By: Chinmay Vaidya
85 from 107 balls in a win over Kenya in 2007. 131 not out from 124 balls in a win over Pakistan in 2011. It never happened in 2015 and it likely won't happen in the upcoming 2019 World Cup in England.
I'm talking, of course, about the infamous "Ross Taylor Game". Taylor has long been dubbed a star in New Zealand's lineup, but he rarely consistently delivered strong performances, especially in World Cups. He would pop off occasionally, usually only for one match. That match would then be called the "Ross Taylor Game".
But in the 2015 World Cup, something strange happened. The "Ross Taylor Game" never showed up. Taylor strung together foundational performances of 56, 42, 30 and then 40 in a loss in the final against Australia. He never exploded to create the magical match-winning innings to keep his streak going. For New Zealand, it obviously wants Taylor to be more consistent and anchor the middle order. The last two years of cricket offer a glimpse into what Taylor can do and how it benefits the Kiwis in the 2019 World Cup.
The methodology is straightforward. Taylor has played 203 career innings and I've taken his career average, century rate, half-century rate and strike rate from those innings. In the last two years, Taylor has been remarkably consistent even as he hits age 35. I've compared his numbers in 41 innings from 2017-2019 (before the World Cup) to his career numbers. Here's what we see. Average and strike rate are up first. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from the last two years are on the right. The graph for average is on the left and the graph for strike rate is on the right.
As you can see, Taylor's strike rate hasn't changed. His aggressiveness isn't on display, but his average has climbed by almost 15 runs. It's the difference between a solid start and converting that start into something bigger. If Taylor keeps averaging 53.65 runs, that allows the batsmen around him in New Zealand's middle order to fire at will. Taylor used to be the aggressor, but his role as an anchor will be more favorable for the Kiwis this summer. Here are his century and half-century conversion rates from his career and from his last two years. The career numbers are on the left and the numbers from 2017-19 are on the right. The century rate graph is on the left and the half-century rate graph is on the right.
As the data shows, Taylor isn't really converting the big scores. However, he's scoring 50s at a much better rate due to his newfound role as an anchor rather than aggressor. Taylor is not playing the big shots or looking for quick runs in this setting. He's building the foundation for others around him to pick up the run rate. In New Zealand's middle order filled with all-rounders, Taylor provides a great floor and a safety valve. He's learned how to become an anchor and it bodes well for the Blackcaps at the 2019 World Cup.
Unfortunately, this means we likely won't get a "Ross Taylor Game" from the middle-order batsman at the Cup. I'm sure fans would love to see Taylor fire off a blazing century while dusting opposing bowlers in the process. However, that approach usually has come back to bite New Zealand later in the tournament in the past.
This time around, Taylor won't be swinging for the fences recklessly. He's going to be an anchor, supporting the rest of New Zealand's batsmen as they look to go for broke. It won't result in one-game heroics, but it could result in the Blackcaps hoisting the World Cup trophy for the first time in history. And for Taylor, that would be far sweeter than firing in one match.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Many casual cricket fans won't remember Steve Smith's early playing days. I however, as many Australia fans and die-hard cricket fans, do remember. Smith has come a long way from his early matches as a bowling all-rounder.
Yes, you read that right. Steve Smith used to be a bowling all-rounder for Australia. So how did this guy transform from a young legspinner into one of the best top-order batsmen in the world?
Obviously, it took a lot of patience on Smith's part. While he honed his batting skills, legends like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke held the No. 3 spot down. Even George Bailey got his chances at the position. During a time of confusion about the lineup, the Australians even experimented with Mitchell Marsh and Adam Voges at the spot. But when Smith eventually needed a bigger role, he got the most coveted position in Australia's lineup.
It also took a lot of work from Smith. Players don't just suddenly flip a switch and become good at something they weren't known for, especially on the international level. Smith was an average bowler at best globally. As a batsman, he's one of the four or five best in the world. Let's dive into the numbers illustrating this amazing transformation of one of Australia's best players.
In the first four years of his career, Smith was primarily a bowler. He would often bat at No. 6 as a traditional all-rounder, but he was in the team to make a difference with the ball. Here's his batting and bowling stats from his first four years of ODI cricket.
Steve Smith Statistics (age 20-24)
Batting: 399 runs, 17.35 average, 0 100s, 0 50s
Bowling: 149.5 overs, 22 wickets, 5.2 economy, 35.45 average
So when exactly did Smith flex his batting chops?
The first sign that a change in his playing role was coming happened in August 2014. Australia was involved in a triangular series with South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the latter playing hosts. Smith batted at No. 3 twice in this series, scoring 36 and 10. Not exactly a performance worthy of anointing him at the de facto option at the position, but it was a start. The confirmation happened in Australia's next ODI series.
Smith scored a century in Australia's opening ODI against Pakistan at Sharjah. He faltered in the next match, but went on to make 77 in the third and final ODI of the series. In that three-game set, Smith poured in 190 runs and cemented himself as a true batsman. In Australia's tour of South Africa, Smith scored 254 runs as a middle-order batsman in four matches. His century and two 50s confirmed his batting chops and Australia reacted accordingly. Smith was set as the No. 3 batsman in a Tri-Series with India and England in Australia ahead of the 2015 World Cup. He scored an unbeaten 102 and 40 in two matches against England, giving him a platform to build on for the World Cup.
In the 2015 World Cup, Smith shined. He churned out 402 runs in seven innings with one century and four half-centuries. His 105 in the semifinal against defending champions India was the highlight of the tournament. Smith followed that up with 56 not out to help Australia capture its fifth World Cup title. The transformation was complete with a trophy as icing on the cake.
Here's how Smith has performed with bat and ball after his first four years in one-day cricket. In case you were wondering, he basically doesn't bowl anymore.
Steve Smith (age 25 - present)
Batting: 3,032 runs, 42.70 average, 8 100s, 19 50s
Bowling: 24.3 overs, 5 wickets, 6.16 economy, 30.20 average
Heading into the 2019 World Cup, there's no confusion about Smith's role in the team. This is his first major international competition since the ball-tampering scandal and his IPL campaign left a lot to be desired.
There's questions whether Smith's best days have passed. It'll be up to the Aussie star to prove the doubters wrong in England. He's done it once in his career by switching from ball to bat. This time, it'll be about showing why he's still one of the best batsmen in the world.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
In horror or mystery movies, the famous line is usually: "The Butler did it". We may be experiencing a similar situation unfold at the 2019 World Cup and it'll only be a horror movie for the opposition. Jos Buttler, England's explosive finisher, will be expected to deliver big-time results at the end of innings. England is already one of the best run-scoring teams in the tournament, but Buttler's impact goes beyond runs on the board. He's usually the difference in wins and losses.
Most good players play well regardless of the final outcome. This isn't to say they don't impact the game, but they usually don't sway the result singlehandedly. Buttler, on the other hand, is volatile. As a hitter, he either clicks and produces runs in a hurry or gets out quickly trying to. This often determines what England finishes with on the board or how successful a chase is, depending on whether the team batted or bowled first. Here are Buttler's splits in wins and losses. The graphs below show his average and strike rate in wins and losses, with the blue bars representing his numbers in wins and the red bars showcasing the losses. Average is on the left, strike rate is on the right.
We're talking a 40+ run difference on average in wins versus losses for Buttler. Those runs come at significantly faster rate in wins. The conclusion here is simple: if Buttler clicks at the end of an innings, it's curtains for the opposition. This is further supporter by Buttler's century and half-century conversion rates in wins and losses. The blue bars are his conversion rates in wins and the red bars highlight the numbers in losses. The left graph is century rates and the right graph is half-century rates.
Buttler converts centuries and half-centuries at a ridiculously better margin in wins than in losses. But wouldn't these rules hold for every player? Surely everyone plays better in wins.
This is where we get to impact. I looked at the win-loss difference in averages for Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, the rest of England's true batting lineup. Here are those numbers.
Root W-L: 64.67 vs. 36.44
Stokes W-L: 51.75 vs. 25.36
Morgan W-L: 51.24 vs. 28.1
Roy W-L: 46.81 vs. 29.14
Bairstow W-L: 58.2 vs. 32.11
We've already got Buttler's win-loss splits above and simple math says his differential will be the highest. But how much higher is it?
Oddly enough, the aggressive Roy has the least difference between wins and losses. Root is so brilliant in wins he has a high differential, but the rest of the group is fairly similar. Buttler is in a different conversation entirely with a differential at nearly double of Morgan. This further cements Buttler as England's most impactful player.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Let's face it; things don't exactly go South Africa's way in World Cups. 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015 will forever be etched in South African fans' memories. A lot of the Proteas' struggles are preventable, but some are sheerly bad luck. For the 2019 campaign, one the team will have to embark on without superstar AB de Villiers, it'll be up to openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to re-discover historically good form.
South Africa's openers are elite when it comes to average opening stands, with a minimum of 50 partnerships. Amla and de Kock are the best active opening pair with the innings limitation, averaging 47.78 runs per partnership. They have had 10 100-run stands and 14 50-run stands in their illustrious career as opening partners. However, the duo's recent form has been lackluster.
In their last 10 opening stands, Amla and de Kock have put together zero 100-run stands. They've got 2 50-run stands and clock in at an average of 36.2 runs per partnership. That is simply not going to cut it for South Africa in the World Cup, especially without de Villiers to provide consistent runs. de Kock had a stellar IPL season and should be able to carry that form into England. Amla has experience, but will he able to handle the top-end pace bowlers in English conditions?
The rest of South Africa's roster features a mix between foundational batsmen and aggressive hitters, meaning the Amla-de Kock duo must routinely provide a good platform for the Proteas to hunt down big totals.
Amla is the key. If he can re-discover his 2015 World Cup form, where he scored 333 runs at 41.62 runs on average, South Africa will in good shape. de Kock's aggression and Amla's stability have always been a strong opening combination. If there's ever a good time for them to get back to their historic ways, the 2019 World Cup would be it.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's no real secret Shikhar Dhawan performs better in ICC competitions. It's why he's been dubbed "ICC Shikhar" by many, including us here at The Follow On. However, the gap between his ICC and non-ICC numbers is quite staggering and it makes Dhawan finding his form almost imperative for India to rise to the top and win the 2019 World Cup.
Dhawan wasn't really a major factor in Indian cricket for the early part of his career. He'd been good, but not great in IPL and his international resume was quite ordinary. Then the 2015 World Cup happened and all of a sudden, "ICC Shikhar" had arrived.
With Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag happily retired, India turned to Rohit Sharma and Dhawan to open the batting. The left-hander responded in the 2015 tournament with a team-high 412 runs, including two centuries and one half-century. His 51.50 true average was one of the best on the team and he proved he could be a star in a lineup full of them.
The 2017 Champions Trophy was another telling moment. Dhawan tallied 338 runs to once again lead India in that department. He notched one century, two half-centuries and a true average of 67.60. So how much better is "ICC Shikhar" compared to the one playing in normal ODIs?
The methodology here is pretty simple. I took Dhawan's ICC matches (1 World Cup and 2 Champions Trophy events) and tallied up his average, strike rate, century rate and half-century rate. I then subtracted his ICC stats from his overall numbers, giving me his non-ICC match numbers. After calculating the average, strike rate, century rate and half-century rate from his non-ICC matches, here's the comparison for Dhawan. The blue bars represent his non- ICC numbers and the red bars represent his ICC numbers. The first graph is for average and strike rate, with average on the left and strike rate on the right.
There's not really a big difference in strike rate, but the average is better by more than 20 runs. Dhawan, for some reason, simply scores more per match in ICC events. The sample size is obviously very different (18 ICC to 109 non-ICC), but think about this: Dhawan has replicated his high scoring in three separate ICC events from 2013, 2015 and 2017. It's hard to think his good form suddenly kicks in at the exact time the ICC event rolls around. There's something about pressure games that gets Dhawan going. Next up, his century and half-century conversion rates. Blue bars represent his non-ICC numbers and red bars show his ICC ones. Century rate is on the left, half-century rate is on the right.
The half-century rates are similar. Dhawan converts a 50 about 21 percent of the time in regular ODIs and 22 percent of the time in ICC ODIs. It's the century rate that should really excite India. The lefty star converts centuries at nearly 3 times the rate in ICC ODIs as he does in regular ODIs. For some reason, Dhawan clicks more often under pressure than he does in ordinary games. That's not to say he doesn't try in those games, but there's just something about ICC competition that brings out the best in him.
For India, which relies on its top 3 batsmen heavily, Dhawan re-discovering his ICC form once again would be a godsend. The left-hander has developed into star over three ICC tournaments and his performance in this one will shape his cricket legacy. If he can put on another run show while leading India to the top of the tournament and collecting some individual records himself, his status as "ICC Shikhar" will be cemented.
Note: All statistics as of May 25, 2019
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It was an odd year, something Mumbai Indians have thrived in for the last half decade. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, the franchise captured its first three IPL titles to hold the most championships in league history. However, Chennai Super Kings won last season's title to level the overall championship score at 3-3 and CSK's consistency across every season in the tournament has been more impactful than Mumbai's recent string of wins. Still, the final showdown between Chennai and Mumbai would be another defining moment in IPL history between the two sides most responsible for shaping the competition.
In scenes reminiscent from 2017, Mumbai set what many would consider a total below par on the board at 149. The Indians then clawed their way back in the second half of the game and eventually won by 1 run, just like they did two years ago. Mumbai now has an IPL-record four championships and completed its 4-0 sweep of CSK in 2019.
As openers Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock had done all season, they got off to a quick start but couldn't convert into big scores. The Indians were cruising at a little over 9.0 runs per over before de Kock perished in the fifth over. Sharma followed three balls later. The rest of the batting lineup had to dig in on a sticky surface in Hyderabad and gut out runs. Kieron Pollard's 41 from 25 pushed Mumbai to 149 at the end of the innings. It was runs on the board in a final.
Mumbai has a history of successfully defending what one might consider poor totals. The Indians beat Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017 with 130 on the board. They took down Sunrisers this season with 136 and CSK with 155. It was going to require a similar effort in the final.
Shane Watson, who blasted 117 not out in last season's final, looked in great touch once again. He finished with 80 runs in 59 balls, but his indecision on a run out in the final over was costly. Jasprit Bumrah had crucial breakthroughs with the wickets of Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo. But the most important character of the final was Sharma, who cemented his legacy as a leader throughout this season.
Let's consider some of the decisions Sharma had to make this season. Mayank Markande, last year's sensational bowler, was swapped out for Rahul Chahar. The latter dismissed Suresh Raina early. Mitchell McClenaghan, who had spent more than a month on the bench after playing the opening three games for Mumbai and the final game against KKR, got the nod for the final. He bowled four clean overs. Sharma had a choice to make between Lasith Malinga and Hardik Pandya for the final over. The latter had only gone for three runs in his lone over, but he has consistently been one of the worst death bowlers in IPL history. Sharma went with Malinga even though the aging Sri Lankan had gone for 42 runs in his previous three overs.
Malinga gave up just seven runs in the final over, including a wicket on a slower ball on the last delivery to seal the win. He had this to say in the post-match presentation on his decision to go for the win with the slower ball.
"Last ball, I thought that if they get one run, it would be a Super Over, but I wanted us to win," Malinga said. "So I went for my wicket ball."
After struggling in the first five seasons of the tournament and appearing in just one final, the Indians have made their mark in the next seven. Mumbai has won four titles in seven seasons and doesn't look to be going away anytime soon. The Indians were going up against the IPL's dynasty in CSK and needed every ounce of effort from every player on the field to cement their status as one of the premier franchises in the league.
With two franchises looking to make history, it all came down to one run in a final during an odd year. It wasn't going to be anybody but the Indians lifting that trophy.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Instead of the usual "5 observations" column, I'm going to lay out how the IPL 2019 playoffs will look based on the events of the last weekend's games. Every team will be in action playing its final match of the season and only RCB has been truly eliminated. Net Run Rate will likely play a big role not only in determining the final playoff spot, but in which teams will get a spot in Qualifier 1.
As a refresher, Qualifier 1 will be a match between the top two teams in the table. The winner advances directly to the final while the loser will await the winner of the third and fourth-place teams. The third and fourth-place teams play the Eliminator and the winner will face the loser of Qualifier 1 in Qualifier 2. The winner of Qualifier 2 goes on to the final. Since the inception of this format, only two teams have advanced to the final from the Eliminator. Only one team has won the tournament from the eliminator. More often than not, the Qualifier 1 matchup ends up being the final matchup.
The Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have already qualified for the postseason. Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are fighting for the final slot. Here are all the match scenarios from the weekend and how they will impact the IPL 2019 playoffs.
SCENARIO 1: Delhi wins, RCB wins, KXIP wins, Mumbai wins
Based on run rates, Chennai could fall to the third spot in this situation. Delhi and Mumbai would also be in the run rate battle for the two spots in Qualifier 1. Currently, NRR favors CSK and Mumbai. There will be a three-way tie between Sunrisers, KXIP and KKR for the fourth spot with NRR currently trending towards Sunrisers.
SCENARIO 2: Delhi wins, RCB wins, KXIP wins, KKR wins
The Capitals get a spot in Qualifier 1 in this scenario. Chennai is the other team in Qualifier 1 while Mumbai drops to the third spot. KKR takes the final playoff spot.
SCENARIO 3: Delhi wins, RCB wins, CSK wins, Mumbai wins
In this scenario, Chennai will be the top team in the table and get a spot in Qualifier 1. The second spot between Delhi and Mumbai will come down to net run rate, which likely favors the Indians. The fourth spot in the playoffs will also come down to net run rate, which will likely favor Sunrisers Hyderabad.
SCENARIO 4: Delhi wins, RCB wins, CSK wins, KKR wins
The Capitals and Super Kings will face on Qualifier 1 in this scenario. Mumbai gets bumped down to the Eliminator. The final playoff spot goes to KKR.
SCENARIO 5: Delhi wins, SRH wins, KXIP wins, Mumbai wins
Run rates will determine the top two teams with the Capitals, Super Kings and Indians all in contention. NRR currently favors CSK and Mumbai. Sunrisers will take the final playoff spot.
SCENARIO 6: Delhi wins, SRH wins, KXIP wins, KKR wins
Delhi gets a spot in Qualifier 1 alongside Chennai. Mumbai will go to third. There will be a tiebreaker for the fourth spot between Sunrisers and KKR, with NRR currently favoring the Sunrisers.
SCENARIO 7: Delhi wins, SRH wins, CSK wins, Mumbai wins
In this scenario, Sunrisers will qualify for the playoffs in the fourth spot. Chennai will be top of the table and get a spot in Qualifier 1 while the second spot will come down to net run rate between Delhi and Mumbai.
SCENARIO 8: Delhi wins, SRH wins, CSK wins, KKR wins
The Capitals make Qualifier 1, where they'll meet the Super Kings. Mumbai goes to the eliminator. KKR and Sunrisers will be tied with NRR currently favoring Sunrisers.
SCENARIO 9: RR wins, RCB wins, KXIP wins, Mumbai wins
This is the first scenario where the Royals make the playoffs. The Indians secure a place in Qualifier 1 and will play Chennai there. Delhi falls to the third spot.
SCENARIO 10: RR wins, RCB wins, CSK wins, Mumbai wins
Another scenario where the Royals get into the playoffs. They'll leapfrog every other team with the help of the rained out match. Chennai and Mumbai will be in Qualifier 1 and Delhi will play in the eliminator.
SCENARIO 11: RR wins, RCB wins, KXIP wins, KKR wins
The Super Kings remain in Qualifier 1 as the top team and NRR will break a tie between Delhi and Mumbai for the other spot. KKR will take the final spot.
SCENARIO 12: RR wins, RCB wins, CSK wins, KKR wins
CSK secures its place at the top of the table and in Qualifier 1. Delhi and Mumbai will be tied for second and NRR will be the tiebreaker, which currently favors the Indians. KKR will take the final playoff spot.
SCENARIO 13: RR wins, SRH wins, KXIP wins, Mumbai wins
Mumbai lands in Qualifier 1 against Chennai. Delhi will go to the Eliminator. Sunrisers get the final playoff spot.
SCENARIO 14: RR wins, SRH wins, KXIP wins, KKR wins
Chennai is in Qualifier 1 and will meet either Delhi or Mumbai depending on NRR. KKR and Sunrisers will be tied in points wiht NRR currently favoring Sunrisers for the final playoff spot.
SCENARIO 15: RR wins, SRH wins, CSK wins, Mumbai wins
Chennai and Mumbai will take the top two spots for Qualifier 1 in this situation. Delhi will be the third team and will face Sunrisers in the eliminator.
SCENARIO 16: RR wins, SRH wins, CSK wins, KKR wins
The Super Kings secure a spot in Qualifier 1. Delhi or Mumbai will take the other spot based on NRR, currently trending in Mumbai's favor. NRR currently favors Sunrisers over KKR for the fourth spot.
SUMMARY: In 15 of the 16 scenario, Chennai finds itself in Qualifier 1. The 16th scenario will come down to NRR, which Super Kings would likely finish second in a three-way tie and still end up in Qualifier 1. Chennai is all but locked into the first qualifier. There are 4 scenarios where the Capitals get into Qualifier 1 outright. Similarly, there are 4 scenarios where the Indians make Qualifier 1 outright. In the other 8 scenarios, NRR will be a factor. That mark currently trends in Mumbai's favor.
There are two scenarios where KKR makes the playoffs outright. Similarly, there are four scenarios where Sunrisers get in outright. There are five scenarios where these two teams would be tied for the fourth spot. NRR currently favors Sunrisers in that situation.
There are two scenarios where the Rajasthan Royals get in outright. There is no scenario where they would be in a tiebreaker situation.
There is one scenario where a three-way tie forms between Sunrisers, KXIP and KKR. In this situation, NRR again currently favors Sunrisers.
MOST LIKELY OUTCOME: Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, SRH
In the most likely scenario, Chennai will play Mumbai in Qualifier 1. Delhi will meet Sunrisers in the eliminator. Coincidentally, Sunrisers is the only team to win the title from the Eliminator match.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's the end of Week 5 of IPL 2019 and we've got some crazy storylines going on. Chennai Super Kings have fallen back to earth and Kolkata Knight Riders are in a tailspin of their own. Meanwhile, RCB has risen from the depths of the table to potentially play spoiler. Let's dive into our five observations from Week 5.
1. IPL games are always won on the margins
Chennai and RCB were in a heated clash and MS Dhoni's heroics can't be overlooked in bringing the Super Kings to the edge of victory from surefire defeat. Bangalore needs to win out to have a slim shot at the playoffs and CSK needs to maintain pole position at the top of the table. The situation is 2 runs needed from the last ball. Here's what happened.
It doesn't get much closer than that on a runout. Parthiv Patel makes a hell of a throw from behind the stumps to get the wicket and RCB survives. That's the margin of victory in this league. If Patel misses the throw or Shardul Thakur makes his ground, we're looking at a super over to decide the game. Instead, it's 2 points to the Challengers.
2. Pant Power
People were calling for Rishabh Pant's head after he essentially threw away his wicket on a needlessly aggressive shot in a simple chase. The Capitals still won the match, but the criticism of Pant's aggressive nature continued into the next few days. Pant's aggression is his natural playing style. Take that away from him and you take away what makes him great. It can frustrating at times when he continues to play shots that aren't needed in the situation, but sometimes it's pure awesomeness.
This is Pant at his best. Granted, the Royals were bowling all sorts of bad deliveries but the batsman still has to put the ball away. Pant did that early and often and carried his team to the win. Keep doing you, Rishabh Pant. Your aggressive style is your best attribute.
3. A couple familiar names emerge
Shane Watson had a quiet IPL season entering Chennai's showdown against Sunrisers. He was struggling to make a big score and CSK's batting woes started with his consistent failures to click. All that changed against Hyderabad.
Watson finally broke out of his slump in a big way, crushing 96 off 53 and giving CSK a much-needed win. The Australian opener also announced his retirement from Big Bash League, which means this might be his last season in the IPL as well. He's given us so many memories along the way and this innings was a great throwback to how devastating he was in his prime.
Varun Aaron (yup, that Varun Aaron) also had a big week. After being hailed as one of India's next great pace bowlers alongside Umesh Yadav, Aaron basically disappeared. He's been a consistent fixture on IPL rosters, but he barely registers as the season goes along.
Aaron's inswinger to beat Shubman Gill is flat out filthy. It's not quite Wasim Akram's enchanted delivery from the 1992 World Cup final, but it's pretty close. It's amazing how disappearing can help you re-emerge on a global stage. Aaron has no expectations now. He can play freely and focus simply on cricket. And if his 4-20-2 line is a start, he can sneakily become one of the better Indian pace bowlers in the league.
4. Jofra Archer delivers a parting gift
Pace bowler Jofra Archer had to say goodbye to the Royals to get ready for World Cup preparations, but he left a parting gift for his squad desperately trying to get into the playoff mix as the season winds down.
Just like our first observation of the week, Archer's first shot is an edge which luckily goes for 4. If that edge skies up instead, it's a wicket for KKR and probably changes the result. Archer hits the next ball cleanly for 6 and wins the game. He was handy with the ball and he proved handy with the bat this week. It's a nice way to wrap up your IPL campaign.
5. Mumbai will defend anything
The Indians successfully defended 130 in their 2017 title match against Rising Pune Supergiant. This season, Mumbai has posted subpar totals twice; once against the Sunrisers and once against Chennai. On both occasions, the bowling unit was able to bail out the batsman.
Mumbai posted totals of 136 and 155 respectively. The Indians won both games by 40 or more runs. That's absolutely unheard when you think about the talent in the league. Mumbai has confidence in its bowling and batsmen know they can fire at the end of an innings to provide momentum and feel good about a score. This is the type of outfit that wins championships. It's an odd year and Mumbai is once again in the mix. Buckle up, it's going to be a frantic finish.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
We're four weeks in and there's tremendous playoff intrigue. Five teams are within four points of each other with a sixth team (Chennai) only six points ahead of Sunrisers Hyderabad. With only four playoff spots available, it's going to be a heated fight to the finish. Every match from here on out is crucial and with World Cup call-ups happening soon, we'll see some re-configured rosters battling it out down the stretch. Let's get into our five observations from Week 4.
1. Hardik, Hardik, Hardik
At some point, the law of averages should catch up to Hardik Pandya. It's just a matter of when that point will be.
Pandya finished off RCB in style and made Pawan Negi re-think his future in the IPL. He even mishit a shot for six. Pandya is in supreme form at the moment and he's locked in as a finisher. There's been conversations about having him bat further up the order, but Mumbai shouldn't attempt to mess with something that's working.
The rest of the lineup has been inconsistent at best, but Pandya's been able to elevate the score in every inning at end. Against Delhi, the Indians looked like they would be lucky to get to 140. Of course, Pandya had other plans.
He's got 218 runs at an average of 43.60 and a strike rate of 194.64. Considering the spring he had and the backlash he faced after his comments on an entertainment program, I'd say Pandya has bounced back beautifully.
2. David Miller gives Kings XI some punch in the middle order
KL Rahul and Chris Gayle have been fantastic again this season for KXIP at the top of the order. After combining for 1,027 runs in last season's campaign, the pair has put together 739 runs through nine games this year. If Kings XI want to compete for a postseason spot down the stretch, they'll need to find some supporting players. And that's where David Miller comes in.
Miller went on to score 40 from 27 in Punjab's win over Rajasthan and provided flashes of his power in the middle order. He's been a devastating player for South Africa in the one-day game at the end of an innings and he needs to get going for Punjab as the season wraps up. He might not make it till the end due to World Cup call-ups, but Miller can at least put the Kings XI in a good position if he starts clicking.
3. Hyderabad's openers are back
The Sunrisers got off to a 3-1 start, but suffered three straight losses heading into a showdown with Chennai Super Kings, the top team in the table. On our most recent podcast, we went through Chennai's somewhat inflated record (they should be closer to a 4-win squad instead of 7) but Sunrisers desperately needed to get back in the win column. And they turned to the two most reliable players in the team to do just that.
If David Warner and Jonny Bairstow don't get some middle order help, Sunrisers are going to falter at the end of the season. Eventually, both these players will be called up for World Cup preparations. Hyderabad needs to win games while it still has the duo playing games while figuring out a sustainable middle order. Manish Pandey, Deepak Hooda and Ricky Bhui might be large pieces to the puzzle at the end of the season. Hyderabad has KKR, CSK and Rajasthan in its next three games. Those will be pivotal to climbing into the playoffs.
4. RCB's big guns are finally firing
Through the first six matches, RCB didn't look like a real team. On our preview podcast, the Royal Challengers were squarely in the third tier with their lack of bowling options and support around Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. There was even talk of Kohli shutting it down and resting for the World Cup. Well, that talk has been put to rest for now.
After a week off, de Villiers and Kohli managed to put the team on their collective backs in two of the last three contests. The Royal Challengers still aren't going to make the playoffs, but they're at least going to look competent. Not exactly what you want to shoot for at the start of the season, but it's better than being downright awful.
Let's appreciate de Villiers while we still can. Unfortunately, he's not going to be in a South Africa uniform for the World Cup. In fact, he's not going to be a South Africa uniform period. This is the only chance we get to see de Villiers play cricket. He's a joy to watch and he's on his last legs as far as his career is concerned. Soak in the moment. Kohli still has a long way to go and many more mountains to conquer.
5. We're going to see a record for 6s
The IPL set a record last season for total maximums and it's likely going to be shattered this year. Andre Russell, the master finisher, has 39 sixes through nine matches. That's more than any player had in a SINGLE SEASON for the last three years. Here's how the numbers stack up right now.
Top 3 Batsmen for Most Sixes (#sixes in #matches)
2016: Virat Kohli (38 in 16), AB de Villiers (37 in 16), David Warner (31 in 17)
2017: Glenn Maxwell (26 in 14), David Warner (26 from 14), Rishabh Pant (24 in 14)
2018: Rishabh Pant (37 in 14), Shane Watson (35 in 15), Ambati Rayudu (34 in 16)
2019: Andre Russell (39 in 9), Chris Gayle (26 in 18), Nitish Rana (18 in 9)
Russell is going to set a record for sure. Gayle will probably find himself in some all-time list. There are five players, including Rana, who are at either 18,17 or 16 sixes with half the season left.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Week 3 is in the books and we are officially halfway through the IPL 2019 season. Chennai Super Kings have the top spot, Royal Challengers Bangalore are sitting at the bottom and five teams are separated by just two points. It's about to be a killer second half. But first, here's 5 observations from the third week.
1. Mumbai's West Indies players are shining
On Saturday, Kieron Pollard propelled Mumbai to 136 after scoring 46 runs off 26 balls. That was likely not going to be enough against Sunrisers Hyderabad and their deadly openers, but then debutant Alzarri Joseph got the ball.
Joseph not only took six wickets and saved the match for Mumbai, but became the bowler with the best figures in IPL history in the process. The Indians suddenly have a ridiculous stable of pace bowling options and have to believe they'll be fine in light of World Cup selections making the move up. The fun didn't stop there for Mumbai
Pollard, who was drawing criticism from me after his run of poor games to open the season, absolutely demolished Kings XI Punjab. Words can't really put his knock into proper context so you might as well watch the highlights.
Joseph and Pollard helped Mumbai steal two games against teams in the middle of the IPL table. The Indians got some necessary breathing room in the process.
2. Should RCB shut down Virat Kohli?
Bangalore realistically needs to go 7-1 the rest of the way to have a chance to make the postseason. That's not impossible, but it's extremely unlikely given the team's 0-6 state. RCB can't bowl well when its players bat well and can't bat well when its players bowl well. Basically, Bangalore hasn't put together a complete game in the tournament so far.
This leaves BCCI in a lurch. Does the board send a message through backchannels telling RCB to sit Kohli, the most marketable player in the league and world? Does it opt to do nothing and risk the superstar wearing himself out in a campaign unlikely to end with RCB playing meaningful games? The board should have a discussion, if they haven't already. Kohli wants to play. But the trophy is June is more important than the one in May.
3. Will someone account for Sunil Narine?
Narine has been opening the batting for two years now and has become quite devastating. What initially started as a gimmicky tactic to ink free runs out of a guy not normally going to trouble scorers, Narine has suddenly been an important part of KKR's lineup. Here are his numbers from the last two seasons:
2017: 224 runs, 17.23 average, 172.3 S/R
2018: 357 runs, 22.31 average, 189.89 S/R
He's no longer a gimmick opener; he's a legitimate batsman. Narine is simply looking to do damage from Ball 1. If he gets out, it's no problem since KKR has plenty of depth. If he clicks, it's the game.
The Royals pretty much gave Narine whatever he wanted, bowling legside and in the slot regularly. The result was an easy win for the Knight Riders and a reminder of how devastating the West Indies all-rounder can be with the bat.
4. How does CSK have so much karma on its side?
The Super Kings are a dynasty. They've been the most successful IPL side in league history. They've been suspended and accussed of being involved in match fixing. They've basically been able to get the best players by hook or by crook. There is no reason CSK should have this much karma.
Let's start with Ravindra Jadeja's ridiculous 6. Are you kidding me? That's not supposed to happen. Ben Stokes bowling the last over of an important match, which this absolutely was for Rajasthan, is usually not a good recipe for success (see 2016 T20 WC Final). However, CSK got some crazy luck to win this thing.
5. Shikhar Dhawan gets Delhi on track
The Capitals botched two chases last week, but this time their veteran opener stepped up to the plate. Dhawan scored an unbeaten 97 to give Delhi an easy win over KKR and put the team squarely in the playoff mix with the second half left.
Dhawan was aggressive from the start, but he controlled his shots brilliantly. He didn't take too many risks and was able to score easily while playing each ball to its merit. This is the Dhawan IPL fans recognize from his days in Hyderabad. Delhi will be happy to see him emerge now with the second half starting. Hopefully, this win will calm some nerves and help the other batsmen play level-headed, sensible cricket when needed.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
The second week of the 2019 IPL season is in the books with four teams battling it out at the top. Sunrisers, Chennai, Kings XI and Kolkata all have 6 points through the first two weeks. Some have taken advantage of other teams choking away games while others have looked dominant. On the flip side, Royal Challengers have failed to muster a win through five games, losing to KKR Friday in heartbreaking fashion. Here are five observations from the second week of the tournament.
1. Always assume the play is live
This is actually really simple to understand, but sometimes players assume things and it goes exactly how you expect. Delhi's Kagiso Rabada put this on display against KKR with his supreme effort on the boundary. Although he didn't know for sure whether he'd touched the rope or not, Rabada assumed the play was still live. Shubman Gill did not and paid dearly for it.
The umpires made sure Rabada's foot didn't hit the boundary rope (which would've given KKR four runs and kept Gill in the game since the play is dead at that point) and the result was a big wicket for Delhi. Rabada kept delivering in the game, winning the match for the Capitals in the super over.
Rabada bailed out half his teammates with this brilliant over, which brings us to the second observation.
2. Delhi needs to figure out how to bat sensibly
The Capitals have shown monumental mental failures in three consecutive matches. Against KKR, Delhi was in a winning position with opener Prithvi Shaw on 99 looking for the century. Shaw played a rash shot to get out and then a sequence of batsmen followed suit. Against Kings XI Punjab, in the following match, Delhi decided to one-up itself with this disaster.
Start watching that video at 3:59. Pay attention to the score, the equation to win and the shots Delhi's batsmen play. It's pretty self-explanatory. Against Sunrisers, Delhi didn't bat sensibly on a tough wicket at the Kotla. The players kept going for big shots instead of taking easy 1s and 2s. Axar Patel carried the Capitals to a competitive 129, but Delhi should've been able to hit 140 if it played with a cool head. Speaking of Sunrisers, that takes us to the third observation.
3. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow are unstoppable
Bairstow was one of the reasons Hyderabad beat Delhi. He was dropped early in the innings, but went on to make 48 from 28 on a wicket everyone else had trouble with. If Bairstow doesn't fire, Sunrisers probably lose the game.
In the matchup with RCB, both players shined. Warner scored 100 not out from 55 balls while Bairstow put up 114 from 56 deliveries. Enjoy the highlights from this one.
The duo has created a problem for the opposition. You can't target either batsman specifically because the other can also do serious damage. The left-right combination is another wrinkle helping Warner and Bairstow attack the field. Here's how the pair is performing so far this year.
Warner - 264 runs, 88.00 average, 161.96 S/R, 1 100, 2 50
Bairstow - 246 runs, 61.50 average, 167.34, 1 100, 0 50
4. Hardik Pandya should be elevated in Mumbai's batting lineup
Pandya has been on a tear at the end of innings for Mumbai, but he needs to be moved up a few spots. His most recent game against Chennai showed his impact on both sides of the ball.
Pandya's batting heroics will get most of the attention, but his bowling was key. Normally, Pandya tends to be a little loose and reckless with his bowling. That gives the opposition the ability to play out Mumbai's other bowlers because they can get runs from Pandya's overs. That wasn't the case against Chennai.
Pandya bowled brilliantly, forcing the Super Kings to take risks against better bowlers. He also made adjustments of his own to create the wickets of MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja. Mumbai has some roster decisions to make (sit Kieron Pollard and Yuvraj Singh for Ben Cutting and Ishan Kishan). Pandya being elevated up the order is a no-brainer.
5. Andre Russell is the best finisher in the IPL
On the IPL preview podcast, Aashay said Russell was the best player in the tournament. He's not (that's a discussion for another time), but there is something Russell can claim the top spot in: finishing games.
In four matches, Russell has 49 not out, 48, 62 and 48 not out. He's done all that at a ridiculous strike rate of 268.83. That's easily the best mark of his IPL career and likely the highest mark in IPL history should it continue. Regression will occur, but it might not matter. Russell's antics usually push KKR to competitive scores or seal thrilling chases. No total looks out of reach when Russell is connecting.
Russell's bowling ability always puts him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player of the tournament, but his batting performance is situational. He can't do this if he opens the batting and sometimes, his all-out aggression backfires in critical moments. He tried to attack Rabada's yorker in the super over and paid the price instead of defending the ball. Bowlers will eventually adjust to Russell's hitting prowess, but so far it hasn't mattered. He's not the best player in the IPL except in certain situations.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's been an interesting year for Aaron Finch.
Coming into Australia's tour against Pakistan in the UAE, Finch was averaging 22.18 runs per inning from June last year to through February of this year. He had one century to his name and long run of bad form as Australia's captain. Ever since the ban on Steve Smith and David Warner, Finch has been thrust into an unfamiliar leadership role and the pressure showed. His World Cup spot was in doubt.
Five matches and a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan later, Finch appears to be set as a key cog in Australia's top order. He scored 451 runs in the series, by far the most of any batsman for either side. He had two centuries and two half-centuries and affected every single match. For an Australia squad peaking at the right time and getting its superstars back, Finch's run of good form is a welcome sight.
Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell put in their own strong campaigns for World Cup roster spots with three half-centuries a piece. Khawaja was an anchor at the top of the batting lineup and Maxwell regained his destructive power. Two months ago, Australia was looking lost in its search for a competent World Cup squad. All of a sudden, the team is looking like a championship contender with Smith and Warner back in the fold.
On the flip side, it's been a fall from grace for Pakistan in ODI competitions. The top order of Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul-Haq and Babar Azam have failed to deliver on their promising starts. Mohammad Rizwan looks like a competent middle order batsman, but Pakistan keep running Shoaib Malik out there like he's going to turn the clock back 15 years. Umar Akmal and Imad Wasim look washed out. Where the hell is Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain of the winning side in the 2017 Champions Trophy? Ever since flaming out in the Asia Cup semifinal, Pakistan hasn't been the same.
Six months ago, these two sides were trending in very opposite directions. Pakistan was looking like a dark horse for the World Cup while Australia was headed for a early exit. Now, the tables have turned. With Finch, Khawaja and Maxwell clicking and superstars back in the squad, Australia is back in the contender's circle.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
With Sunrisers Hyderabad clinching a victory over the Rajasthan Royals Friday, the first week of the 2019 IPL is in the books. The Sunrisers have looked sharp in both games while the Royals drop to 0-2 to begin the season. Here are five observations from the first week of the tournament.
1. The reputation of one Ravichandran Ashwin took a major hit
By now, I'm sure everyone has seen Aswhin's "Mankading" of Jos Buttler in the match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals. The Royals should've still won the game at the end, but Buttler was in fine touch and probably would've carried his side home if not for some questionable tactics from Aswhin. Here's video of the incident.
The rules are pretty straightforward in this situation. The non-striker is not supposed to be outside his crease when the bowler is coming up to deliver the ball. The bowler has every right to get the non-striker out if he wanders outside the crease. Ashwin has done this before, in an international match against Sri Lanka.
The question is whether this is in "the spirit of the game". In this particular instance, Buttler is clearly not trying to gain any advantage by leaving the crease early. In fact, you can make a reasonable argument that Buttler would've been inside his crease had Ashwin not stopped his windup and bowled the ball. The question is whether Ashwin deliberately stopped in the middle of his action and waited for Buttler to leave the crease to knock the bails off. I think Ashwin intentionally stopped because it was the only way Kings XI could get Buttler out at that point.
Ashwin, as expected, doubled down on his actions and skewed some details in an effort to make himself look better. Rajasthan coach Paddy Upton had some words about Ashwin's behavior and let me tell you, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how upset Upton was. Take a look.
The two teams meet again April 16. Expect some fireworks in Mohali.
2. The kids are alright
Through the first week, the trio of Rishabh Pant, Nitish Rana and Sanju Samson are in the top 5 for runs scored. Pant and Samson have long been viewed as the future of Indian cricket, but the latter has yet to receive the call up to the international stage. Pant has picked up where he left off last season in an effort to get the rebranded Delhi Capitals to the playoffs. Samson scored a brilliant century in Friday's losing effort, but appears to have finally realized his potential. Rana is forgotten among India's young players, but he's been downright destructive in the last three IPL campaigns. This might be the season he breaks out and gets that international call.
3. Chennai Super Kings refuse to go away
The bane of every other IPL franchise, the Super Kings just refuse to leave. Chennai is 2-0 and looking like the dominant unit that went on to win the title last season. Super Kings are on the older side of the average age line, but the talent is still there. We'll see if the team can stay fit as the season goes along, but the veterans have stepped up. Shane Watson, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni continue to anchor the batting and Dwayne Bravo has been brilliant with the ball. Oh, and they have a new celebrity child in the house to cheer them on.
I expect a camera on Ziva Dhoni for the rest of the tournament. And I have no doubt she will keep entertaining everyone.
4. Rashid Khan is a cheat code in the making
It's already not fair when Khan gets 24 balls to do serious damage every match. The Afghanistan spinner has taken a wicket in each of his matches so far and has an economy rate of 6.25. He's Hyderabad's best bowler and always has a breakthrough for the side. Now take his developing batting skills into account and you have a cheat code in the making.
Khan had 15 not out to seal a win over the Royals Friday, which might not seem that special. However, he hit a four and six to close out the game off Jofra Archer, one of the top bowlers in the tournament. His scoring run against Ireland over the ODI series in March reads 11, 8 not out, 52 and 35 not out. If Khan develops into a competent batsman, he's basically unstoppable. Did I mention he's only 20 years old?
5. There have already been some questionable decisions from teams and players
The IPL allows each team to field up to four international (non-Indian) players in the starting XI. Conventionally, every team plays four international players because all these guys are world class talents. All the top international players come to IPL, so it makes sense to field them. The Capitals, for some reason, decided to field only 3 players in their second game of the campaign against Chennai. One of the 3 players was Keemo Paul, who had struggled mightily in the first match. As expected, Paul had another bad outing and might not get another chance with players like Colin Munro and Sandeep Lamichhane waiting.
In Mumbai's win over Royal Challengers Bangalore, captain Rohit Sharma decided to give the 18th over to Hardik Pandya with Bangalore needing 40 runs off 18 balls. Pandya gave up 18 runs himself, leaving Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga to bail out the team in the final two overs. Sharma had a tough choice to make between Pandya and Mitchell McClenaghan (who was going at 12.0 runs per over in two overs), but one has been more proven in the IPL. And it's not Pandya.
Wickets, Average and Economy Rate in IPL:
Mitchell McClenaghan: 68 wickets, 32.57, 8.55
Hardik Pandya: 28 wickets, 18.46, 9.03
To be fair, McClenaghan has bowled 92 more overs in the same amount of playing time. But he's also taken more wickets and given up less runs over that span. Sharma got bailed out, but he should've gone with the experienced international bowler over the star Indian all-rounder.
By: Paarth Joshi
As the 2019 World Cup approaches, many teams still have questions that need answers in the next few months. For India, who can step up and provide reliable support in the middle overs outside of the top 3 batsmen? In New Zealand's case, it will be about finding a balanced opening pair to complement their strong top/middle order. And of course, the Australians will be focused on the comeback of superstars Steve Smith and David Warner into the side after their year-long suspensions.
While most upper echelon teams are now looking for final refinements to compete for a World Cup title in June, the Sri Lankans seem to be stuck at square one. Despite being over a half decade removed from their Golden Era, Sri Lanka is yet to bounce back in the white ball cricket rankings. Constant captaincy changes, big roster shifts, and poor team management have all contributed to a long period of disappointment.
After a dominating 5-0 series win by the South Africans, the inexperience and overall lack of talent in the Sri Lankan batting lineup was once again exposed. Only two times did a Sri Lankan opener score more than 10 runs throughout the entire series. Kusal Mendis was the only batsman in the side to cross 200 runs for the series. He also scored two of the three half centuries. He is also the only Sri Lankan to play more than one match in the series and average over 26 runs.
From a bowling perspective, the stat line does not get much better. The top 4 wicket takers of the series were all South Africans. The next leading wicket taker, Dhananjaya de Silva, took 5 total wickets and leaked close to five and a half runs per over. There was a lack of performance in all three cricketing categories.
While we recognize how prolific the South African limited overs side is (ranked third in the world only behind England and India), this ODI series performance by the Lankans can only be described in one word: unacceptable. The players will automatically take a bulk of the blame for overall poor performances these past couple weeks.
However, Sri Lankan management is far from clear. With constant lineup shifts and role changes, it has been a struggle for any player in this team to find a rhythm for the last few years. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha and captain Lasith Malinga will have a lot to sort out in the next few months if they plan to put on a respectable performance in the World Cup.
By: Aashay Chavan
India would have felt something marvelous about its chances in this home series two months ago, batting order shakiness notwithstanding. Having come off a historic series win down under in both ODIs and Tests, India had every reason to feel confident on home soil against a weakened Australian side.
Yet here we are in March, unimpressed.
Up 2-0 to losing the series 3-2. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons. There can be no excuses made for the losing side. Not even the fact that they rotated much of their roster, as well as their much-maligned middle order. It’s generally understood that there needs to be some experimentation done before the World Cup, but almost none of the options are really showing anything of note. There’s next to no chance that the World Cup trophy can be lifted by the Men in Blue with this recent top-heavy strategy of relying on the top three to score eighty percent of the runs.
It’s a recurring theme in wins - two of the top three of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Shikhar Dhawan click, and it’s curtains for the opposition. Unfortunately, it’s also a recurring theme in losses. One or two of them fall early, and the extremely flimsy middle order either has to dig in and build up a chase slowly, or there’s an inevitable collapse.
Even Dhoni’s recent purple patch might not be able to string together enough innings in a row to salvage this. There are many options to choose from, yet none of them up to par as one would expect from a usually star studded Indian batting lineup.
You’ve got Vijay Shankar. His name is rising among the ranks: solid all-rounder, can contribute with both ball and bat. The issue is he always seems to hit a rash shot to throw his wicket away after solid starts. You’ve got some old heads like Ravindra Jadeja. Personally, I don’t believe he should have a slot in the World Cup roster but name recognition may say otherwise. Hardik Pandya will be back. He’s a solid option so no questions there.
That leaves the juggling of Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Suresh Raina (bleh), and KL Rahul. Not exactly fear-inducing for the opposition, especially when you factor in the inexperience coupled with English conditions.
One stat that stands out is the average starting position for the middle order is around 37-3. That’s simply unacceptable. At that point, if you’re lucky, you’re relying on one of the experienced top 3 to shine and carry his bat. India couldn’t defend 358 in the fourth match, and it couldn’t chase 273 in the defining one-day. These are on totally different wickets, but the main point still stands. It was the same result.
It took an incredible display of willful late-order batting by Kedar Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the final match to even bring India close to chasing a winnable score. There needs to be a serious internal discussion by the selectors and Kohli to decide as to who will bring stability to the middle order. I feel like we’ve talked about this topic the most by far, but nothing has changed for almost three years.
As for the Australians, Usman Khawaja really emerged this series. He deserved the Man of the Series award with 383 runs and two centuries over the five matches. It’s the most by any batsman in a bilateral series vs India. With Khawaja’s comeuppance and the return of Mitchell Starc, Steven Smith, and David Warner, Australia’s stock certainly looks to be rising as the World Cup nears.
I wouldn’t necessarily call them favorites as there’s still a considerable gap between them and the upper tier of England and India, but it’s not a stretch to say they could make some noise. After all, the men in Canary Yellow usually do when it comes to these major tournaments.