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Match Preview Afghanistan vs West Indies, 2nd ODI 2019

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Afghanistan lost their tenth 50-over game in a row when they went down by seven wickets in the first ODI. One doesn’t envy a captain who inherits such a problem – Rashid Khan is once again in charge of trying to change things bigger than himself.

The primary problem with Afghanistan’s ODI cricket is their batting. At the moment, they are not getting consistently quick starts, they are rarely making it past the opening Powerplays without losing wickets and, as a result, the middle overs are forced to be about rebuilding; unfortunately, at this stage of their journey, they are yet to find someone who can do that without compromising on the scoring rate.

Sample this: the team has made more than 250 only once in the last 10 matches, and that was in a botched chase of 312 against West Indies. They batted the full 50 overs or at least came close in each of the five matches before this series began, but apart from the chase against West Indies, those were all efforts at just pushing past 200. For now, this series, and perhaps the next few, are all about improving that aspect of their game.

Their opponents, however, are not the worst team around to seek some inspiration from. After all, who in modern cricket has tried to rebuild as many times as West Indies?

Form guide

Afghanistan LLLLL (completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WLLWL

In the spotlight

Ikram Alikhil has shown something to the management that has convinced them to put him front and centre lately. The wicketkeeper-batsman was a nervous, shaky starter batting low down the order during the World Cup for which he wasn’t originally picked; his first two innings were 2 off 22 and and 9 off 33. He had hit only two fours in his first eight innings – in 166 balls. The last man you would think of, chasing 312. And yet, Afghanistan decided to send him in at No. 3 and for at least 34 overs, Alikhil kept West Indies alert to a potential defeat. That 93-ball 86 was his last innings prior to the 58 he scored before being run out in contentious circumstances for 58 in the first ODI. In the absence of Hashmatullah Shahidi and Hazratullah Zazai’s form, the 19-year-old is suddenly Afghanistan’s most important left-hander.

Shimron Hetmyer is something of a crowd favourite for his belligerent batting style. That very style also makes him frustrating to follow sometimes – in his last ten limited-overs innings, Hetmyer has made eight single-digit scores. Since the end of September, Hetmyer’s highest score in six limited-overs innings is just 9. Can he turn it around?

Team news

Afghanistan could be tempted to switch up their batting by handing a debut to the 17-year-old Ibrahim Zadran, who made 87 on Test debut against Bangladesh recently. A change in their seam-bowling options might also be on the cards.

Afghanistan (possible): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Javed Ahmadi/Ibrahim Zadran, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Ikram Alikhil (wk), 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Asghar Afghan, 7 Mohammad Nabi, 8 Gulbadin Naib/Karim Janat, 9 Rashid Khan (capt), 10 Naveen-ul-Haq/Yamin Ahmadzai, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman

West Indies have little to think about and may well be unchanged. Perhaps Alzarri Joseph’s expensive spell could worry them – in which case they have sufficient back-up in Keemo Paul, or even Kharry Pierre as an extra spin option.

West Indies (possible): 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Shai Hope (wk), 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Nicholas Pooran 5 Roston Chase, 6 Kieron Pollard (capt), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Romario Shepherd, 9 Sheldon Cottrell, 10 Alzarri Joseph/Keemo Paul/Khary Pierre, 11 Hayden Walsh Jr.

Pitch and conditions

A haze continues to be a feature in the northern part of India, and while smog and pollution levels have only marginally decreased in Lucknow since the last match, it is still at an undesirable level. The visibility on Friday was measured at 3.2km, as opposed to Jaipur on the same day which had a visibility of 11.3km. It is expected to be overcast on match day.

Stats and trivia

  • Javed Ahmadi is 24 runs away from becoming the 11th Afghanistan batsman to 1000 ODI runs

  • West Indies have played more international games in Lucknow than any other team

  • Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have more ODI wickets between them than the entire West Indies team combined



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Commitment from BCCI, players has kept Test cricket on top in India – Kohli

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A day ahead of India’s first day-night Test, India captain Virat Kohli has acknowledged the growing on-field disparity in Test cricket between boards that can afford to prioritise Tests and those that cannot. India’s first pink-ball Test approaches amid continuing debates about the stature and appeal of Test cricket, and Kohli took the opportunity to point out that the main reason India are the No. 1 Test team is because of the “commitment” shown towards the longest format by BCCI and players.

“You could say that,” Kohli said on Thursday at the Eden Gardens when asked if one half of cricket was getting stronger and the other weaker. “I can’t speak for another team or another board on how they look at Test cricket and how they want to manage it. But from our point of view, and the BCCI point of view, the only discussion we’ve had over the last two-three years is how we can keep Test cricket right up there, and that takes the commitment of the board, firstly. And secondly the total commitment of the players wanting to do everything that’s required to keep the standards of Test cricket high.”

In the current ICC FTP (Future Tours Programme) from 2018-2023 India play 51 Tests and only England (59) play more. By comparison, Australia play 47 Tests, New Zealand 38 and Ireland 13 Tests in that same period.

But a big challenge many boards are facing is to make domestic cricket lucrative for their players. West Indies were among the first to feel the pinch, and have only recently made small strides towards fixing the issue. More recently, Cricket South Africa (CSA) has been on the receiving end of an alarming rate of player exits to pursue Kolpak deals in English county cricket, and has struggled to scale its flagship T20 tournament, the Mzansi Super League, into a premium product. And players in Pakistan have been unhappy with reduced salaries in their domestic system.

Newly-elected BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had said within days of taking office last month that he would prioritise the financial health of first-class cricketers in India, and announced that a contract system would be put in place. Kohli pointed out that this sort of support was vital.

According to Kohli, the BCCI incentivising Test-only players with healthy contracts had played a pivotal role in India’s success in the longest format. “If you look at how exciting as a team we’ve been over the last two-three years it tells you in the way people come and watch us play as well. It is a partnership of the board and the players moving in one direction. If you look at our contracts system as well, a lot of importance has been given to Test cricketers. I think all things have to coincide and I think every cricket nation that has done that are invariably the ones that are playing strong Test cricket.

“Their hearts and minds are totally in sync with keeping Test cricket on top. Everything has to be taken into account. You can’t tell the players you have to be committed to playing Test cricket but contractually we won’t do anything for you. Because we’re professional players, we earn a living as well. As long as Test cricket is displayed or said to be the most important format, everything around that has to happen in the same manner.”

In 2018, the Indian national team’s annual retainers were significantly boosted, and a new top-tier added for players who play in all formats. That category, A+, was worth at least thrice the previous highest retainer price. Valued at INR 7 crore (approx. US$ 1 million), it also meant significant boosts for the grades below. Grade A, at INR 5 crore (approx. US$ 770,000) currently consists of Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, and Ajinkya Rahane, alongwith other multi-format players. The raise also lifted the lowest grade contract, Grade C, to INR 1 crore (approx. US$ 140,000), which is what Wriddhiman Saha and Hanuma Vihari make.

The BCCI took the decision when it was being governed by the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators. The CoA approval came on the back of negotiations with senior players including Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and the senior coaching staff including former India head coach Anil Kumble.

In 2017, captains of Australia (Steven Smith then), England (Joe Root), and India (Kohli) made at least US$ 1 million in salaries. But the disparity was abundantly clear in the fact that the fourth-highest paid captain, Faf du Plessis, made about 40% of those figures at worst, with a US$ 440,000 contract. In the same year, Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer stood to earn US$ 86,000.

“Speaking from our team’s point of view, that was our main goal – how can we tell the Test players you guys are the most important,” Kohli said. “Because the other formats are taking care of themselves anyway. You have so many people coming up and playing white-ball cricket but Test specialists are very difficult to find. Only someone who has gone through the grind for five-six years in first-class cricket, and are still continuing to do so, are the ones that eventually make it.

“So yeah, the players need to be taken care of but at the same time the players need to respond in a manner that they’re giving 120 percent every Test match. I think as long as teams are willing to do that, and cricket boards are willing to do that, Test cricket will always be on top.”

On the field itself, the game has looked to innovate, such as with day-night Test cricket. But Kohli is wary – as are Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar – of the fact that pink-ball cricket is but a small step.

“Yes it is great to create a buzz around Test cricket, the first three-four days here [Eden Gardens] are sold out, which is amazing, ” Kohli said. “But I think Rahul bhai mentioned this recently that if we have a Test calendar, where the series and the Tests are fixed, then obviously it’ll bring a lot more system and a lot more sync into people planning their calendars as well.

“It can’t be random, saying you never know when a Test is going to arrive. If you have centres marked and you have Test calendars marked then obviously people will have a better system as to how they are getting to those Tests – people are not going to leave work and come to a Test match if they don’t know what’s going on. They can plan in advance, like you plan for anything in life.”



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Bhuvneshwar, Kuldeep back in India squad for T20Is, ODIs against West Indies

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Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav have returned to India’s squads for the three T20Is and three ODIs at home against West Indies. Virat Kohli, who had been rested for the T20I leg of the Bangladesh series, also returned to lead both the limited-overs sides.

Mohammed Shami, who last played a T20I in 2017, also made a comeback while Khaleel Ahmed and Shardul Thakur, who were both part of the squad for the T20I series against Bangladesh were left out. Krunal Pandya also missed the cut, with Ravindra Jadeja slotting back in as a like-for-like replacement.

Bhuvneshwar was undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru in the past few months although neither the BCCI nor the selectors had spoken about a possible injury. It is understood that Bhuvneshwar had some muscle issue, but he has now recovered from it and even trained with India’s Test squad in Indore on the eve of the first Test against Bangladesh. Bhuvneshwar then proved his fitness in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, returning figures of 0 for 13 and 1 for 23 for Uttar Pradesh.

Kuldeep, who had played alongside Bhuvneshwar for UP in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, will reunite with fellow wristspinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Fingerspin-bowling allrounder Washington Sundar retained his place in the T20I squad while seam-bowling allrounder Shivam Dube was picked in both the limited-overs squads.

T20I squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar

ODI squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar

More to follow…



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Jemimah Rodrigues rises to No. 4 in T20I batting rankings; three Indian bowlers in top five

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Jemimah Rodrigues has broken into the top five of the T20I batting rankings, moving up from seventh to fourth after compiling 96 runs during India’s five-nil mauling of West Indies. Her most significant contribution came in the final match, in which she struck a half-century.

Following the result, India and West Indies swapped places, with India climbing to fourth after gaining eight points and West Indies dropping to fifth place, after losing ten points. To cap India’s dominance in the rankings, left-arm spinner Radha Yadav climbed from fifth to second after picking seven wickets in the series, just second behind offspinner Deepti Sharma, who took eight wickets to hold on to her fourth place. With legspinner Poonam Yadav ranked five, India are well represented.

Fifteen-year old opener Shafali Verma, too, climbed in the rankings, leapfrogging from 87 to 30 after finishing the series as the highest run-getter with a tally of 157, which included two fifties.

Meanwhile, Pakistan batter Javeria Khan broke into the top 20 in T20Is after amassing 111 runs in the 3-0 thrashing of Bangladesh at home. But Bangladesh themselves had something to cheer about as fast bowler Jahanara Alam, who took nine wickets in the series, climbed 22 spots to 15th.



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