World Cup 2019: KL Rahul fails No4 audition and other things learned from India's warm-up loss to NZ

Ashish Peter 25/05/2019
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Rahul throws away another opportunity.

India‘s 2019 World Cup preparations got off to a sorry start with the Men in Blue falling to a crushing six-wicket loss against New Zealand in their first official warm-up clash at the Oval.

India’s batsmen were blown away by Trent Boult and some prodigious early morning swing at the Oval with the side bowled out for just 179 runs inside 40 overs after choosing to bat first.

In response, New Zealand barely broke a sweat in the 180-run chase and scaled the target with nearly 13 overs to spare. Here, we take a look at the four key things learned for India from their loss.

JADEJA STAKES HIS CLAIM

On a day to forget for India’s batsmen, Ravindra Jadeja did his chances of making the final playing XI no harm with another solid display. The left-hander carried over his good batting form from the IPL in an innings which helped save India’s blushes.

India looked set to be bowled out for 100 odd runs after the seventh wicket fell on 91 but Jadeja stood his ground with a defiant half-century to give the score some respectability.

The all-rounder took the attack to New Zealand’s spinners and hooked and pulled with aplomb in a quick-fire 50-ball 54 which was only brought to an end by a stunning catch by Martin Guptill. Jadeja also picked up the wicket of the well-set Ross Taylor with the ball to round off a fine individual display.

The competition for the all-round and spin slots in India’s playing XI is fierce but Jadeja’s recent promising displays in international cricket will give Kohli with some food for thought ahead of the World Cup.

A fine counter-attacking innings from Jadeja.

A fine counter-attacking innings from Jadeja.

RAHUL FAILS NO4 AUDITION

While it was a pitch on which all of India’s top-order batsmen struggled, KL Rahul will be disappointed to not take his chance at the No4 slot.

It would most likely have been Vijay Shankar batting at No4 for India but an injury to the all-rounder on Friday opened the doors for Rahul to stake his claim in the middle-order. However, the right-hander struggled against the swing of Trent Boult before throwing his wicket away in innocuous fashion.

Having survived a testing period early on, Rahul could only chop down a Boult short ball onto his stumps to depart for a 10-ball six. It left India no closer to finding an answer to their No4 puzzle and it could very well be a big blow to Rahul’s World Cup hopes.

Should Shankar return for the second warm-up game and do well, it could be the all-rounder who bats at No4 for India when they open their campaign against South Africa on June 5.

Lapses in concentration continue to plague Rahul.

Lapses in concentration continue to plague Rahul.

TRACES OF IPL REMAIN

India’s stellar batting unit was made to look ordinary on a pitch with a hint of grass. Skipper Virat Kohli elected to bat first under overcast conditions in the morning in order to challenge his batting order. Unfortunately for Kohli, it was a challenge India’s batsmen including himself failed miserably with Trent Boult running riot with the new ball.

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma succumbed to the zip and seam movement of Boult while Kohli played all over a Colin de Grandhomme inswinger. MS Dhoni resisted for a while in typical fashion but the veteran wicketkeeper and Dinesh Karthik were both guilty of throwing their wickets away with rash shots.

It was telling that the big-hitting Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya emerged as India’s best batsmen for the day with the established stars letting themselves down.

Many of the players looked to still be in IPL mode and it is a hangover India will need to shrug off quickly if they are to go deep in the World Cup.

Kohli and India's batsmen fail the swing test.

Kohli and India’s batsmen fail the swing test.

WRIST SPINNERS OFF COLOUR

New Zealand did not have much trouble chasing down India’s total of 179 despite some initial hiccups induced by Jasprit Bumrah. The right-arm pacer was the only Indian bowler who managed to threaten the Kiwi batsmen consistently with his four overs leaking just two runs while fetching the wicket of Colin Munro.

However, the real concern for India will be the display of Kuldeep Yadav who came into the clash on the back of a dismal IPL campaign. The wrist-spinner, along with Yuzvendra Chahal, barely troubled New Zealand’s batsmen in the 14 overs bowled between them.

Chahal did manage to pick up the wicket of Kane Williamson towards the end of the game but Kuldeep looked at least three levels below his best.

The two wrist spinners are India’s biggest ODI wicket-taking options apart from Bumrah and their blunt displays will have Kohli and the team management worried.

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2019 World Cup: Mohammad Amir's ineffectiveness and other issues still plaguing Pakistan ahead of Bangladesh clash

Ashish Peter 25/05/2019
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Question marks remain over Mohammad Amir.

It is the final chance for Pakistan to sharpen their preparations for the 2019 World Cup when they take on Bangladesh in a warm-up clash at Cardiff on Sunday.

The Men in Green lost to Afghanistan by three wickets in their first warm-up game where their shortcomings were exposed. Bangladesh, meanwhile, come into the clash on the back of a morale-boosting win over West Indies in the ODI tri-series held in Ireland.

Ahead of their final warm-up clash, we look at three issues Pakistan still need to sort out before the start of the World Cup.

BATTING CONUNDRUMS CONTINUE

That Pakistan failed to bat out 50 overs on a cracker of a surface against Afghanistan speaks volumes about their inability to figure out the perfect batting formula for ODIs. Had it been an official match, it would have been the 11th ODI loss in a row for Sarfraz Ahmed and his men.

Only centurion Babar Azam managed to look the part with the bat against Afghanistan while Asif Ali’s ability to accelerate lower down the order was desperately missed. Despite scoring over 350 on two occasions in their recent series against Pakistan, question marks have remained on the team’s ability to force the rate of scoring in ODI cricket.

Despite talented batsmen like Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar, Pakistan’s batting has failed to really click together as a unit with the consistency in the middle-order sorely lacking.

Pakistan still need to master the art of ODI batting.

Pakistan still need to master the art of ODI batting.

AMIR’S WOES SHOWS NO SIGNS OF ENDING

While they will have been encouraged with the returning Wahab Riaz’s three-wicket haul in the Afghanistan loss, Pakistan’s team management will be sweating over the form of Mohammad Amir.

The left-arm pacer continues to look a shadow of his former self and his showing in the Afghanistan clash did little to alleviate fears about his effectiveness ahead of the World Cup.

Amir was economical alright with 27 runs conceded from his six overs but his wicket-less showing means he has now just picked up 5 scalps in his last 15 one-day outings for Pakistan.

Should Amir fail to perform in the final warm-up clash, it will add further pressure on the senior pacer who was not included in the 15-man preliminary squad.

What Amir would give for a wicket right now.

What Amir would give for a wicket right now.

VULNERABILITY AGAINST SPIN

In their innings against Afghanistan, Pakistan’s batsmen were found wanting against spin with as many as five wickets falling to the slower bowlers.

Both Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail had their stumps shattered by Afghan off-spinner Mohammad Nabi while skipper Sarfraz and veteran Mohammad Hafeez fell to Rashid Khan’s guile.

While the wickets at the World Cup are expected to be batting beauties, spin could become key as the tournament wears on and as such, vulnerability against it does not bode well.

It is not usual to see Pakistan’s batsmen struggling against spin and it is something they will want to remedy against a Bangladesh side brimming with slower bowlers.

Afghan spinners thrived against Pakistan.

Afghan spinners thrived against Pakistan.

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Monty Panesar eyeing comeback after overcoming mental health battles

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Former England spinner Monty Panesar (r).

Former England spinner Monty Panesar is hoping to make a return to cricket after battling paranoia/schizophrenia over the last few years.

The 37-year-old left-armer has played 50 Tests for England with his last international appearance coming in the Ashes series against Australia during December, 2013.

It was the same year that Panesar was let go from Sussex after urinating on a nightclub bouncer and he has now been without a county club since 2016 following brief stints at Essex and Northamptonshire.

Panesar has credited former England skipper Mike Brearly, who is a respected psychoanalyst, for helping him overcome his battle with mental woes.

“My parents became worried. They wanted me to see someone,” the former England man told the Daily Mail.

Panesar has picked 167 Test wickets for England.

Panesar has picked 167 Test wickets for England.

“I had always thought strong people couldn’t have a problem. My cricket had always gone the way I had planned it, but suddenly things started going in a direction I hadn’t experienced since childhood.

“It was a guy called Peter Gilmore who said I was suffering from paranoia/schizophrenia and that shocked me massively. Mike Brearley told me to be careful about the things I was saying to myself. Some experts thought I’d never get better but I knew I could fight it, come through it.”

Having picked up 167 Test wickets for England at an average of 34.71, Panesar is now hoping to make a return to competitive cricket.

“I’m mentally and physically 100 per cent back to my best and I’ve been good for the last two years,” he said.

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