‘Champions Trophy 2013’ aka ‘ICC Knock-Out’ aka ‘Mini World Cup’ – Last but not the least!


ICC Champions Trophy 2013IPL jerseys have gone for laundry service and it’s time for the players to put on their nation’s colour. 6th of June is when the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 commences in immensely cold conditions of England and Wales which is going to be in stark contrast to hot and humid Indian weather that some of the players witnessed during the IPL 6.

Champions Trophy the name that this tournament got in 2002, is probably the most popular and reputed ODI tournament in the world, only next to the ICC World Cup. It started as ICC Knock-Out Tournament in 1998 and had always drawn huge interest and audience. This time around, because of the fact that it’s going to be last edition of the tournament there is huge excitement around it and the teams are absolutely keen to do well and end on a high.

This 2013 edition has Australia, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand placed in Group A, while in Group B, India, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies would fight it out against each other during the round-robin stage. Every one of these teams is capable of winning the title, but given the conditions, teams which have bowlers who can bowl fast and swing it, and have batsmen who can counter swing are more likely to make an impact. Due to home advantage, England are slight favorites but we just cannot rule out anyone. India has a super strong batting order as always, Australians are ready with their game plan and strategies all the time, West Indies have some big match winners and Pakistan are unpredictable as ever. And so, the thrilling contests are guaranteed.

All the matches of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 will be played at three venuesSophia Gardens (Cardiff), Edgbaston (Birmingham) and Kennington Oval (London), with the final to take place in Edgbaston on the June 23rd.

We at Cricket Exclusive will keep sharing all the updates relating to results, standings and match analysis, all through this three-week tournament. So stay tuned and enjoy!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Indian Premier League 2013 – Of glory and temptations


Indian Premier League - Glory and TemptationsSo Mumbai Indians it is, the “IPL 2013 Champions”. In front of a capacity crowd at Eden gardens they played with great zeal to win and were probably against a very indifferent Chennai Super Kings (CSK) side. One would wonder if the CSK which turned up for this big final wasn’t really the celebrated familiar one. In fact, this one arguably stands out as the most ordinary of their performances this season.

That said, credit definitely goes to the Mumbai Indian boys for bringing out their A-game and holding the nerves better. They looked far more settled overall and ensured that CSK never got going. A run chase that deserved far more intensity didn’t see much of it for a large part of 20 overs, and Dhoni perhaps left it for too late even for his standards and reputation of hitting the long ball. The tournament began with some thrilling games but one would agree that the final promised more than it delivered.

Largely this IPL (just like its previous editions), was a great exhibition of power-hitting, superb acrobatic catches, remarkable bowling variations and of course glamour. But it sort of got uneasy for all as the reports of spot-fixing and corruption came out. Taste of an evening cricket extravaganza got sour. And amidst all that, IPL lost its charm and with it was lost the joy that this event brings to the cricket lover each year.

There is this feeling of “Money is bigger than Cricket at IPL” that surrounds it all the time, and as the news about corruption surfaced this feeling sank in deeper. Temptations got bigger and with it sportsmanship and work ethics took a back seat. They say that ’if it is too bright you tend to lose sight’, and with IPL’s pomp-n-show, seems it got too bright for some to see.

For a cricket lover, it is heartbreaking and it is devastating. It is catastrophic for the joyous feelings that we all have deep in our hearts, those feelings which we have nurtured since we got our first exposure to the game of cricket as a kid, feelings which take complete control of our emotions each time we see our favourite batsman take guard and each time that fast bowler we love comes steaming in.

But all is not lost, and there are lessons to be learnt for future. The last time when such a major fixing fiasco happened in late 90s, the cricketing fraternity probably didn’t affirm enough and measure taken were perhaps not enough to cleanse the system. This time around, we have another opportunity to get it right. Stepping down of people at position of authority may not be the solution, but if that can induce faith, facilitate transparent inquiry and proceeding, well that may be a way to go about it. But there are other ways for sure and the love for the game would find those ways. This game has had a glorious past and our hearts know that few aberrations just can’t kill its future.

It won’t be easy, but we live in hope.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Miller stuns Royal Challengers, single-handedly


David Miller

Knock-Knock, who is there?

Miller.

Miller who?

The one who stunned Royal Challengers.

He showed in some of his previous IPL appearances that when it is in the V he can hit them really long. Yesterday though, he showed us that it doesn’t really matter where they are, and that he is one heck of a batsman and if you bowl length, he’ll keep hitting you out of the ground all day long.

Kings XI Punjab were looking down the barrel at 64/4 and in the backdrop of it were dying all there hopes to make it to the play-offs this season. In comes Miller, too calm and composed for his age and turns the game on it’s head in a matter of few overs. What looked like a massive target once David Hussey got out was chased down with two overs to spare. That’s how easy Miller made it for his side.

101 off 38 is what Miller got and except for that skier that Kohli dropped and got hit in the face, he didn’t play a single false shot. His six hitting was exceptional and the ease with which he was hitting them even beautiful. The monstrous 103m particularly was just amazing.

He did play some good innings in previous games and was noticed, he won a few for Kings XI, got unlucky in few, but with his innings yesterday he has stamped his authority with such intensity that he would be feared in the IPL games that follow, and of course outside of these when he puts on South African greens and takes guard against all those international sides.

Well played David Miller, it was a treat to watch!

Image Credit: SkySports

Last ball thrillers are back!


Last Ball Thrillers: Cricket Exclusive

All it took was just one match and here we are folks, the last ball thrillers are back! Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Mumbai Indians last night, with many a twist in the tail, eventually ended with a breath taking last over from the T20 specialist Vinay Kumar. When Vinay Kumar ran into bowl the final ball of the match, the result still hung in that very famous uncertainty which IPL brings to millions of fans this time of the year, each summer. I don’t know precisely what percentage of spectators were thinking that either side could win, but 99.99 % wouldn’t be a bad guess at all, when you know it was the big boy Pollard facing on the other end.

This is what makes this league so exciting to watch and this is what moves cricket lovers around the world. Moreover the booming ticket sales is a good indicator of the fact that fans are also keen to come to stadiums to watch the action and although IPL still remains a big television phenomenon, people are storming in to the witness it all, LIVE.

IPL6 has arrived and the excitement has just begun. The rare spectacle with Sachin and Ponting opening an innings together is sufficient enough to set the expectations sky high and one has to cut deep to find reasons as to why this edition won’t live up to it. Stay Tuned, we are just about fastening our seat belts!

Photo Credit: Stadiums Queensland

We’ll miss you Sir


Sachin TendulkarFor last two decades Indian cricket has revolved and evolved around this legend and it is a massive moment for the game when a great like him bids adieu to a format that he ruled whenever he walked out to bat during his brilliant and sincere cricket career. Without the master Sachin Tendulkar, Indian cricket won’t be the same and thus it is time for unprecedented transition.

When the little master arrived in late 80s what also arrived with him was a great sense of joy that came from watching him bat. This joy would be missed after him. There were great cricketers before his time and there will be great cricketers after him, but he is undoubtedly the greatest of all and his greatness is irreplaceable. More than anything else, his unmatched passion and love for the game makes him the greatest.

In Tendulkar the world cricket saw a great ambassador for the game and a superb competitor, and with his retirement from ODI cricket, fellow cricketers for a while would definitely feel a void in terms of level of competition, because the master did set some very high standards for himself and his approach did rub-off on others around him and on cricketers around the world.

Through this article, Cricket Exclusive wants to pay a heartfelt tribute to the genius. For more than two decades he ruled the game and hearts of everyone who watched him bat. Tendulkar is holy, and he is right up there. We’ll miss you Sir.

Photo credit: R@VITH

Dead pitches, Dying hopes


Mahendra Singh Dhoni - Test MatchAs I write this, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are fighting it out in the pre-lunch session on Day 3 of the final test match between India and England. The duo is battling hard to save the test and thus the series. But with Monty and Swann turning the ball and Jimmy Anderson working some reverse swing, things are not looking too bright for the Indians.

First things first, considering that India lost four early wickets last night, Kohli’s and Dhoni’s foremost task here should be to take India to safety. It is to take themselves as close as possible to England’s first innings total and stay positive during the course of the play. Because, like we know, cricket is a funny game and test cricket is even funnier, so expect anything.

In this series, we have had three results from three games and that sounds exciting. In fact the pitches which were prepared for these three tests were seemingly very home side friendly. And like I said in my post last month, England during initial part of this tour looked as if they would be challenged hard on such pitches. But it has been a dramatic turnaround with England using these pitches better than Indians and scoring two very convincing wins.

Come the final test match at Nagpur and accidentally or otherwise the pitch on offer here doesn’t seem good enough for test match cricket. It is slow, it is low and it is definitely heartbreaking for a cricket fan. Dead pitches suck life out of the game and whatever be the result in the end, the journey to that result isn’t enjoyable and you would agree: that defeats the whole purpose of the actual result, be it a win or a loss.

If test cricket has to stay a form which can pull fans to the stadiums, pitches need to be re-looked at and more than the pitches, what needs to look into is that ‘thing’ which results to such pitches. Is it the soil or something else? Whatever it is, the reality is: dead pitches are horrible for cricket. The hopes of revival are not dead though!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

England up against two very tough oppositions


Alastair Cook: Cricket ExclusiveAt the Heathrow airport, the moment they checked-in to fly to the Indian sub-continent, English side would have known this for sure. They would have known that they have two very tough oppositions to defy in order for them to maintain their reputation of a good all-round test side.

Two oppositions being – ‘the Indian side’ of course and ‘the sub-continent conditions’.

For past many years, England have been on top of their game when it comes to test match cricket. But to prove to the world that they are a good all-round side, the sub-continent challenge must be conquered. And make no mistake; this challenge is their biggest this year.

As I write this, England is falling apart. At lunch on day 3 of the 1st test match, they are 110/7 in response to the huge Indian score of 521/8d and clearly looking at a follow-on. One wonders what has suddenly gone wrong, what is it that a champion side like them as one TV commentator mentioned have ‘a noose tightened around their throat’? The answer, well, as most would agree is that they try too hard when up against good quality spinners on turning tracks… It is all in the mind.

If one watches closely the way English batsmen have got out, it can be noticed that they don’t have a clear approach towards playing spin. There is too much pre-meditation, there is over-complication in the manner the shots are being played and there is absolutely no attempt to simplify the method to go about things. Let me be very clear here, these players are top quality with no dearth of skills but at the moment their mindset is such that everything they do seems to come back and choke them. They are either too defensive to the extent of using just the pads or they (read Bell) want to go after the bowling from ball one. Indians batted on the same pitch with so much ease. Sehwag and Yuvraj looked great but Pujara was just outstanding, playing everything straight and late, just how you play on these tracks.

Amidst English performance (non-), due credit must be given to the Indian spinners who bowled really well. However bad the opposition is batting, you still have to put the ball in the right areas. In fact Dhoni had so much confidence in ability of his spinners that his premier fast bowler Umesh Yadav came into bowl only in the 48th over of English innings.

Well, all is not lost for England and they can still come back into this long four match test series, if not this test match. But for that to happen Alastair Cook and the coach Andy Flower have to do some thinking and get their strategies right, very quickly.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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The World T20 Superman


Let us allow our imaginations to lunge big and let us envision something unknown. A cricketer with all the elements of success. One who can do no wrong, someone extremely powerful who hits each ball for a six, a super mystery blower and a lightening fast and safe fieldsman. A dream, someone we can call the World T20 Superman :) !!! Scroll down to see how he looks…

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The Ultimate T20 Player was created by Ladbrokes Cricket

Sri Lanka Or West Indies, whose Super Sunday shall it be?


ICC World T20 finalLast but not by any stretch of imagination the least. We so eagerly waited for this day all through the last three weeks and really, what better we could have asked for; it was all worth the wait and here it is – the ICC World Twenty20 final, so beautifully setup.

Yes we can go by the old cliché that the best two teams of the tournament have qualified and in fact that wouldn’t be incorrect to say. But this time we can make one other statement too, that the two most distinct teams have made it to the finals. Look closely and you will see how distinct these two sides are in nature, their approach to the game, body language, stroke-making and attitude. While the Sri Lankans would nudge and slice, West Indies would seek to impose their power on the bowling, while Sri Lankans would be restrained, West Indians would be as flamboyant as it gets and while for celebrations Sri Lankans prefer cheers, high-fives and hugs the West Indians would go the ‘Gangnam’ style.

At the beginning of the tournament Sri Lankans to an extent were favourites to make it to the finals, given the nature of the pitches and overall home advantage. But Windies have definitely surprised some, and what a pleasant surprise; one that goes by as ‘one of the best’ cricket surprises of recent times. One wonders sometimes that if you take sides like West Indies out of the game or for that matter when sides like West Indies aren’t performing, how much charm the game loses. Yes, there still will be cricket but not as good-looking as with the West Indies performing. Of course, professional sports requires professional sportsmen playing in a professional mode, but make no mistake, end of the day these ‘sportsmen’ are humans and the spectators who come out to watch their sport are humans too and that is why the sport requires human element – the one with lot of emotions and little less out rightly ‘professional’.  And this make us think, with this particular qualification West Indies has given a major face-lift to the modern day cricket and international cricket for its own sake requires, if fact really requires, West Indies to do well.

Well, if we talk about the contest tonight, it is going to be an excellent one. Both sides have their strengths and shades of weaknesses and its all about rising to the occasion. Chris Gayle we all know would be a big-big factor and he can make or break it. At post match presentation in the Australia game he made a very clear statement, where he said – we love Sri Lanka a lot, but we are sorry, the cup is oursJ. So Sri Lankans – get this man early if you want the crowds at Premadasa to dance tonight, else he and the other big boys around him are going to dance the ‘Gangnam’ style all through the night!

Photo credit: Wikipedia