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All-round India too good for Pakistan

India v Pakistan

Predictable Pakistan are mercurial no more

It was not so long ago that Indian fans went into a World Cup honestly thinking that the final result was irrelevant. Reaching the final was good, winning would be a bonus, but beating Pakistan on the way there was non-negotiable. In Birmingham at the 2017 Champions Trophy there was a mildly anti-climactic feel toIndia’s comfortable 124-run win.

Here was a Pakistan team that neither mercurial nor unpredicatable. Here was an Indian team on top of its game in almost every respect. For once, India even had a fast-bowling attack far superior to the one it was facing. There was no Imran, no Wasim, no Waqar, no Shoaib, and only in Mohammad Amir’s first spell, especially the testing maiden over to Rohit Sharma first up did the match feel like a contest.

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Nice guys New Zealand take on arch rivals

New Zealand v Australia

Do nice guys always finish last?

What can you expect when one of the nicest teams in world cricket takes on one built on a legacy of aggression, snarling and on-field skirmishes? New Zealand transformed the way audiences viewed cricketers when they rose to Brendon McCullum’s calls to play the game in a manner that was both attacking and well-behaved.

Kane Williamson, the man taking forward McCullum’s world view, has ensured that even in the face of severe provocation, the focus remains on runs and wickets, with his mates not falling into the trap or responding with words. He might be in for a bit of a surprise in the latest Australia-New Zealand clash, for Australia’s players are embroiled in a fight with their cricket board that may leave them with no appetite to dish it out on the field.

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Kumble-Kohli rift or smoke without fire?

Anil Kumble

The rift that nobody can confirm has made speculation rife

When did you stop beating your wife?

More children died in Iraq because of US bombings than Hiroshima, was it worth it?

Should a slap delivered to a naughty child as part of responsible parenting be considered violent behaviour?

These are only obvious examples of the concept of a loaded question, one which cannot be answered in any satisfactory manner without the respondent either implicating himself or sounding positively evasive.

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India barter Kohli’s fire for Rahane’s ice

Ajinkya Rahane

Ajinkya Rahane showed his own brand of aggression when he was captain in Dharamsala
© The Scroll

In a series that has been dominated by talk of Virat Kohli even if his bat has not done the talking in the manner he would have liked, the final chapter unfolded with the protagonist forced to take a back seat. And, as they have done all series, Kohli’s mates picked up the slack, giving themselves every chance of forcing a result, even if predicting such things at the end of one day of five is fraught with risk.

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How Hirwani sharpened Jadeja’s arrows

A long home season beckoned India, and Ravindra Jadeja was less than pleased when he had to leave his beloved horses behind and make the trip to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. But there was work to be done. Even Jadeja did not know just how much.

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja has grown from great bad-wicket bowler to all-round steady hand.
© The Scroll

While he has always been accurate, Jadeja was slowly acquiring a reputation of being a great bad-wicket bowler who was merely steady on other surfaces. Jadeja, it was felt, was truly effective only when bowling straight on rank turners. This, of course, was not true, but as the high and mighty like to put it, perception matters as much as reality.

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Spin is king, but pace is always pace

They are usually the biggest men on a cricket field. When they are doing their jobs properly, it makes for spectacular theatre. New ball in hand, four slips waiting at the far end, a fast bowler gathering momentum from his long run, driving through the crease and straining every sinew in his body in an explosive action to send down a thunderbolt is one of cricket’s greatest sights. The snarling that follows is merely an added bonus. Fast bowlers, cricket’s hardest working athletes, rarely ever go unnoticed.

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Life’s a pitch

A view of the pitch

Life’s a pitch.
© The Scroll

The year was 2008. South Africa had arrived in India for a three-Test series and their first port of call was Chennai. The MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk was in typical March form, the last vestiges of the nominal Chennai winter having been burned off by typically fierce sunshine. It wasn’t quite the Ides of March, but the pace trio of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel were distinctly amused when Parthasarathy Kannan, the curator at the stadium, spoke lovingly of the 22-yards he had tended to for more than three decades.

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