The brand of cricket we want to play is free and relaxed: – Sangakkara
The 2008 IPL champions employed five opening pairs in the previous edition.
As many as five opening pairs were experimented with by the Rajasthan Royals last season. Ahead of their season opener against Punjab Kings, Sanju Samson, the newly-appointed captain of the franchise says that this year around, more stability can be expected from the side that chopped and changed so much to the extent of being unable to settle on a side until much later in the tournament.
“Myself and Sanga will try to give the best combination,” said Samson on Sunday (April 11). “From my point of view, it’s crucial to give an individual or a pair of opening partners enough time in the tournament. So, I think a bit of stability will be seen in this tournament. The rest it depends on how we go.”
Much has been debated about the batting order. Whilst Jos Buttler’s record at the top speaks for itself, Ben Stokes has been their go-to man for the opening slot. With Robin Uthappa gone this year, will they persist with Stokes at the top with Yashasvi Jaiswal, or will they promote Buttler up to a position he loves? Without committing too much either way about their preferred sequence, Kumar Sangakkara, the director of cricket at the Royals said the combination will be a decision they will undertake with the “full buying of the players involved”.
“We look to finalise (combinations) later on today before we go for training and we want we want to keep our options open,” said Sangakkara. “The most important thing is that players are communicated to clearly as to what their roles are and get them to commit to it.
“What we planned to do is get a balanced side, everyone available, a full squad, try and have a consistent philosophy of cricket. The brand of cricket that we want to play is quite free and relaxed. Also in terms of preparing well and executing well… to get everyone prepared to think and to be problem-solvers. To think for themselves. It helps Sanju a lot on the field when people are thinking for themselves and know what’s going on. It builds a lot of trust within the group as well. Everyone has individual strengths that they bring into the side which are highly valued. We try and build that into a good unit where everyone knows what they’re doing, what their value is and what their roles are. Then we’ll go and try to play some good cricket.”
An overhaul in how the Royals went about their business was needed, having had finished last in 2020. Rajasthan just couldn’t crack the code of winning matches consistently and a lot of it had to do with the lack of the team striking together. There were moments of brilliance before they fell back.
“We have a lot of match-winners who are absolutely wonderful players…in Sanju Samson, Rahul Tewatia, our fast bowlers. The key is to have different people who do something a little bit special on the day and the point of a great team performance is to have your regular players performing consistently and once in a while. Someone stepping in to do a little bit extra. If it’s a different player most of the time and not the same person, it’s even better.”
Another area of concern last year was the lack of support from the contingent of pace bowlers around Jofra Archer, who was named MVP. Archer missing the first few games will be a big blow for Rajasthan. Sangakkara, however, threw his support behind the inexperienced Indian bowlers in their squad to come good.
“I think inexperience sometimes can work for you and against. Inexperience would probably mean that the opposition has not really seen them either, but fast bowling, specially in the IPL is not an easy task and we saw that yesterday as well. Sometimes the wickets are really good for batting or most of the wickets are, so you have to be quite skillful. So I’m pretty confident that our young fast bowlers will step up. We’ve had Kartik Tyagi who did very well last season in patches in various phases of the game and this year we have a new additions in Kuldip Yadav and Chetan Sakariya. So I think it’s about you know keeping them again focused on what their job is really and get them trained and prepared to execute all the different deliveries and scenarios and match plans for the opposition. But at the same time concentrate in giving them confidence of their own strengths.”
When asked if despite all his years in the game, the highs and lows, he feels pressure of expectations in his new role, Sangakkara didn’t mince his words.
“I think there are always expectations and pressure. You can’t get away from that and you got to accept it. And the only way you deal with it is really, you know ticking off the boxes that you want in terms of training, in terms of preparation, getting combinations right. Get the players involved take ownership of not their own roles, but also the team plans and that makes things a lot easier. You can’t guarantee what will happen on the day of a match, but what you can guarantee is that you can go out and control what you control. Take a great attitude out, and Sanju always talks about playing with passion and with heart. I think that’s a very important point as well. That can really lift a team to do some special things out there when the pressure is on.
“So for me personally, know my job is to get everyone ready and once they get on the field my job is actually secondary. It’s about them going out there and expressing themselves playing really good smart cricket. But we wait and see. I think everyone’s really looking forward to starting the tournament,” he added.
Novak Djokovic takes on Carlos Alcaraz in Paris semi-finals today
From the moment the French Open draw was made a fortnight ago, the tennis world licked its lips at the prospect of one blockbuster match. The countdown towards Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, against Spanish world number one Carlos Alcaraz was on.
Today (09), the two men – at opposite ends of their careers but in the same stunning form – finally go head-to-head at a Grand Slam when they meet in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
“That’s the match that a lot of people want to see,” said 36-year-old Djokovic, who is bidding for a third French Open title and a men’s record 23rd major.
Alcaraz, 20, won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September and is contesting his maiden semi-final on the Paris clay. “Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match. Myself as well. I have really wanted to play this match,” Alcaraz said.
The pair have long been considered the main contenders to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday, even before 14-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with a hip injury.
Whoever wins in the last four will be favourite to beat the victor of Friday’s other semi-final between Norwegian fourth seed Casper Ruud and Germany’s 22nd seed Alexander Zverev.
Bowlers extend Australia’s dominance in WTC final
Australia extended their dominance in the World Test Championship 2021-23 final on Thursday (June 8), with their bowlers taking the centre stage after a massive partnership between Travis Head and Steve Smith.
India did limit the damage from the Australian batters as they picked up the last seven wickets for 108 runs. But Australia, who finished with 469, ensured they did not let any substantial partnership develop in India’s innings as the Rohit Sharma-led side ended Day 2 at 151/5, trailing by 318
The day began with Smith bringing up his 31st Test hundred with two successive fours off Mohammed Siraj in the opening over. A short while later, Head registered his fourth 150-plus score as they extended their partnership to 285. India, though, came back strongly as they picked up three for 26 which started with the dismissal of Head. While there were a few boundaries scored, India persisted with short-ball tactics and the move paid off when Siraj had Head caught down the leg-side to dismiss him for 163. Cameron Green edged a Mohammed Shami delivery to second slip and Smith chopped Shardul Thakur onto the stumps to depart for 121. Australia lost their fourth wicket in the first session as Mitchell Starc was run out.
Alex Carey, who had seen off the opening session along with Pat Cummins, began with a flurry of boundaries at the start of the second, including three in an over off Shami. He also struck a six off Ravindra Jadeja to power Australia past the 450 mark and raise the half-century stand with Cummins. But he missed a reverse-sweep off the left-arm spinner and was out leg-before, with India using the review to reverse the onfield call of not out. Siraj bagged the last two wickets, accounting for Nathan Lyon and Cummins, as he bagged a four wicket haul and reached the 50-wicket milestone in the process.
India made a confident start with the bat, with Rohit and Shubman Gill dealing in regular boundaries. But it didn’t take Australia long to get on top again as the openers departed in quick succession. Cummins trapped Rohit leg-before while Gill was bowled by Scott Boland shouldering arms. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara faced a couple of probing overs but got through the testing period unscathed before the Tea break.
Pujara began confidently in the final session, clipping a Boland delivery wide of mid-on and then playing a square drive off the backfoot off Green. But much like Gill, a poor judgement ended Pujara’s outing as he was bowled shouldering arms to a Green delivery. A rising delivery off a length from Mitchell Starc clipped Kohli’s thumb en route to the ‘keeper, leaving India in further trouble as they slipped to 71/4. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, had a lucky break as he was trapped in front by Cummins but upon review it was clear that the bowler had overstepped.
Rahane, meanwhile, needed the physio’s attention a couple of times as he was struck on his fingers by a Cummins delivery while he was struck on the helmet after missing a hook off Green. Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, batted positively as he dealt in regular boundaries and also flicked a Boland delivery over the fence. Rahane, however, did capitalise on anything in his zone as he executed a cover drive off Boland en route to a half-century partnership. The fifth wicket pair extended their stand to 71 before Jadeja edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to slip to fall two short of a fifty. Rahane and KS Bharat were unbeaten at Stumps, having their work cut out for Day 3.
Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121, Alex Carey 48; Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Shardul Thakur 2-83) lead India 151/5 (Ravindra Jadeja 48, Ajinkya Rahane 29*; Nathan Lyon 1-4, Scott Boland 1-29) by 318 runs
Mathews left out of World Cup qualifiers
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka’s selectors have left out former captain Angelo Mathews from the World Cup Qualifiers that will begin in Zimbabwe shortly. There was not much change from the squad announced for the bilateral series against Afghanistan with the only omission being that of Mathews.
Mathews had made a comeback to the ODI side when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand a couple of months back and was dropped after the first ODI against Afghanistan. Since making a comeback to the ODI side in more than two years, Mathews had managed scores of 12, 0 and 18.
However, if hard hitting batsman Kusal Perera hadn’t recovered from a hamstring injury, Mathews was expected to be part of the squad for Zimbabwe, despite not having a big knock to his name. It was leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha who was expected to miss out but the selectors have chosen to pick two leg-spinners with Wanindu Hasaranga being the number one pick.
As for Kusal Perera, the hopes of him recovering in time for the qualifiers have faded away. The batsman returned to international cricket after shoulder surgery in New Zealand but featured only in T-20 cricket. Even if he wasn’t picked for the Afghanistan series, he was tipped to make it to the World Cup Qualifiers but his hamstring is continuing to give trouble.
Sri Lanka will be pleased that Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have recovered from injuries and the team’s hopes of earning one of the two remaining slots for the World Cup are very much high. Extra pace is going to be vital against associate countries who’ll be featuring in the qualifying round. Even Afghansitan were shaken up by the pace as Chameera and Kumara claimed the top six wickets with the new ball in the deciding third ODI where the tourists were shot out for 116.
The lack of left-arm variety in the attack is cause for some concern but the selectors seem to be adamant that they have got all bases covered. The return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI side is the biggest plus point as Sri Lanka had struggled to bat out their 50 overs in recent months. The irony is that the same selectors who axed him have recalled him.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha
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