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Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul to sit out Sydney ODI

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Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul will not be considered for selection for the first match of the Australia-India ODI series. ESPNcricinfo understands that although the Committee of Administrators (CoA) is still deliberating the course of action against the two players for their controversial comments on a TV show, the BCCI has informed the team management not to consider them for selection for the ODI in Sydney on Saturday.

In reply to the show-cause notice issued by the BCCI earlier this week, both Pandya and Rahul apologised for their conduct. The two-member CoA still wanted the players to be suspended followed by an inquiry.

While Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, had initially recommended a two-match suspension for the players, Diana Edulji, the former India women captain and the other member of the CoA, reiterated on Friday her view that the players be suspended and an inquiry be carried out.

More to follow…



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Thisara Perera’s all-round heroics down Dhaka Dynamites

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Comilla Victorians 153 for 8 (Shamsur 48, Tamim 34, Shakib 3-24) beat Dhaka Dynamites 146 for 9 (Russell 46, Thisara 3-14, Afridi 2-18) by seven runs

How the game played out

Comilla Victorians pulled out a sloppy, see-saw affair by seven runs thanks to the all-round heroics of Thisara Perera. Though the final margin might indicate that the game went down to the wire, Victorians actually sealed it quite comfortably in the final three overs when the Dhaka Dynamites tail was left stranded following the dismissal of captain Shakib Al Hasan.

The match was far from a crisp contest, with a series of missed chances on both sides that served to keep it interesting. Deep square leg and deep midwicket were high-traffic areas throughout the day and the Victorians’ ability to seize more chances on the boundary paid off in the end.

Turning points

  • With Liam Dawson struggling to get bat on ball at one end, the red-hot Thisara Perera clattered three sixes in his 26 off 12 balls before he was run out in the final over in a mix-up trying to steal a bye.

  • Thisara removed a rampaging Andre Russell for 46 in the 15th over to defuse the Dynamites’ chase with a slower ball pulled to deep midwicket.

  • With 36 needed off 25 balls and with five wickets in hand, Shakib pulled a full toss from Shahid Afridi straight to deep midwicket.

  • Thisara followed up Shakib’s dismissal with two more via the short ball in the 17th, effectively snuffing out the Dynamites chances

Star of the day

Thisara Perera not only continued to be the Victorians’ sensational spark plug at the end of the innings with the bat, but silenced the Dynamites at the death. Not only did he take three crucial wickets, but he conceded just a single in the 19th over, leaving 19 runs to get off the last six balls, which wound up being too tough for the tail.

The big miss

Shakib got an absolute meatball from Afridi that should have been hit out of the ground. He stood motionless at the wicket once he realised he didn’t get the elevation to clear the man on the boundary and even though the required run rate was just nine per over for the last four, Dynamites’ last recognised batsman was gone to turn Dynamites from favorites to underdogs.

Where the teams stand

Victorians joined Dynamites on 10 points at the top of the table in a three-way tie for first place with Chittagong Vikings, but the Vikings have two games in hand.



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Dhoni, Dhawan should have played domestic cricket before Australia ODIs – Gambhir

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Gautam Gambhir believes that the likes of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan should have been asked to play first-class cricket before joining the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia, so that they could have hit the ground running. He was also sceptical about Rishabh Pant’s chances of making it to the World Cup squad, and said playing in the IPL before the World Cup could be a blessing in disguise for India’s players. Gambhir was speaking at an event in Bangalore. Excerpts:

On playing domestic cricket before the Australia ODIs:

I was a little disappointed because some of the guys should have played first-class cricket. The selectors should have pushed them to play first-class cricket. Because it’s a World Cup year, you’ve got to be in prime form. Whether it was MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu (Rayudu retired from first-class cricket earlier this season)… all those guys who went to Australia.

Why do you skip it? Because ultimately you will get confidence by scoring runs, not by hitting the nets. You can’t be thinking, ‘I’m going to come back into form just by playing international cricket.’ The only way everyone has done it is by playing domestic cricket and scoring runs. It’s a World Cup year, so I think the selectors should have made everyone play domestic cricket.

Does Rishabh Pant have a place in the ODI squad?

I don’t think so. They’ve got MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. He can wait for his opportunity. Obviously he has done well in Test cricket. He’s doing all the right things. But if you’ve got Dhoni, who got [the] Man-of-the-Series award, he deserves to be there now. And it’s so close to the World Cup, you need someone like Dhoni. Karthik has been in decent form as well over the last four-five months. The good thing is, Rishabh is keeping them on their toes as well, which is always a good sign for Indian cricket, that youngsters are pushing the seniors.

On players potentially skipping the IPL to rest before the World Cup:

I think playing the IPL is a fabulous opportunity for most of those guys to be in peak form. Because you’re only bowling four overs. It’s not like there is a lot of physical burden on you. Plus you’re going to be bowling in difficult conditions as well, whether in the first six overs or the last four. So that will keep you in good shape. You don’t suddenly miss the IPL and say ‘I’ll go to the World Cup fresh and raring to go.’ That is only from the physical point of view, but from the skill point of view, to be at the top of your game, you’ve got to be playing a tournament like the IPL. And if you do well at the IPL, it’s going to keep you in very good stead in the World Cup. Imagine Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling well in the death overs, how confident they would be going into the World Cup. Or some of the middle-order batters finishing the game for their franchise, they’ll go to the World Cup thinking, ‘We can finish from any situation’. So I think the IPL can be a blessing in disguise. I think MS Dhoni made a very good point when he said that it’s going to be a great opportunity for most of the players to be in prime form from the skill point of view.

On how Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s potential absence could affect the team:

One person does not change anything. The core still remains the same. KL Rahul wasn’t even there in the playing XI because we had Rayudu who did fabulously well against West Indies, so he deserved a chance before Rahul in the one-day format. Yes Hardik Pandya [might have made a difference], but you’ve replaced him with Ravindra Jadeja, who again is an allrounder. We only have, what, ten ODIs left before the World Cup? So we should maintain consistency and give people who are going to play the first game of the World Cup these ten games and see how they deliver.

On the journey from sharing his Player-of-the-Match Award with Virat Kohli when the latter made his first ODI hundred, to Kohli sweeping all the ICC awards:

It’s his hard work. I shared it because it was his first international hundred. I wanted to make him feel special because it was his first international hundred. Irrespective of how many you get, I remember my first international hundred till now, even when I’m retired. That always stays close to your heart, it’s a feeling that can never be replaced, even if you get 100 international hundreds, or how many ever. The first is always special, your debut is always special. Whenever he sees that trophy he should remember that. And whatever he’s achieved is all because of his hard work. I hope he continues this form because it’s going to be an important year for Indian cricket.

On what makes Jasprit Bumrah difficult to pick:

People ask me this about Sunil Narine as well, what made him so difficult to pick – and I just said, ‘quality’. Mystery can be solved over a period of time, but he had the quality. People can keep talking about Bumrah’s action, but he’s just a quality bowler. The action can only help you in one format, probably T20 where you have to go after the bowling. But he’s been so successful in Test cricket. He’s probably the best bowler in the world right now in all three formats.

On which spinners India should look at for the World Cup:

I think both wristspinners have done a fabulous job for Indian cricket over the last one year. But I still feel that R Ashwin is someone we should look at. A quality spinner is a quality spinner, irrespective of whether you’re a wristspinner or a fingerspinner. Look at what Nathan Lyon has done in the Test series. He’s probably the best offspinner in the world and he’s a fingerspinner. So I feel we should not differentiate that there’s a wristspinner so there’s no space for a finger spinner. Someone like Ashwin, we should always consider. Looking at the conditions in England during that time of the year, the wickets could be dry and a fingerspinner could have an important role.



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Cheteshwar Pujara eyes Ranji Trophy history on return to ‘special ground’

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Cheteshwar Pujara averages 68.01 in the Ranji Trophy, but even in a tournament he’s dominated, he has taken his batting a notch higher against Karnataka. In six games against the eight-time champions, he averages 85.44 with two centuries and three fifties, including his first-class highest of 352 in Rajkot.

On Thursday, Pujara and Saurashtra will meet Karnataka for the first time since that match in 2013. This time theyy’ll meet in the Ranji semi-finals, at Karnataka’s home ground, another venue that holds fond memories for Pujara. “I made my Test debut at the Chinnaswamy Stadium,” he said on Tuesday. “It is a special ground for me.”

Pujara comes into this game on the back of two history-making events – he was Player of the Series in a first-ever Test series win for India in Australia, and part of the batting line-up that gunned down a record 372 against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji quarter-finals.

That chase has filled Pujara with confidence with regards to Saurashtra’s chances against Karnataka.

“At times, we have been very desperate about winning the Ranji Trophy but this time there’s no pressure,” Pujara said. “I’m going to talk about this to all the players. Even if we lose, the kind of cricket we’ve played this season has been exceptional. The quarter-final victory was very special to me. I’m sure it is special to everyone. To make a comeback like that…

“We have a very good chance of winning the semi-final and perhaps even the final. Because it shows that all the players are very determined. Throughout the season, all the players have contributed at some stage. Everyone is in form. If we play to our potential, we have a very good chance of winning this game. But there’s no pressure on any of the players.”

Pujara wasn’t too keen to discuss his 2013 triple-hundred.

“That’s in the past. We’ve played good cricket against them and won in Rajkot this season. I wasn’t there but the guys have played one game against Karnataka and know what to expect. The good thing is it’s a five-day game and we saw what we can do as a team. We didn’t do well in the first innings against UP but we had enough time to make a comeback. Now we’re a confident unit after chasing 372.”

He also admitted that being the batsman the team looked up to brings extra pressure.

“Sometimes there is extra pressure. When I was playing the quarter-final I knew there was a lot of responsibility on my shoulders,” Pujara said. “But I also need to understand that I need to be normal to perform well. I just have to focus on the process rather than worrying about the pressure or expectations which are there. I’ve already started my preparation today. I’ll have one more net session tomorrow.”

Given this desire to prepare, Pujara came straight to the Chinnaswamy from the airport, not bothering to stop at the team hotel in between. The rest of the Saurashtra team reached Bengaluru on Monday night, and Pujara joined them directly at the nets.

“I feel it is important to be part of the Ranji Trophy,” he said. “For me, playing for Saurashtra is an honour. I’ve grown up playing Ranji Trophy cricket. It has helped me immensely when I’ve played international cricket. Being part of the Saurashtra unit is something I’ve always looked forward to. Especially when we are in the knockout stage, I feel if I’m around, if I can share my experience with young players, it can help the team. It’s a bit of a change coming here from Australia and playing with the SG ball… it’s slightly different. But fortunately, I got to play in the quarter-final.

“I always respect the Ranji Trophy. It is always special for me. I feel youngsters should look forward to playing this tournament because it prepares you for the longer format. I made my Ranji debut for Saurashtra in 2005. After that, the number of matches I’ve played…it’s taught me many lessons on playing long innings.”

Those words were echoed by Mayank Agarwal, who will be on the opposite side after having batted alongside Pujara in Australia. Agarwal has recovered from the thumb soreness that kept him out of Karnataka’s quarter-final against Rajasthan.

“It means a lot,” Agarwal said, about playing for Karnataka. “The state has given a lot of opportunities and facilities and as a player. Whatever you do, you have to come back and play for the state. And put in that effort, which you did before you went to play for the country. So nothing changes.

“The preparation remains the same. Whether you have played for India or not, you have to go out there and give your best and do the same things right, again and again. Obviously, you will have some confidence under your belt. Also, you have a bit more experience so that is something which you can carry forward.”



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