There was a reason Rajasthan Royals splashed out big money on Jofra Archer in the IPL auction in January this year. The 23-year-old all-rounder is the most highly sought-after uncapped player in T20 cricket at the moment and as such, his debut in the IPL has been eagerly anticipated by fans.
If there was ever any doubt about the adaptability of Archer to subcontinent conditions, those were well and truly erased on Sunday as the Barbados-born man made his IPL bow in the clash against Mumbai Indians.
Having missed out on the previous five matches for the franchise in the campaign with a knee injury, the all-rounder showed his pure class in a man-of-the-match performance with the ball in hand.
While his first three overs during the day did not fetch any wickets, Archer had been highly economical despite his fellow bowlers copping some punishment. The defending champions had raced away to 130-1 after 14 overs and were on course to put up a mammoth total in front of the Royals.
That is when the Caribbean-born Archer decided to take matters into his own hands. Clocking regularly above 145 kmph with alarming ease, the all-rounder put a brake on Mumbai’s power-hitting with some quiet overs before delivering an exceptional final over.
“I think I bowled, maybe half the balls as slow balls” – @craig_arch
If those were his slow balls, you’re in for a real treat! ⚡️#RoyalArcher #RRvMI #JazbaJeetKa #HallaBol #VIVOIPL pic.twitter.com/XK4mURZwKI
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 23, 2018
Bowling the penultimate over of the innings, Archer conceded just five runs and picked up three wickets to put Rajasthan on the ascendancy. Despite the excellent figures, it was the manner in which Archer went about his job that grabbed eyeballs.
Displaying that ice-cool Caribbean temperament in the heat of pressure, Archer exhibited the entire range of variations at his disposal to unsettle the batsmen. Bowling pin-point yorkers with breathtaking pace in one ball before bowling a cleverly disguised slower delivery in the next, the Rajasthan Royals man kept the batsmen guessing throughout his spell.
It wasn’t only Archer’s bowling which impressed on the night. The all-rounder was a livewire on the field with his athleticism while also dealing some crucial blows with the bat in hand during the chase.
His inclusion has completely transformed the make-up of Ajinkya Rahane’s men and has given them the ‘x-factor’ in the bowling department which had been severely lacking previously.
Despite having the most expensive player in the form of England all-round ace Ben Stokes in their ranks, the Royals had been lacking that something extra until Archer’s inclusion on Sunday.
To come in and put such a performance on your IPL debut after a long injury lay-off is no small feat and is a testament to the all-rounder’s undeniable natural talent. With him back in the mix of things, the Royals will definitely be dreaming big as they get a floundering campaign back on track.
Heriot-Watt University (HWU) were crowned UAE champions of the Red Bull Campus Cricket 2018 for the fourth time, after defeating Manipal University en route to the World Finals in Sri Lanka.
Ten universities from the UAE took part in the three-day tournament, which produced thrilling action at Ajman Eden Grounds. Former UAE Under 19 captain Rohit Singh won the toss, elected to bat and helped his side score a massive 201 runs in their allotted 20 overs with the loss of six wickets. In reply, Manipal University were all out for 122 runs.
Key batsman Imad Mustaq scored a quick fire 104 runs for HWU in just 55 balls, while Manipal’s star bowler, Mukul Anand took the important wicket of UAE international Chirag Suri for just 10 runs. However, chasing a target of 202 runs, Manipal University were all out 81 short, thanks to a vengeful Suri taking three wickets, for just 22 runs with his off-spin.
Red Bull’s chief guests, Bollywood actor and chairman and MD of Caprice watches Mr. M.S. Khan, along with former UAE World Cup 1996 cricketer Mr. Shehzad Altaf, presented prizes to the tournament’s top performers.
Best bowler of the tournament, Jay Joshi from HWU said, “It was a great few days; it was my second year competing in the Red Bull Campus Cricket and we’ve been champions four times in a row now so it’s been great to take part”.
“The ground facilities are superb and the quality of cricket is amazing, it’s good to play exciting cricket in the UAE. The quality is getting better every year and the tournament is being managed better every year as well, it’s really turning into a special event”.
Rohit Singh representing HWU, was awarded the best captain of the season award following the event. With plenty of experience playing abroad he’s looking forward to the World Finals in September. “The tournament has been a great success, and I’ve been lucky enough to captain the side over the last four years. The first year we won, we flew to India and the following two years to Sri Lanka, so we’re looking forward to going back there again and going one better than before. We’ve got a stronger team than ever and we’re aiming to at least reach the semi finals this time”.
He added, “It’s much different to playing in the UAE because a lot of the players have professional contracts so the standard in the world finals is very tough. Some of the guys are fully contracted domestically as well even if they’re not playing for the national side to it’s highly competitive”.
Red Bull Campus Cricket 2018 awards
It has been almost 14 years since Dinesh Karthik made his debut for India at the iconic Lords in an ODI against England. Since then, he has been in and out of the side, never truly establishing himself, before his career’ biggest moment arrived in Colombo with a last-ball six against Bangladesh to win the Nidahas Trophy for India.
Calm and composed under intense pressure, the 32-year-old wicket-keeper batsman smashed an eight-ball 29 to clinch victory when the match was all but lost with 34 needed from two overs. His cameo, which he himself described as a ‘memory of lifetime’, has resulted in calls to instate Karthik as the wicket-keeper in the limited-overs side in the run-up to the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Those calls may be a little far-fetched since MS Dhoni remains the best wicketkeeper-batsman in white ball cricket. It has been Karthik’s misfortune that his career has coincided with that of Dhoni, who made his debut for India in 2004 as well.
He has lived in the shadow of Dhoni for so long, youngsters like Rishab Pant are being seen as Dhoni’s replacement as and when that time comes. However, with his whirlwind knock in Colombo, Karthik has sent a timely reminder to selectors about his match-winning abilities.
The Tamil Nadu man became the forgotten man of Indian cricket after 2014, before a prolific run in domestic cricket gave Karthik some opportunities for India last year. Even so, he has not been given a consistent run in the side.
Still, the right-handed batsman does what is expected of him time and again. In the absence of regular stars in the Nidahas Cup, Karthik was the experienced member of the side. He played that role to perfection, remaining unbeaten in all five innings.
And it is in this role that Karthik could become a crucial player for India as they prepare the squad for next year’s World Cup. While the possibility of Karthik taking the gloves from Dhoni is remote, he could very well play purely as a batsman capable of hitting the big shots in the death overs.
Dhoni’s impact with the bat is not what it used to be, with the veteran now more comfortable rotating the strike in the middle order. Karthik has it in him to be the number six batsman India are looking for, especially since the likes of Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav have failed to deliver.
He might not replace Dhoni as India wicket-keeper but he is definitely a worthy alternative. And with his finishing abilities, Karthik can fill a huge hgap in India’s lower order.
After remaining on the fringes of Indian cricket for much of his international career, this might just be Karthik’s time.