Former Indian fast bowler Ajit Agarkar | India A | coach Rahul Dravid

Ajit Agarkar

Cheteshwar Pujara- DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP
Cheteshwar Pujara- DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP
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Cheteshwar Pujara Registers Unwanted Record In The 1st Innings Of The Centurion Test

Cheteshwar Pujara’s stint in South Africa started on a disappointing note on Sunday as the senior India batter recorded a golden duck in the Boxing Day Test at SuperSport Park, Centurion. In an attempt to play defensively to  Lungi Ngidi’s delivery that shaped back in, Cheteshwar Pujara edged it to Keegan Petersen at the short leg, handing India two successive blows in the second session.

The 33-year-old Cheteshwar Pujara registered his second golden duck in Test cricket and also walked off with an unwanted record under his belt. Known for his old-school approach and immaculate defense, Cheteshwar Pujara now has the most ducks for India at the No. 3 position in the longest format of the sport. He went past Dilip Vengsarkar’s tally of eight ducks.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar (file photo)

Cheteshwar Pujara Has Not Scored A Hundred Since January 2019 As Former Pacer Ajit Agarkar Rued His Early Dismissal Besides Praising Lungi Ngidi

The golden duck has also piled some pressure on Cheteshwar Pujara, who has not scored a hundred since January 2019. The right-handed batter made just 95 runs in the recent Test series against New Zealand but was given a long rope with Ajinkya Rahane for the Test series opener in South Africa.

Speaking on Cheteshwar Pujara’s struggles with the bat, former India pacer Ajit Agarkar said that things would have been a bit different if the experienced batsman had spent some time at the crease. He also praised Lungi Ngidi for revising his bowling approach after lunch.

Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara[photo: Twitter]

“Had Pujara spent some time in the middle, things would have been easier for him. But good captaincy and bowling by the opposition. Ngidi changed his approach. Ngidi was trying to bowl outswing at the start and the line was also outside off.

“In this spell, he bowled deliveries that nipped in and trouble the batters. Those two wickets of Mayank and Pujara were crucial for South Africa. India would have been in a commanding position if the opening stand wasn’t broken,” said Ajit Agarkar on Star Sports.

While India lost two quick wickets, KL Rahul looked steady at the other end. He notched up his 12th Test half-century and added an 82 run partnership with skipper Virat Kohli, who fell after scoring 35.

India lost Cheteshwar Pujara for a rare golden duck before the fourth-wicket stand between KL Rahul and Virat Kohli revived India once again with an 82-run stand where the 33-year-old Indian skipper scored 35 before falling to Lungi Ngidi as his century drought continued in international cricket.

KL Rahul Hits A Ton As India Are In A Commanding Position On Day 1 Of 1st Test

Earlier, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, who are close friends and play for Karnataka together, stitched a century stand for the opening wicket to put the visitors in challenging conditions, putting the visitors in control during the first session.

KL Rahul after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP
KL Rahul after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP

Despite Virat Kohli’s dismissal, India finished the opening day at a score of 272/3, with opener KL Rahul scoring an unbeaten 122 to power the side to a strong position. India made a perfect start to the opening Test at the SuperSport park with the opening pair of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal scoring a 117-run stand.

Mayank Agarwal fell to Lungi Ngidi for a well-made 60 runs which included 8 fours to his name. Cheteshwar Pujara followed shortly for a golden duck. KL Rahul completed his century in 218 balls and at the end of the first day, remained unbeaten on 122 runs in 248 balls with 17 fours and 1 six to his name.

Cheteshwar Pujara averages 28.58 from 14 Tests in 2021. Cheteshwar Pujara managed 668 runs in 14 Tests (25 innings) in 2021. He has 11 ducks in 93 Tests and is under intense scrutiny for poor form alongside Ajinkya Rahane who fared slightly better in the 1st Test remaining unbeaten on 40 at end of Day 1. Day 2 was entirely washed off due to rain.

Sanjay Bangar
Sanjay Bangar
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Sanjay Bangar Reckons One Can’t Rely On Front Foot Shots On Watching Virat Kohli’s Dismissal

Sanjay Bangar, the former India batting coach on Sunday pointed out a key error in Virat Kohli’s batting that has led to his recent failures in Test cricket. This is the sixth time when Virat Kohli has been dismissed between 20 and 50 in the last 10 innings.

Virat Kohli looked well set with his knock of 35 before he fell while chasing after a wide delivery from Lungi Ngidi in the second session of the opening Test against South Africa in Centurion. At stumps on Day 1 of the first Test match at the SuperSport in Centurion, India was placed at 272 runs for the loss of three wickets.

Virat Kohli's last Test ton came against Bangladesh in 2019 (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)
Virat Kohli’s last Test ton came against Bangladesh in 2019 (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)

Sanjay Bangar: It Could Be A Mental Error For Virat Kohli As One Can’t Only Rely On A Front Foot Shot Only

Looking back at his dismissal, Sanjay Bangar felt Virat Kohli relies a lot on his front foot game and needs to improve his batting in the back foot especially when playing against a quicker attack like Australia or South Africa or in seaming conditions like in England and New Zealand.

“Yes, it could be a mental error for Kohli at least as far as the execution part is, going after that wide ball. He relies a lot on driving the ball and against quicker attacks and in seaming conditions, you require one more game. You can’t only rely on a front foot shot. Because if he continues to do that, bowlers will continue to drag him wider and wider and hope that they find the outside edge,” Sanjay Bangar said.

Sanjay Bangar | Twitter: ANI Digital
Sanjay Bangar | Twitter: ANI Digital

“So it will be worth for Virat to give a thought of also developing some sort of a response on the backfoot as well. He now only seems to be preoccupied in scoring on the front foot,” Sanjay Bangar added. 

Virat Kohli, who batted with utmost clarity of mind and with a solid technique, had to pay a heavy price for a momentary loss of concentration which cost him his wicket after staying at the crease for 94 deliveries. Sanjay Bangar reacted to Virat Kohli’s dismissal, saying the prolific batter needs to develop a “response of the back foot” and not be preoccupied with playing on the front foot.

Chasing a delivery that was wide outside off, Virat Kohli was deceived by the late swing generated in the delivery and gave away an easy catch to Wiaan Mulder at first slip.

Morne Morkel: Virat Kohli Should Be Patient

Former South African pacer Morne Morkel, who was part of the same discussion, issued a warning to Virat Kohli following the Centurion failure. The former South African pacer said the South African attack will rely on this game plan against Virat Kohli, who he believes needs to be more patient at the crease.

“That will be the game plan from South Africa in the series. They will put that point fielder out in the boundary and hang the ball out there for Virat. There will be bounce outside the off stump so good luck.

“It is a patient game. Ngidi just dragged him wider and wider and Virat with that sort of an intent and looking to score went after the ball and South Africa picked up the main wicket. Because he was looking dangerous. His body language at the crease was very impressive,” said Morkel. 

Morne Morkel and son Arias during his farewell Test // Getty
Morne Morkel and son Arias during his farewell Test // Getty

With his yet another failure, Virat Kohli has now gone without an international century for 764 days. With Virat Kohli’s search for that elusive 71st international ton still ongoing, former cricketers Morne Morkel and Ajit Agarkar spoke on the dilemma the modern great is facing in the longest format.

Speaking on the post-match show, Ajit Agarkar cited Virat Kohli’s problem with the in-coming deliveries and also lauded Lungi Ngidi for being persistent with his line against the Indian skipper. Despite Virat Kohli’s dismissal, India finished the opening day at a score of 272/3, with opener KL Rahul scoring an unbeaten 122 to power the side to a strong position.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin. (Photo Source: Twitter)
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Ravichandran Ashwin Should Be Considered As One Of India’s Very Good All-Rounders, Says Craig McMillan

Ravichandran Ashwin has made tremendous growth, not only with his bowling but also with the bat in his hand. Besides being India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Tests, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has also scored 2755 runs from 80 Tests.

Now while those may not be staggering numbers, the fact that Ravichandran Ashwin has hit five Test centuries holds him in good stead. Even in the second innings of the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, it was his partnership with Shreyas Iyer, that bailed India out of a spot on Day 4, where he scored a crucial 32.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Ravichandran Ashwin Should Be Considered One Of India’s Very Good All Rounders- Craig McMillan

While the legendary Kapil Dev still stands out as India’s best all-rounder of all time, a former New Zealand all-rounder Craig McMillan feels Ravichandran Ashwin isn’t too far behind. When it comes to Indian all-rounders, not many names come to mind except probably Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Hardik Pandya, and Ravindra Jadeja, but Craig McMillan reckons Ravichandran Ashwin will already go down as one of India’s finest in that category.

“I think perhaps that R Ashwin doesn’t get enough credit. He is not only a great spinner but an all-rounder because he has a number of Test hundreds as well.

“And most of it has come – when you think of the one against England earlier this year – came at an important time in Chennai when India was under the pump, behind in the game. Ashwin scored a hundred and turns the game and takes wickets,” Craig McMillan said.

Craig McMillan © Getty Images
Craig McMillan © Getty Images

“We always talk about the great Indian all-rounders, and Kapil Dev is right at the top of the tree, but I firmly think that after him, with the numbers he is achieving, Ravi Ashwin should be considered one of India’s very good allrounder.”

Ravichandran Ashwin, who wasn’t considered from all four Test matches in England, returned to the format grabbing six scalps in the 1st Kanpur Test against NZ where he surpassed Harbhajan Singh to be placed only next to Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev in the leading wicket-takers column.

As India heads into the second Test in Kanpur, Ravichandran Ashwin is eyeing three huge records, including achieving 50 Test wickets for the fourth time in a year and chasing Anil Kumble’s 300 wickets at home, the most by an Indian bowler.

Ravichandran Ashwin Needs 16 Scalps More To Overtake Legendary Pacer All Rounder Kapil Dev’s 434 Scalps

The legend of Ravichandran Ashwin continues to grow as India’s premier off-spinner became the country’s third-highest wicket-taker in Tests surpassing the 40-year veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh when he grabbed his 418th Test scalp on Day 5 of the Kanpur Test. The 35-year-old Ravichandran Ashwin took his 419th wicket in his 80th Test to surpass Harbhajan Singh (417 in 103 Tests) at an excellent average of 24.49.

Former India skipper Kapil Dev (Photo | PTI)
Former India skipper Kapil Dev (Photo | PTI)

Ravichandran Ashwin claimed three wickets in both innings of the Kanpur Test and also made useful contributions of 38 and 32 with the bat. He is now next only to the legendary Anil Kumble(619 wickets in 132 Tests) and Kapil Dev and looks set to go second, needing another 16 wickets to overtake Kapil Dev (434 scalps in 131 Tests).

Ravichandran Ashwin recently made a successful comeback to India’s T20I squad after a gap of four years, during the T20I World Cup in the UAE. He has continued the good work in the home T20I series against New Zealand.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has played 5 T20Is since his comeback in the limited-overs format after a gap of 4 years. He has picked 9 scalps at an average of 11.66 and an economy rate of 5.25, and a strike rate of 13.3.

Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
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Ajit Agarkar And Tom Moody Didn’t Blame Toss Playing A Huge Role In India’s Losses

Ajit Agarkar, former Indian pacer, and former Australian cricketer batsman Tom Moody opened up on India’s actions in T20 WC.  India’s campaign in T20 World Cup 2021 came to an end when New Zealand defeated Afghanistan in their last league fixture to book a spot in the semi-final race.

India thrashed Afghanistan and Scotland, but it was all too late, and now they find themselves out of the tournament even before their final game against Namibia on Monday.  It will be for the first time since 2012 that the Indian side failed to qualify for the semis of any ICC event as they will rub shoulders with Namibia in a dead rubber in its final 2021 T20I World Cup clash.

Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)
Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)

Ajit Agarkar: Toss Matters, But It Can’t Be Blamed Or Used As An Excuse Behind India’s Losses Against Pakistan And New Zealand

Ajit Agarkar stated that it was not India’s loss in toss that put them on the back foot, but a dismal batting show in the first two games cut their chances of making it to the next round-the semis. Despite having a star-studded batting unit on paper, the men in blue failed to produce magic on the field in the first two matches. Toss matters but was not the reason behind their losses, reckoned former pacer Ajit Agarkar.

“The toss did not play a huge role in India’s losses. I think India just did not bat well enough, unfortunately, in spite of having a good batting lineup, which is what cost them the game.

“If they had scored a lot of runs and lost, you could perhaps blame the tosses, but I’m sure the Indian team would be the first one to say that tosses played a part but not the reason behind India’s losses.” Ajit Agarkar said.

Indian Cricket Team
Indian Cricket Team. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Indian batsmen Ishan Kishan (4 off 8 balls), Rohit Sharma (14 off 14 balls), KL Rahul (18 off 16), Virat Kohli (9 off 17), Rishabh Pant (12 off 19) failed when it mattered most against New Zealand, losing the second successive match after the one against Pakistan where Rohit Sharma (0) and KL Rahul (3) failed as openers.

Tom Moody: India Just Didn’t Play Their Best Cricket Under Pressure

India just did not play their best cricket under pressure, pondered Tom Moody. Tom Moody echoed Ajit Agarkar’s point of view and stated that India didn’t play the best brand of cricket under pressure and that is the sole reason behind their failure. India stands at four points currently, and even a massive win against Namibia isn’t going to do them any good in the tournament.

“Toss did not play that big a role in India’s losses. At the end of the day, India just did not play their best cricket under pressure. That was really the main reason they have not had the success they would have liked in this World Cup,” added Tom Moody.

Tom Moody- ET Bureau
Tom Moody- ET Bureau
Virat Kohli’s team came into the tournament as hot favourites and title contenders but let their future depend on other teams after big losses to rivals Pakistan, who were the first team to make the final four, and then the Kiwis. India crashed out of the T20 World Cup after New Zealand registered an 8-wicket win over Afghanistan to join Pakistan, England, and Australia in the semi-final.
The two losses in India’s first two matches to Pakistan and New Zealand in which they got outplayed – had already put India on the exit path. From there, it was more of a battle pitching hope against hope, and it eventually all came crashing with New Zealand’s eight-wicket win over Afghanistan.
Semi-final 1: England v New Zealand at Abu Dhabi, 10 November
Semi-final 2: Pakistan v Australia at Dubai, 11 November
Suryakumar Yadav
Suryakumar Yadav (BCCI)
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Suryakumar Yadav Should Play Against Afghanistan If He’s Deemed Fit To Return, Says Ajit Agarkar

Ajit Agarkar, the former India pacer, wants the Indian team to bring back Suryakumar Yadav into the playing XI if he is deemed fit to return. The right-handed batter missed the contest against New Zealand due to back spasms.

Suryakumar Yadav was seen during India’s optional training session with assistant strength and conditioning coach Soham Desai. Physio Nitin Patel and strength and conditioning coach Nick Webb are keeping a close eye on Suryakumar Yadav’s road to recovery.

Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)
Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)

Ajit Agarkar: Suryakumar Yadav Comes In Against Afghanistan If He’s Fit

Ajit Agarkar felt that with the return of Suryakumar Yadav in the playing XI, Rohit Sharma can go back at the top of the order alongside KL Rahul. In India’s match against New Zealand, Rohit Sharma had dropped at number 3, as Ishan Kishan, who replaced Suryakumar Yadav, opened the innings.

While previewing India’s upcoming group stage match against Afghanistan, Ajit Agarkar said Rohit Sharma would open. At the same time, India may not tinker with Hardik Pandya’s batting position, but his form is definitely a concern.

“Suryakumar Yadav if he is fit, comes in for me. Rohit goes to open the innings. Pandya’s form is certainly a concern, but if you’ve backed him for 2 games, then you don’t want to tinker too much. He also bowled a couple of overs in the last game, so that helps.”

Ajit Agarkar also felt that a change in mindset would help India. Suryakumar Yadav’s inclusion will definitely strengthen India’s fragile middle order. He scored 11 against Pakistan and unbeaten 38 and 8 in warm-up games prior to the match against arch-rivals but has scored heavily in IPL and bilateral series against England at home.

“India would just look to bat better. change in venue, I don’t know about that but a change of mindset definitely would.”

Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan - SPORTZPICS
Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan – SPORTZPICS

Pakistan batter Shan Masood, however, felt that India should look to exploit the seam-friendly conditions in Abu Dhabi. He feels India can look to go with four pacers in the playing XI.

“Abu Dhabi has the most seam friendly conditions out of all the venues. India could play an additional pacer and rest one spinner against an Afghanistan team that plays spin well. That might be the only change that’s on offer, other wise it should be the same team.”

India’s fate could well be sealed by a defeat to Afghanistan, while a potential win could keep their slim hopes of qualifying into the semi-finals intact. India was handed crushing defeats by Pakistan (10 wickets) and New Zealand (8 wickets) and is yet to open its account. They need to win their remaining three encounters against Afghanistan, Scotland, and Namibia and hope for other results to go their way to qualify for the knockout stages.

Ajit Agarkar Feels Indian Batsmen Shouldn’t Take Unnecessary Ricks Against Afghan Leg Spinner Rashid Khan

Ajit Agarkar noted that taking risks against Rashid Khan could prove to be futile and that India should focus on getting runs off the rest of the bowling attack. The leg-spinner has been in fine form while the Indian batsmen have fared horribly against spin so far in the World Cup.

“You have to look at the situation. Very few batsman successfully manage to attack Rashid Khan. If you are getting enough runs against the rest of the bowling attack, no need to take unnecessary risks against Rashid.”, Ajit Agarkar elaborated.

Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan (Photo Credit: Twitter/@cricketworldcup)

Shan Masood also concluded by stating that India should be careful with Rashid Khan, given the fact of how consistent he is. The fastest to 100 wickets in 53 T20Is, leg spinner Rashid Khan single-handedly tested Pakistan with his leg-spin before an Asif Ali cameo saw Pakistan win. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, a mystery spinner who has nearly all the variations, returned his career-best T20I figures of 5-20 in his team’s 130-run rout of Scotland.

“Very rare to see Rashid have an off day, so India naturally should be careful.”

India will see a shift in venues for the first time in their campaign after having played their first two contests in Dubai. The Men In Blue will take on Afghanistan in a do-or-die encounter on November 3. After that, they will return to Dubai to compete in their final two group matches against Namibia and Scotland.

Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)
Ajit Agarkar (Image Credit: Twitter)
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Going By Current Form Pakistan Unlikely To Pose Much Challenge In 2021 T20I WC: Ajit Agarkar

Ajit Agarkar said that going by the current form of both teams, Pakistan is unlikely to pose a threat to India in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

India is set to begin their T20 World Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan in Dubai on October 24.

India and Pakistan rarely play against each other but have a heated rivalry. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images) NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES
India and Pakistan rarely play against each other but have a heated rivalry. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ajit Agarkar Doesn’t Think Pakistan Will Pose Much Challenge Going By India’s Current Form

Ahead of the mega clash, former India pacer Ajit Agarkar, speaking at Star Sports’ ‘Class of 2007’ show, said that going by the current form of both teams, Pakistan is unlikely to pose a threat to India at the showpiece event.

“The stakes are always high when India and Pakistan play together but going by Team India’s current form and taking the stats into consideration, I don’t think Pakistan will pose that much of a challenge,” Agarkar said.

Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP

The 43-year-old pacer further added that the Virat Kohli-led side should not make the mistake of taking Pakistan lightly in the shortest format of the game.

“Having said that, I don’t think we should take our neighbours lightly because cricket is a funny game, and things can change at any moment, especially in the T20 format,” Agarkar added.

However, it’s worth noting that the Men in Green are yet to beat their arch-rivals in a World Cup game in 12 encounters across the T20I and 50-over editions.

India and Pakistan faced each other last in the round-robin stage of the 2019 ODI World Cup, where the former won by 89 runs (DLS method). Their last T20 World Cup face-off resulted in India’s 6-wicket win over Men in Green in Kolkata in the 2016 edition.

However, due to the unfortunate political situation, the two teams haven’t played a bilateral series since 2012-13. Pakistan and India’s last bilateral ties at either of the two neighbouring countries were 2 T20Is and 3 ODIs in India way back in 2012.

Ajit Agarkar: Entire Inaugural T20I World Cup 2007 Was A Dream Tour For Eventual Winners India

Ajit Agarkar recalled the 2007 campaign in South Africa where Team India defeated Pakistan in a thrilling final to win the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup.

“The entire tournament (2007 T20 World Cup) was a dream tour for us. We never thought a bunch of youngsters could achieve such a feat, that too against Pakistan. I think the India-Pakistan rivalry always brings a tidal wave of emotions and is one the most anticipated clash in the World Cup,” he concluded.

2007 World T20 winning Indian team. Credits: Getty Images
2007 World T20 winning Indian team. Credits: Getty Images

The Indian team for T20I World Cup 2007 was fairly young, captained by a 26-year-old MS Dhoni. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, and Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan had opted out of the tournament. MS Dhoni, who was on the rise, was given the reins of the team, and he created history with a bunch of youngsters. India defeated Pakistan in the final, played in Johannesburg, to claim the inaugural T20 World title.

Expected to lead the bowling attack in the absence of senior fast bowlers, Ajit Agarkar featured in only two matches in the ICC T20 World Cup 2007. His only noteworthy contribution came against Pakistan in the group stages where the Mumbai seamer picked one wicket.

India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. India got the better of Pakistan twice in that edition including the thriller final match in Johannesburg where they defeated Shoaib Malik and his men by five runs.

India squad for T20 World Cup 2007: MS Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper), Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Joginder Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, S. Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa

MS Dhoni (Image Credit: Twitter)
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MS Dhoni May Be ‘Retained’ As A Mentor By CSK Ahead Of IPL 2022 Mega Auctions: Aakash Chopra

Aakash Chopra, former Indian opener, and commentator on Thursday (October 14), made an interesting prediction about CSK skipper MS Dhoni ahead of the IPL 2021 Final. Aakash Chopra is of the opinion that MS Dhoni will be retained by Chennai ahead of the mega auctions but not as one would expect.

MS Dhoni showed his match-winning abilities in crunch situations as his 6 ball cameo of 18 runs, including 3 fours and 1 six. CSK was in a spot of bother at 149/5, and then 160/6, and MS Dhoni contributed when it mattered most.

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Aakash Chopra: MS Dhoni Is Going To Be Retained By CSK, But He Might Be In The IPL 2022 As A Mentor, Not As A Player

MS Dhoni will next be seen in action on the field on 15th October 2021 during the summit clash of IPL 2021 against a resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders. The 2021 IPL final will be played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

“Dhoni is going to retain CSK for sure. Now in what capacity it’s up to him. It’s never been a transactional kind of relationship between the two. MSD is equal to CSK, so if he has a season in him, which is only six months away, and if he has the desire to play as he will play,” Aakash Chopra said.

“But I`m sure he`s also mindful of the fact that next year’s big auction, a lot of money is being parked on one player for the next three seasons. If that’s going to happen then you`re going to hamper the chances of creating a good team at a big auction. So if that plays out the way I think it is, MS might be there as a mentor and not as a player,” Aakash Chopra said.

MS Dhoni (BCCI/IPL)
MS Dhoni (BCCI/IPL)

The 44-year-old feels that some things have gone Chennai Super Kings way, which led to them being exceeding expectations. He also said that Chennai went from strength to strength as they did well in their matches in Mumbai. Chennai is now in their ninth IPL final and will try to bag the trophy for the fourth time against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday in Dubai.

“Well, few things have gone their way and they have exceeded expectations, because in the first leg when they were playing in Wankhede stadium and I thought they didn’t have the side to conquer that frontier. They were extraordinary there and they have gone from strength to strength,” Aakash Chopra said.

Commenting on the players who have done well for Chennai, Aakash Chopra said, “Because the middle order hasn’t fired, so the opening partnership of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf Du Plessis has.”

“Moeen Ali in the first half of the tournament with the bat, Ravindra Jadeja`s resurgence as a T20 finisher – he did finish a couple of games on his own. Also, a lot of factors have also contributed. Lord Shardul, let`s not forget him, if they have the Lord on their side, then the light of the Lord is with them,” Aakash Chopra said.

The major reason for CSK’s success in IPL 2021 is the resounding start given by Ruturaj Gaikwad (603 runs) and Faf du Plessis (547 runs). The pair have complemented each other throughout the tournament and have been the most impressive opening partnership in the tournament, by far. Moreover, the bowlers, especially Shardul Thakur, have been clinching wickets at crucial times.

The middle-order batsmen’s form also poses a big headache for CSK despite Robin Uthappa soothing the concerns with a half-century and MS Dhoni finishing off the match with a quick cameo. If the openers don’t get a good start, then Chennai is in trouble with the bat. If the dew sets in with the ball, their bowling attack comprised of Deepak Chahar, Josh Hazlewood, and Dwayne Bravo, among others, gets nullified and becomes toothless.

Ajit Agarkar: At The Start Of IPL, CSK Decided To Build A Team Around MS Dhoni

Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar mentioned the Indian core of Chennai as a reason for them being a strong franchise in the tournament.

“So, what they did was, at the start of the IPL, they decided to build the team around MS Dhoni and obviously got the Indian guys like Suresh Raina and M Vijay at the start.”

Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP

“So, the nucleus was there of the Indian players, then it becomes a lot easier to get your overseas guys. And then they kept on adding one or two players, and that’s why they have been such a good time for so long, but it is time, they will have to make changes,” concluded Agarkar.

MS Dhoni scored exactly 200 runs in IPL 2020, averaging a below-par 25 while managing only 114 runs in IPL 2021 in 15 games averaging a dismal 16.28. His strike rate is also below 120 both times and below 110 this season.

CSK Predicted XI: Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (C&WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar & Josh Hazlewood. 

KKR Predicted XI: Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (C), Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy & Shivam Mavi

Shaheen Shah Afridi. File
Shaheen Shah Afridi. File
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Middlesex Signs Pakistan Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi For 2022 Season

Middlesex has secured the services of Shaheen Shah Afridi for the 2022 season, the club has announced. The Pakistan pacer will feature in the County Championship matches till mid-July and will be available for the whole T20 Blast campaign.

Shaheen Shah Afridi already has 19 Test appearances for Pakistan to his name and 58 international white-ball caps. In Tests, he has taken five wickets in an innings on three occasions and has one ten-wicket match haul, picked up against the West Indies just six weeks ago when taking 10 for 93 at Sabina Park. However, his best international return in white-ball cricket came at Lord’s when taking 6 for 35 against Bangladesh in the 2019 World Cup.

Shaheen Shah Afridi
Shaheen Shah Afridi (Image Credit: Twitter)

Middlesex Signs Pakistan Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi For 2022 Season

Shaheen Shah Afridi has played 19 Tests, 28 ODIs, and 30 T20Is, picking 76, 53, and 32 wickets in the respective formats averaging less than 30 in each format. In December 2018, the imposing 6ft 6in left-arm pacer became the 35th player to make his Test debut for Pakistan under the age of 19. He debuted in the same year in ODIs and T20Is.

“I am very excited to be playing for Middlesex next season. I know from my time in England they are a great county and to play at the Home of Cricket really will be a dream come true. I am looking forward to being part of the team and helping create a wonderful season for the club,” Shaheen Shah Afridi said.

Middlesex County Cricket Club
Middlesex County Cricket Club

Middlesex have been at the receiving end of Shaheen Shah Afridi’s carnage when he picked four wickets in four balls to end with 6 for 19. In the 2020 season for Hampshire, Shaheen Shah Afridi picked seven wickets from seven matches in the T20 Blast.

Middlesex is one of the most iconic and revered counties in the England circuit. Over the past few years, they have managed to rope in overseas players like Abdul Razzaq, Ajit Agarkar, and Ashton Agar.

Shaheen Shah Afridi Is A Genuine Match Winner: Andrew Cornish

Shaheen Shah Afridi has featured in 19 Tests, 28 ODIs, and 30 T20Is for Pakistan and has 161 wickets across formats. Andrew Cornish, the club’s Chief Executive, was understandably pleased with their new signing.

“We are absolutely delighted to have secured the services of one of the international crickets’ most exciting talents. Shaheen is a world-class pace bowler, and we are thrilled that he will be representing us in 2022,” he said.

“His signature was highly sought-after, and the fact that he has chosen to join Middlesex is a massive coup for us as a Club and speaks volumes of our ambitions.”

Shaheen Shah Afridi
Shaheen Shah Afridi. (Photo by OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

“We need Middlesex to be competing at the top level and challenging for trophies. Signing players of Shaheen’s caliber, who can add quality and experience to our existing squad, is a significant step towards us getting there. Shaheen is a genuine match-winner and I’m sure all our members will be excited to welcome him to Middlesex and share in our delight that he will be wearing the three Seaxes of the Club on his chest next season.”

Pakistan fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi will play for Middlesex in England’s upcoming domestic season in 2022, and the news was confirmed on Wednesday, October 5. The left-arm pacer will play first-class as well as white-ball cricket for the club before he joins the Pakistan team for their series in mid-July.

After completing the National T20 Cup, Shaheen Shah Afridi will next be seen in action for Pakistan in the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2021, which is set to begin on October 17.

Ambati Rayudu is a key player in the CSK middle order [P/C: iplt20.com]
Ambati Rayudu is a key player in the CSK middle order [P/C: iplt20.com]
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Gautam Gambhir Believes Ambati Rayudu Has Been CSK’s Standout Player

Gautam Gambhir believes CSK’s middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu has been the Chennai Super Kings‘ (CSK) standout player ever since he joined the franchise.

Ambati Rayudu scored an unbeaten 55 off 43 deliveries in last night’s IPL 2021 encounter between the two top teams in IPL 2021, CSK, and the Delhi Capitals (DC). However, the knock went in vain as the Rishabh Pant-led side chased down the 137-run target to go atop the Indian Premier League points table.

Ambati Rayudu smashed a half-century for CSK against DC [P/C: iplt20.com]
Ambati Rayudu smashed a half-century for CSK against DC [P/C: iplt20.com]

Gautam Gambhir Believes Ambati Rayudu Has Been The Player Of The Franchise Since Joining CSK

Gautam Gambhir was effusive in his praise for Ambati Rayudu for delivering the best at any position in the CSK’s batting order.

“I believe Ambati Rayudu has been the player of the franchise since he joined CSK. He scored runs when he opened or played at No.3 or No.4, he has delivered in whichever position he has played. It is very difficult when your batting order is being shuffled but despite that the way he bats,” said Gautam Gambhir.

Gautam Gambhir AFP
Gautam Gambhir AFP

The former India opener Gautam Gambhir highlighted that Ambati Rayudu has been CSK’s unsung hero.

“He had an impact when he used to open with Watson, today he is playing at No.4 and he has a similar impact. We might talk about Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and the others, but he has probably been the player of the franchise in the last three-four years,” said Gautam Gambhir.

Ambati Rayudu has scored 1495 runs at an impressive average of 35.59 and an equally good strike of 130.11 in the 58 matches he has played for CSK. But, more than the numbers, the 36-year-old has made telling contributions in crunch situations and was one of the star performers in the franchise’s title-winning run in 2018. He has scored 3911 runs in 172 matches averaging 29.85, and has one century and 21 fifties beside his name.

Ajit Agarkar: Ambati Rayudu’s Form Is Necessary As There’s A Lot Of Dependency On Faf du Plessis And Ruturaj Gaikwad

Ajit Agarkar pointed out that Ambati Rayudu being in form is crucial for CSK as the team is over dependant on Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad. While Ruturaj Gaikwad has amassed 521 runs and is 2nd highest run-getter so far, Faf du Plessis is the 5th highest run-scorer with 470 runs. Ambati Rayudu has managed 252 runs averaging 36.

“His form is extremely necessary because there is a lot of dependency on Faf du Plessis and Gaikwad at the moment. When they don’t score runs, they don’t post a big total. So this innings will certainly help,” said Ajit Agarkar.

Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP

While acknowledging that Ravindra Jadeja is the in-form player down the order, the former India pacer signed off by stating that Ambati Rayudu needs to carry the middle order in the fag end of the IPL 2021.

“He also struggled in the beginning but the acceleration he gave helped them get a good finish. Jadeja is definitely scoring runs but he comes down the order. The players who come at No.3, 4 and 5, their role becomes huge when your openers get out, so the middle order being in form at the business end of the tournament is necessary,” said Ajit Agarkar.

CSK will be slightly concerned due to the lack of runs from middle-order batsman Suresh Raina and skipper MS Dhoni’s willows. Ambati Rayudu being amongst the runs should hold them in good stead.

In the CSK-DC match, CSK could score only 136/5 after being 62/4 in the 9th over. Ambati Rayudu scored 55 off 43 and remained unbeaten. His knock was studded with 5 fours and 2 sixes. Axar Patel took 2 wickets, conceding only 18 runs. DC eventually won by 3 wickets in a tense finish despite losing regular wickets.

Ruturaj Gaikwad
Ruturaj Gaikwad (Image Credit: Twitter)
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Brian Lara Praised ‘Orthodox’ Orange Cap Holder Ruturaj Gaikwad But His 101* Goes In Vain

Brian Lara, the former West Indies captain heaped rich praise on CSK opener Ruturaj Gaikwad, saying the young CSK opener is a testament to the fact that big runs can be scored in T20 cricket by playing orthodox cricket.

Brian Lara, the legendary batsman and former West Indies captain said he is hugely impressed by Ruturaj Gaikwad’s batsmanship in the ongoing 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) after the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) opener hit a record-breaking century, albeit in a losing cause against Rajasthan Royals in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Ruturaj Gaikwad
Ruturaj Gaikwad (Image Credit: Twitter)

Brian Lara: Ruturaj Gaikwad Is In KL Rahul’s Category

Brian Lara said CSK opener Ruturaj Gaikwad proves that a batsman can score much-needed runs in T20 cricket with orthodox shots and it gives him great pleasure watching the CSK opener dominate the opposition with his silky gameplay.

Brian Lara’s comments came after Ruturaj Gaikwad took the Rajasthan bowlers to the cleaners on Saturday. The opener got off to a slow start, hitting 30 runs off his first 29 balls but he ended up with 101 not out in just 60 balls, helping CSK post a mammoth 189/4 in 20 overs after RR sent them in to bat.

Ruturaj Gaikwad showcased his class, hitting spinners inside-out and sending pacers on a leather hunt with his elegance. He needed a six off the last two balls of the CSK innings against RR to get to his maiden hundred and he missed the penultimate delivery.

However, Ruturaj Gaikwad held his stance and smashed the final delivery into the mid-wicket stands to become the youngest batsman to score a hundred for CSK in the IPL.

Brian Lara (Image Credit: Twitter)
Brian Lara (Image Credit: Twitter)

“Yeah, he could have been 135 if he had got more strike in the end overs. But it was a complete show of batsmanship. That’s what I like about him, seeing how he put that innings together, how he surged in the second half of the innings. He was just tremendous to watch,” Brian Lara told Star Sports.

“He shows that you can play good cricket shots and still score big runs. And that’s what I am proud of as a batsman. It was just remarkable and unbelievable. I will put him now in the KL Rahul category,” Brian Lara said. 

Ruturaj Gaikwad also bagged the Orange Cap from Punjab Kings skipper KL Rahul, becoming the first batsman in IPL 2021 to get to 500 runs. Ruturaj Gaikwad now has 508 runs in 12 matches at an average of over 50 and a strike rate over 140. But Yashasvi Jaiswal’s 50 and Shivam Dube’s unbeaten 64 saw Rajasthan reach 190 in the 18th over.

Ruturaj Gaikwad Carrying CSK’s Batting At The Moment: Ajit Agarkar

The 24-year-old grabbed the limelight in IPL 2020, providing CSK fans something to cheer for with three fifties in a season where the 3-time champions failed to qualify for the play-offs. He has grown from strength to strength, leading the CSK batting unit. Lauding the young opener, former India pacer Ajit Agarkar said Ruturaj Gaikwad is carrying the CSK batting unit on his shoulders in IPL 2021.

“He took a little bit of time to get his first 30 rims and after that, he just took off. For me, he has been the find for CSK in the last season and a half. He is improving with every game. He is carrying their batting at the moment. He needed 6 off the last two balls. He misses one and hits the last one, it’s incredible,” Agarkar said.

Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP
Ajit Agarkar Photo: AFP

Ruturaj Gaikwad, promising Chennai Super Kings batsman recalled how he overcame his early struggles in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 where he scored just 5 runs in the first three games.

Gaikwad smashed a hat-trick of half-centuries in the last three games to amass 204 runs averaging 51 in 6 games after scoring 5 runs in the first 3 outings. He scored unbeaten 65, 72, and unbeaten 62 as CSK won the last 3 games but finished 7th.

He has played 12 games in IPL 2021 so far amassing 508 runs averaging 50.8 besides being the 4th batsman to score a ton in IPL 2021 after Devdutt Padikkal, Jos Buttler, and Sanju Samson.

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