity for domestic players to see where they are. It is very important for world cricket as a lot of guys can put their hands up in the leagues.”

Ingram joined up with his new Boost Defenders’ team-mates this week with the skipper claiming he is a big fan of Afghanistan cricket.

“I have been fortunate to play with Rashid Khan at Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash and to hear their stories and the challenges is amazing. Watching them on TV, I like the way they go about their business,” said the 33-year-old batsman.

“For us, it’s an opportunity for a number of local and international guys to put their hands up for the tournaments. Personally, I want to get as many runs and wickets as possible.”

While many teams are gearing up for the new season, Yorkshire arrive in the UAE having finished their English campaign. But skipper Steven Patterson believes fatigue will not be an issue.

“You can say the full English season should give us a slight advantage in that sense,” said the 35-year-old medium-pacer. “We have played a lot of cricket and ready to go. On the flip side, we have come from a country where it’s four or five degrees and it’s 40 degrees Celsius in the UAE. There are six good teams here and whoever plays well on the day, deserves to win the title.”

Matt Boucher, acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Cricket which is organising the event alongside Abu Dhabi Sports Council, believes with all matches broadcast live on TV, it is a chance to establish the venue on the cricketing map.

“We have taken full control of Abu Dhabi Cricket for over 16 months and the venue is now top class and we are good to run our own event,” he said. “We are going to take feedback from the captains of all these teams. It is an opportunity for us to learn how to be at the centre of world cricket and are looking to improve for 2019.”

FIXTURES AND GROUPS

GROUP A: YORKSHIRE VIKINGS, HOBART HURRICANES, LAHORE QALANDARS

GROUP B: AUCKLAND ACES, BOOST DEFENDERS, MULTIPLY TITANS

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4

16:00, AUCKLAND ACES v BOOST DEFENDERS

20:00, YORKSHIRE VIKINGS v LAHORE QALANDARS

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5

15:00, HOBART HURRICANES v LAHORE QALANDARS

19:00, MULTIPLY TITANS V BOOST DEFENDERS

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6

11:00, YORKSHIRE VIKINGS v HOBART HURRICANES

15:00, MULTIPLY TITANS v AUCKLAND ACES

20:00, FINAL (Group Winners)

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Refreshed Virat Kohli and more India v West Indies Test series talking points

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Ready to return: Virat Kohli.

India will be hoping to bounce back from their recent 4-1 Test series reverse against England when they begin a summer of home cricket against West Indies in Rajkot this week.

The Men in Blue face the Caribbean outfit in a two-Test contest, beginning on Thursday (8:00 start UAE time), which is then quickly followed by five one-day international clashes and a long tour of Australia for India starting in November.

It may have been a different format, but confidence in the Indian ranks should have been boosted after their 50-over Asia Cup success over Bangladesh late last month in Dubai.

Here, we look at the key talking points before India and West Indies clash with the red-ball.

REFRESHED AND REJUVENATED VIRAT KOHLI MEANS BUSINESS 

Following the gruelling tour of Ireland and England, which began in late June and finished in mid-September, captain Virat Kohli was deservedly given some time off to recharge his batteries.

Missing India’s entire Asia Cup campaign, which followed straight off the back of their assignments in the UK, raised eyebrows in some quarters – especially among the broadcast rights holders given there were two money-spinning televised matches against fierce rivals Pakistan – but it was the right call for Kohli and his longevity moving forward.

Having answered his critics emphatically in England, scoring a series high 593 runs at 59.30 from 10 innings, a short break away has given the 29-year-old time to rest his back, which has caused him problems in the past.

And while the temptation for India may be to look ahead to their tour Down Under later this year and the feast of cricket that awaits, Kohli has a job to do to lead from the front in this series as captain and premier batsman and help India back to winning ways in Test cricket.

He will need to use all of his experience to guide uncapped trio; batsmen Prithi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal and fast bowler Mohammed Siraj, should two out of the three get the nod while he will be glad to have Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav back in the fold given both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are rested while Ishant Sharma is injured.

India are set to go with a five-man bowling attack, Hanuma Vihari missing out despite his impressive debut at The Oval.

A MISMATCH ON PAPER BUT SERIES COULD BE CLOSER THAN MANY THINK 

West Indies’ decline as a Test nation over the past decade and more has been well-documented and their incumbent eighth-place ICC Test ranking is certified evidence of that.

Hence, an away tour to the No1-ranked Test nation has the hallmarks of a home win written all over it. However, Jason Holder’s men should be upbeat about at least competing given they beat Bangladesh 2-0 last time out and held Sri Lanka to a 1-1 draw back in June.

In such a short series, anything can happen and getting a stranglehold of the momentum could prove crucial. While India have the experience and pedigree to thrive in home conditions having not lost on home turf since 2012-13 (against England), the Windies – providing they turn up with the right mentality and focus – could spring a surprise or too.

Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, at 32, has reached a stage in his career where he knows his bowling inside in, inside out and should look at the way in which Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav have all enjoyed success with spin on turning tracks.

Interestingly, though, the BCCI reportedly requested quicker pitches with pace, carry and a bit of bounce for this series – a far cry from typical surfaces in the subcontinent – to help India adjust to conditions that they will face against Australia later in 2018.

If that is the case Holder and Shannon Gabriel could all thrive in a decision which could backfire on India somewhat.

THE FUTURE IS NOW

India’s bright new hope Prithvi Shaw is to be handed his Test debut and will open the batting alongside KL Rahul.

Even though he is just 18, the Mumbai star has been banging at the door for a while and impressed for the Men in Blue’s A side.

Having been part of the Indian squad for the final two Test matches against England, Shaw has been able to acclimatise to international cricket, seek advice from Kohli and build on more words of wisdom he has received from greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

A wise head on young shoulders is a cliche often used and over-used but Shaw carries himself well and appears more than ready to perform under the watchful eyes of millions of people.

It’s early days but he has the temperament to thrive as we have seen previously when he smashed centuries on his Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy debuts, respectively.

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Murali Vijay cites constant shuffling in India Test squad as a reason for his failures

Sudhir Gupta 18:17 02/10/2018
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Vijay was dropped from the squad following a poor show in England.

Murali Vijay believes that the constant chopping and changing in the India Test squad might have played a part in his inconsistent displays on the tour of England.

The India opening batsman was dropped from the playing XI for the third Test after poor displays at Edgbaston and Lord’s. He was subsequently dropped from the squad altogether after the third Test with youngster Prithvi Shaw being handed a maiden call-up.

The 34-year-old was not picked in the squad for the two upcoming Tests against the West Indies with his fellow opening partner Shikhar Dhawan also being given the axe.

Having just returned to the country after a successful maiden stint in the English county circuit with Essex, Vijay has spoken up on his failings in England.

“Anyone who doesn’t get to play regularly will have some doubts. When you shuffle a lot there will definitely be certain thoughts in the back of your mind over your spot, but the team-management had a different way of looking at things. And when you are part of the team, you have to contribute to the overall cause because that is what matters in the end. You are always judged on the performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them,” Vijay was quoted as saying by the New Indian Express.

Vijay has just returned from a successful stint with Essex.

Vijay has just returned from a successful stint with Essex.

The right-hander’s short stint with Essex turned out to be a fruitful one with the opener slamming one century and three half-centuries in five innings for the outfit. That stint, he believes, has been a great learning curve after the England series disappointments.

“Conditions were tough for batsmen. It was no doubt one of the most challenging conditions. Even the English batsmen struggled to make runs and it is the same with our middle-order as well. None of us could support Virat (Kohli), which is why the defeat hurt a lot. After the Tests, I wanted to see where I stood and Essex was good learning curve for me to score those important runs again,” he explained.

Despite losing his place in the Test squad, Vijay remains upbeat as he gets ready to now turn out for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

“At the end of the day it is the performance that counts. The past doesn’t matter and it is for others to judge if I deserved to be in the side or not. I’m playing this sport because it gives me joy and that is what I look forward to the most. Ups and downs are part of a cricketer’s career. I have gone through this before,” he added.

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