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The beast awakens at the Oval

The beast that has been lurking around the shires of the United Kingdom awoke and let out a spine-chlling, blood curdling roar in London on Sunday. At the Oval, Australia’s bowlers faced the wrath of the Indian batting line up, one of the scariest of its kind assembled, and try as they might, the “away” team could not overcome either the men in blue or the sea of the same hue in the stands.

When Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat first, it was a bold decision. Certainly it appeared to be the right one, but even that needed the batsmen to dig deep, apply themselves and do the job to justify the faith the captain had in his band of batting brothers. 

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Rohit Sharma: Played more than 200 ODIs, if I don’t do it now, then when?

Rohit Sharma, India’s vice-captain, oozed calm and composure when he spoke to the media ahead of India’s match against Australia. Fielding questions that ranged from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gloves to who the best batsman in the world was and much between, Rohit played with a straight bat, just as he had against South Africa in India’s tournament opener. 

Excerpts:

Q. Rohit, firstly, congrats on the hundred. And your record against Australia is very good, but on this ground India has not done very well of late. How do you think of today’s match?

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Warner rattled after net bowler suffers blow to head

There was brief panic during Australia’s net session at the Oval when a net bowler could not get out of the way of a fierce hit from David Warner. The bowler, a medium pacer, was in his followthrough when the shot hit him on the head. He was immediately attended to by medical staff and was conscious, smiling and said his name.

The bowler, of Indian origin, said his name was Jai Kishan, and was taken to hospital as a precaution. He was expected to remain under observation for 24 hours.

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Peerless Bumrah is India’s MVP

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The chants in the stands at Southampton from a sizeable Indian crowd began mutedly, but built up a steady head of steam and exploded in raucous crescendos. They pretty much mirrored the bowling action of Jasprit Bumrah — the man being celebrated — to perfection.

When Bumrah is at the top of his mark he appears to be ready to do anything but bowl fast. His first few steps are baby shuffles, his build up more of a person running to catch a train than an athlete aiming for peak speed but when reaches the bowling crease there is an explosive release of energy. 

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An Indian summer begins in Southampton

The beer had not travelled too well from Indore, described as flat and tasteless by one group of discerning patrons who had travelled some way to watch the match. The samosas, crispy on the outside and flavourful on the inside, flew off the shelves at the concession stalls in the stands. 

The approach to the ground experienced traffic disruptions because a politician was travelling to a nearby town. In the stands, in a box of their own were at least 13 members of a leading business family that also owns an Indian Premier League team.

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Bearded Harry Potter kicks off World Cup

It can be confirmed that rumours of the 2019 Cricket World Cup having begun on May 30 are, in fact, true. But for cricket fans from the most populous participating nation, the tournament begins today, when India play their first match.

Considering that India seem to have been in England for an eternity — they’ve had enough time to go paint balling in the woods and take selfies with Harry Kane — but have not yet been called up to play a match. As has been widely reported, this was to allow the team a sufficient gap, and rest, after the completion of the IPL, but it also gives them a significant advantage.

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Cricket in the Emirates without Sharjah? But why?

Inside one mall, you can ski down an 85 metre slope — about the height of 25 storeys — perfectly snow-clad, all year round, even if the temperature is pushing 50°C outside. In another, you can get in a protective cage and, wetsuits and breathing gear in place, feed sharks, even as experienced divers draw them to you. In a third location, you can experience the thrill of sky diving, without being anywhere near the sky or even jumping, forget about diving — the wind tunnel doing all the work for you.

This is Dubai, where the premium is on gratification and customer satisfaction, even as authenticity dies quietly in a corner.

That’s why it simply does not feel right that the Asia Cup 2018 is being played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, cricketing venues that have come up more recently, while Sharjah has got the cool shoulder (There is no such thing as a cold shoulder in this region, air-conditioning notwithstanding).

The Asia Cup reflects this dichotomy perfectly. No cricket would have been played in this desert had it not been for Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, who put Sharjah on the global cricket map.

Actually, that does him little justice. He brought cricket to the region in the early 1980s when most international cricketers could not find the region on a map.

Read the full piece on ThePrint.in READ MORE

All that you missed from the Asia Cup

There's no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

There’s no better banter than India v Pakistan in the UAE

The past week has been a bit of a blur with so much action in the Asia Cup that it has been difficult to keep up with posting here. But, fear not, here are a few things you might have missed out on:

What’s it like to watch an India-Pakistan match in the stands with an Indian-Pakistani couple?

Seated in front of your correspondent were three Pakistanis and one Indian, all clearly friends two possibly a couple. The banter began right then. “I told you before we came here. Bat first, make 270 and the game is ours.”

Read the full article on the Economic Times

Switched-on India Show Intent to Outplay Pakistan

Pakistan chose to bat. They slip-slid their way to 162. India knocked off the runs in 29 overs with eight wickets to spare. Perfect game for India? Well, yes and no.

Read the full article on CricketNext.com

Is the Asia Cup more about getting India and Pakistan to play each other?

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Catch up on the India-Pakistan previews

India v Pakistan, were you there?

Too much happened too fast for us to update this page. That’s what India v Pakistan does. But words were written in the meantime, and you might want to check them out:

India vs Pakistan: Hong Kong Alert India to Potential Banana Peels on Road to World Cup

Did India take their opening match of the Asia Cup, against Hong Kong, lightly? No. Did they use the opportunity of playing against an unestablished team as a chance to try a few things? Yes. Were they right in doing so? Absolutely.
With the World Cup approximately nine months away, and India playing 20-odd 50-over matches in the meantime, any chance to nail down their best players in the top order and lower middle-order cannot be wasted.

Read a full preview on CricketNext.com

India plays Pakistan in Asia Cup match in Dubai today. Need more be said?

There’s a huge difference between the way cricketers approach a game and the way fans and supporters approach it. If ever proof was needed, one should look no further than an India-Pakistan match.

It does not matter if the match is a dead rubber at the end of a bilateral series, a World Cup match, or what’s unfolding now, the Asia Cup. Why, there’s a distinct possibility that India could play Pakistan thrice in this short tournament, if the results work out right. How’s that for managing a mini-series even when the governments can’t agree to play each other bilaterally?

For the players, there is only way to approach such a game — like it is a cricket contest, and no different from one against any other top team. If they get caught up in the hype and hoopla — such as the war of words between the fans or the provocative ranting of certain television anchors — they simply would not be able to play.

Read the full article at ThePrint.in READ MORE

High-octane Water, Dubai Vada Pav and the Power of the National Anthem

Dubai International Cricket Stadium in all its glory

The gates at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium open at 1.30pm for a 3.30pm start in the match between India and Hong Kong.There’s a bit of a crowd milling about, and a decent number in the stands. The empty seats look worse than they actually are because this is a big stadium, seating up to 25000.

Once the toss is done, though and news spreads that India are batting first, there’s a steady inflow. The number of blue India shirts in the stands steadily increases, tickets in the AED 45 and 75 categories still being available for the match.

As the sun sets – which is scorching enough in the stands to make one fan observe that a case could be made for the players to be sent back to the dressing-room on the basis of cruelty – the influx increases dramatically.

It is now that families with young children step out in Dubai, and it’s difficult to make an exception, even to watch India play.

The main beneficiaries of the conditions are the company selling chilled water in half-litre bottles and the ice cream stand that does brisk business. As with all things Dubai, however, the pricing of these commodities is a touch confusing.

While 120-ml of top-shelf praline or Belgian chocolate ice cream costs AED 10 (Rs 200) the small bottle of water goes for half that much. But then, in the heat, not everyone can survive on ice-cream alone!

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When it’s time for the national anthems, a lovely quiet settles on the ground. The Bollywood numbers being belted out of the high-decibel boom-boxes go silent, the public address announcers stops his “jeetega bhai jeetega …” exhortations and without being told to fans in the stands take bums off seats and stand.

A good many take out their cellphones to try and capture the moment, but for Indians living in Dubai, mainly to earn a living, the first few strains of Jana Gana Mana are enough to set them off. Most tuck their phones back in and put hand to heart.

Check out the full diary and photos at CricketNext.com READ MORE

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