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RCB look to spoil Dinesh Karthik’s captaincy debut



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When Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore walk out on Sunday, both sides will be conspicuously lacking a familiar left-handed opener. Royal Challengers let go of Chris Gayle, perhaps their biggest match-winner ever, ahead of the January auction, and Knight Riders did the same with Gautam Gambhir, their captain for seven seasons in which they won two titles.

If these events show us anything, it’s how unpredictable this league, and by extension the format, can be. Just in 2016, Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers captain, called out Sarfaraz Khan for his fielding and fitness. And yet, he was one of three players retained, alongside AB de Villiers and Kohli himself. This is a slightly different RCB line-up. After falling flat in 2017, when they finished last, they seem to have made amends with smart buys aimed at remedying their over-reliance on the top order. They will also be served well by domestic talents who have successfully transitioned to international cricket, such as Yuzvendra Chahal.

Knight Riders have endured three seasons without a trophy, and have sought to address that by appointing a new captain in Dinesh Karthik, who is in the middle of a late career renaissance of sorts. Karthik, who has a wealth of leadership experience in domestic cricket, recently earned a recall to the Indian side and responded by playing probably the defining innings of his career: all signs of a man high on confidence and at peace with his game. Not a bad way to start.

In the news

Mitchell Starc has been ruled out of the tournament with a tibial bone stress fracture in his right leg, and the Knight Riders coach Jacques Kallis has pinned his faith on Tom Curran, the bowling allrounder from England, to fill in ably. There were also doubts surrounding Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, who pulled out of the PSL due to injuries, and Sunil Narine, who was reported for a suspect action in the same tournament. But the Knight Riders management has assured fans that all three will be available for the opener.

Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was Knight Riders’ second-highest wicket-taker last season, will miss the opportunity of taking on his former franchise. As he has continues to recover from a back stress fracture, Coulter-Nile has been withdrawn from the Royal Challengers squad and replaced by Corey Anderson.

The likely XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), 5 Nitish Rana, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Piyush Chawla, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Shivam Mavi/Kamlesh Nagarkoti

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Brendon McCullum/Quinton de Kock, 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Navdeep Saini

Strategy punt

Dinesh Karthik would do well to unleash Piyush Chawla at the Royal Challengers line-up. De Villiers has an appalling record against the legspinner in IPL: 43 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 97.7, while being dismissed four times. McCullum fares even worse, averaging 8.00 and striking at 80 while also being dismissed four times in eight innings. That’s two of the opposition’s most dangerous batsmen.

Stats that matter

  • Sixteen out of 26 matches at the Eden Gardens in T20Is and IPL since 2015 have been won by the chasing team: a strong case for bowling first.

  • Sunil Narine has increasingly proven his utility as a batsman in recent years. His effectiveness shoots up significantly when he’s facing spin. Since IPL 2015, Narine has averaged 17.2 against pace and struck at 145.8. Against spin, the corresponding numbers are 29.5 and 226.9.

  • Both teams are relatively evenly matched at the Eden Gardens. In their five most recent meetings at this venue, Knight Riders hold a marginal 3-2 edge. However, Knight Riders have won all their three matches batting first, while RCB have chased down totals for both their victories.

  • While Dinesh Karthik is solid in the middle overs and a blazing finisher, he has trouble getting going in the Powerplay. Since the 2015 IPL, Karthik has batted 16 times in the first six overs and faced 63 deliveries for a strike rate of 92.1.

  • If Knight Riders win on Sunday, they will tie Chennai Super Kings for 41 home victories – the second-highest among all IPL teams.



After finishing last in 2017, Virat Kohli has lots of new talent and a formidable coaching staff to work with in a bid to win a maiden IPL title for RCB

Fantasy picks

  • First, the obvious choices: Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. You’d have to be brave and perhaps foolish to leave either out.

  • Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are coming off a bumper limited-overs tour of South Africa. They took 33 wickets between them in six matches and averaged 13.88 and 16.37 respectively. Royal Challengers struggled at the death in the last IPL, losing an average of three wickets per innings in the last five overs, and scoring at just 8.64 per over. Kuldeep was the most successful spinner at the death last year, taking seven wickets and conceding a boundary once every 6.67 deliveries.


“Unfortunately Starc got injured but we have got a replacement in [Tom] Curran. We look forward to some exciting stuff from Tom who should stand up and play a big role in the absence of Mitchell.”
Knight Riders coach Jacques Kallis has high hopes from the young England quick

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Mitchell Marsh in ‘weird situation’ as ankle scans don’t reach Australia board after IPL 2020



Since returning to Australia with a right-ankle injury that cut short his IPL 2020 campaign for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mitchell Marsh still doesn’t know the extent of his injury because he and Cricket Australia have not yet received his injury report from the UAE.

Speaking at a virtual press conference from Perth on Tuesday, where he is serving out his quarantine, Marsh called the situation “weird.” He has, however, found a silver lining in that he may feature in the Sheffield Shield, where he captains Western Australia.

“We don’t really know what happened with the scans over in the UAE,” Marsh said. “Cricket Australia haven’t been able to get their hands on them so it’s bit of a weird situation.

“It’s really frustrating and a little unlucky. I’ve tried to dive for the ball like that probably a thousand times in my career,” he said of the way he picked up the injury against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, his only IPL game this time in which he bowled just four balls. “My spikes just got caught in the wicket… it’s just one of those really frustrating injuries. Hopefully, I can get back for the last [Shield] game or the maybe even last two games [before the Big Bash break] if things go really well.”

Marsh is no stranger to injuries. In 2017, a side strain had cut short his IPL campaign with Rising Pune Supergiant. And over the past four years, he has had surgeries on his right shoulder in 2017 and his left ankle in 2018. In last year’s Australian summer, Marsh had also broken his right hand after punching a wall after being dismissed in the Sheffield Shield. However, for his current injury, Marsh is confident he won’t need another surgery.

ALSO READ: Injury, illness, selection: the ups and downs of Mitchell Marsh

“I was really looking forward to playing in the IPL, having not played there for a few years but obviously it wasn’t meant to be this year,” Marsh said. “Hopefully I’ll go for another scan this week if I can get clearance [from the Western Australian government] and then we’ll be a lot clearer on what we’re dealing with. At this stage, I’m hoping I can get back for at least one Shield game.

“I’ve been through a few [injuries] now and think I know how I deal with it. I moaned and groaned for about 48 hours while I was in the UAE – I was really disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to play in the UAE again. But now I’m getting stuck into my rehab and doing everything I can to be fully fit, whenever that is.”

If Marsh recovers for the Sheffield Shield, he could also be in contention for a place in the national team for when Australia host India for four Tests starting December 3. He had come to the UAE for the IPL after a successful outing in England, where he produced a Man-of-the-Match performance in the third T20I. He had also struck a match-winning 73 in the first ODI of the three-match series which Australia won 2-1.

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IPL 2020 – Who is Abdul Samad, the new boy in the Sunrisers Hyderabad XI?



Abdul Samad, the 18-year-old with a reputation for big hitting, earned his IPL debut with Sunrisers Hyderabad in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. In case you don’t know much about him, here’s a quick check.

Who is Abdul Samad?

A big-hitting batsman who can also bowl quickish legspin, Samad was one of the breakout stars of the 2019-20 Indian domestic season. Nobody struck more sixes than his 36 for Jammu & Kashmir in the Ranji Trophy, and in all he hit 592 runs in 17 innings at an eye-popping strike rate of nearly 113.

Mentored by Irfan Pathan, the J&K player-cum-mentor, and endorsed by Milap Mewada, the coach, Samad became the fourth player from J&K to break into the IPL after Parvez Rasool, Mansoor Dar and Rasikh Salam, when Sunrisers snapped him up for his base price of INR 20 lakh in the December 2019 auction.

What about Pathan’s role in his development?

Pathan and Mewada first spotted Samad as a 16-year-old in 2018, at a trial in Jammu. His driving on the up against quicks bowling from 18 yards out had Pathan digging up Samad’s scores in districts cricket.

ALSO READ: Will big-hitting Abdul Samad make it to the big time?

“He was effortlessly hitting the ball,” Pathan told ESPNcricinfo during the most recent domestic season. “But when I looked through his numbers, he didn’t have one 50-plus score. I took him aside and told him he would be put in the probables, but he needed to work on preserving his wicket. It’s not about six-hitting.

What is his USP?

Hitting sixes. It was on display in the Ranji Trophy. It was also on display in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy when he smacked four sixes off Piyush Chawla in Jaipur. He was also at it in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, making rapid runs in the middle order on tough, spin-friendly pitches in Surat. His cameos – 29 off 10 balls against Odisha, 28* off 13 against Nagaland, and 32* off 24 balls against Saurashtra – all contributed to victories for J&K.

When VVS Laxman, Sunrisers’ mentor, was looking for a middle-order finisher for his franchise, Mewada, who was Laxman’s Under-19 team-mate many moons ago, recommended Samad for the role.

Does he have the ability to build an innings too?

Samad has showed signs of it in the Ranji Trophy. When J&K were reduced to 131 for 4 in their second innings against Maharashtra on a green track in Pune, he absorbed the pressure and averted a collapse, scoring 78 off 89 balls. His contribution was central to J&K stretching their lead to 363 and eventually winning the game. Samad also stepped up against a quality Karnataka attack, making 43 off 50 balls in the Ranji quarter-final at home, but J&K narrowly fell short of the first-innings lead and eventually lost the game.

In a slightly iffy Sunrisers middle order, he may have to play the dual role of building an innings as well as finishing depending on the game-scenario and conditions in IPL 2020.

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Bangladesh’s Mominul Haque & Co return to intra-squad games after Sri Lanka tour postponement



Bangladesh’s cricketers have been forced to extend their break from international cricket after their tour of Sri Lanka was postponed for a second time on Monday. They would have played in a three-match Test series for the first time in six years in October, but now they must wait till January for the home series against West Indies, although that too is uncertain at this stage because of the Covid-19 situation.

The BCB has announced that the senior team will continue to train at their camp in Dhaka, during which the players will play three long-format practice matches. They will also continue to stay in a Dhaka hotel for two more weeks to make sure they don’t go out of their bio-secure bubble. But, as ESPNcricinfo has learnt, the players are not too happy to stay in the bubble without international cricket in the offing.

The practice matches are likely to be followed by a T20 tournament, which will also have players from the high-performance set-up and others. The BCB is also hoping that the clubs will agree to restart the 2019-20 Dhaka Premier League, which was postponed after one round of matches in March.

Mominul Haque, the Test captain who might have led Bangladesh in ten Tests in 2020, said that following the disappointment of the Sri Lanka postponement, the players have no choice but to use domestic games to keep themselves in touch. He, however, admitted that the lack of international cricket wouldn’t do the players any good.

“As a player it is disappointing,” Haque told ESPNcricinfo. “We had an opportunity to play after six months but it is out of our control. I don’t want to think too much about it. I think every team has to deal with the difficulty of returning after a long break these days. I think if we get to play domestic cricket before international matches, we can cover some of that gap.

“It is difficult to understand what exactly is the situation when there’s no international cricket.”

Selector Habibul Bashar echoed Haque’s thoughts, saying that Bangladesh’s best cricketers were losing out because of the circumstances. “It is unfortunate that the players have lost a year of their career,” he said. “Tamim Iqbal misses out on a thousand runs. Mushfiqur Rahim misses out on a few centuries. They are not get any younger. But there’s not much we can do in a pandemic.

“[Coming back after the break] will be a big challenge for us, definitely. It is never good to stay out of international cricket for so long. We will be out for almost a year. It is not going to be easy. If we utilise our domestic cricket, we will be better prepared. We wouldn’t have been too well prepared ahead of this Sri Lanka series, but it would have at least been a start.”

Bangladesh have had longer gaps in Test cricket but even when they missed out for 15 months (July 2015 to October 2016) and 14 months (June 2010 to August 2011) they at least played ODIs and T20Is. In fact, their long sequence of ODI matches have often helped them find success in other formats: the run-up to the 2007 World Cup gave them their best result in the tournament till that point, and the period following the 2015 World Cup showed meaningful progress.

Mustafizur Rahman, meanwhile, has more reason to feel hard-done-by, having missed out on a chance to play in the IPL after the BCB refused him a no-objection certificate.

“It would have been great to play the Test series,” Rahman told “If the BCB knew that the Sri Lanka series would be postponed, they would have given me the NOC for IPL. But whatever happens, happens for the best; I may have earned Taka 1 crore ($118,000 approx.) had I played the IPL.

“Sri Lanka’s proposal to have us quarantined for 14 days didn’t seem possible for us. You cannot sit in your room before such an important series, no matter how hard you train. BCB tried, but the 14-day quarantine is their law. I think we should respect it.”

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