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Window of opportunity 'opens' for Rohit Sharma
Mittwoch, 19. Juni 2013
CARDIFF: An 'all-you-can-eat-for-five-pounds' pub in the Cardiff City Centre is bustling with people counting lose change to grab a hot meal and watching - perhaps for the umpteenth time -Mark Taylor score his historic unbeaten 334 against Pakistan at Peshawar in 1998. The footage is repeated often in these parts.

A commercial halts Taylor's charge. The Champions Trophy fills up the screen. It's easy to note that weather-beaten men, who've seen their share of cricket over the years, aren't quite impressed. They'd rather watch Taylor.

Right then, Rohit Sharma - the Indian opener - plays an on-drive as the commercial nears its end. Heads finally move. "What's his name? Sharma? Kohli?" asks an elderly.

It's obvious they've seen Sharma bat, but not enough to know little details. The manner in which men in pubs here raise their eyebrows discussing Sharma shows they're impressed. "He's good," they say, as if enough has been said already.

Sharma is the sort, isn't he? You watch him bat once, and you might want to watch him again. The problem though lies in him being so unsteady that opportunity itself begins to take a walk.

Virat Kohli is popular here among the youngsters who've taken to the game and that's because he has scored more consistently. Sharma's not, except for those who've seen a glimpse of his strokeplay and probably wondered why he's not as popular.

Inconsistency has to be the only reason.

In the Champions Trophy so far, he's been a refreshing change as an opener, living up to MS Dhoni's expectations and more importantly the trust he has in himself.

Dhoni has backed Sharma for maybe the same reasons why the old man in the pub has bothered to raise an eyebrow watching him.

At an average of 31.42 in 86 ODI innings and merely 2,200 runs to show despite getting to bat in the upper-middle-order, may want you to question Dhoni's philosophy in backing the Mumbai player. Talent alone, one might argue, isn't enough if you can't be consistent.

A comparison of this sort immediately puts Kohli in the spotlight - 4,129 runs in 98 innings at an average almost touching 50. Comparisons are a normal trend in any sport, including cricket. Haven't we spent time discussing Tendulkar vs Ganguly vs Dravid vs the rest?

But this Champions Trophy, Sharma hasn't been his usual inconsistent self. Instead, picking on the new ball, he's pulled and cut with impunity to log 135 runs in three matches.

While it is Shikhar Dhawan who's been on a roll, posting hundreds, Sharma has done the needful at the other end, providing the start.

"Whenever we play out of the sub-continent, teams think let's bowl short to the openers and pitch-it up. But if the opener cuts and pulls, they don't really have a back-up plan. Sharma has done that job well for us," says Dhoni of the Mumbai batsman.

In the given team composition, the skipper obviously thinks he's the best choice.

But there's more to what Dhoni thinks of Sharma. "He's really talented, and that's the only space we have got, where we all felt that with his talent he can really capitalise and be a good opener. It's a win-win situation," he says.

It is clear that given Sharma's talent, Dhoni wants to give him a longer rope and it speaks well of the confidence he shares in him.

Putting up bigger scores is something that Team India may eventually ask of him. At the moment though, they'll be content - just like Dhoni - if he can show a bit more consistency.

The old man in the Cardiff pub will certainly make the most of his five-pound meal, watching this talent.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Window-of-opportunity-opens-for-Rohit-Sharma/articleshow/20655900.cms

We will be desperate to beat India in semis: Jayawardene
Dienstag, 18. Juni 2013
LONDON: The five-wicket defeat to India in a warm-up match ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy will have no significance when Sri Lanka square off against the same opponents in the semifinals, said Mahela Jayawardene. 

Jayawardene, who reached 11,000 ODI runs yesterday, said the defeat against India in a warm-up game in Birmingham on June 1 was history. India easily chased down Lanka's 333 for five with Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthikscoring big centuries. 

"Warm-up games or whatever, it doesn't count right now. It's a big tournament. It's the semifinal, so looking forward to that," said Jayawardene. 

The Lankans beat Australia by 20 runs at The Oval on Monday to finish second in Group A. 

Jayawardene scored an unbeaten 84 to win the Man of the Match award as Sri Lanka scored 253 for the loss of eight wickets in a must-win game. 

While defending Nuwan Kulasekara took 3 for 42 and Rangana Herath scalped 2 for 48 to snuff out a late challenge by the Aussies. 

The Lankans are travelling to Cardiff on Tuesday to play the tournament's second semifinal against India on Thursday. On Wednesday, England take on South Africa in the first semifinal at The Oval. 

Jayawardene, however, admitted that India's batting looked very strong in the tournament. 

"I think they're playing some really good cricket. Their batting looks really strong, so those are key areas that we need to focus a bit on," the former Lankan captain said. 

On his personal milestone of reaching 11,000-run club, Jayawardene said: "I didn't feel anything. Obviously, pleased when the numbers came up. I can tonight probably reflect more on that achievement because we won the game as well. So importantly the contribution that I made towards the team is much more valuable for me." 

Jayawardene said Sri Lanka will be desperate to win the ICC Champions Trophy, a trophy which they shared with India after rain washed out the finals in 2002 in Colombo. 

"I'll be desperate for every game to win, simple as that. It's not about trophies or whatever, it's just to win matches. So I'll have that same passion and same desperation to win games, doesn't matter if it's a semifinal or final or just a group game. As long as I have that attitude and the rest of the boys, we'll go a long way," he said. 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/We-will-be-desperate-to-beat-India-in-semis-Jayawardene/articleshow/20642735.cms

Final before the final: India face Pakistan in inconsequential tie
Samstag, 15. Juni 2013
BIRMINGHAM: If it doesn't rain here on Saturday, and that's a very big 'if', the match between India and Pakistan -- however inconsequential -- will certainly be a 'final' before the final.

Seventy percent of tickets for the game have gone to the Indian supporters and 15% to Pakistan, while the other 15% has been distributed among neutral fans and the ICC and member board officials who will be present here in good numbers. A jam-packed Edgbaston, with the potential to bring the entire United Kingdom's subcontinent diaspora to a standstill, will be the talking point around here.

For action to begin, the thick layers of cloud that have completely blocked sunlight from penetrating into Birmingham will have to move away. If they don't, constant burst of showers will be most likely -- as the forecast suggests -- and that will mean either a complete washout or a heavily curtailed encounter.

Fans stood outside the renovated stadium throughout Friday, concerned with the buzz surrounding the two teams, as players drove into Edgbaston for practice and drove out looking up at the sky. These fans have shelled out a good deal of money a month in advance, regardless of what effect the game might have on the tournament, simply because it's India versus Pakistan.

"Kal dekhna, pata chalega India-Pakistan ka kya importance hota hai (Watch out, tomorrow you'll know the importance of an India-Pakistan match)," said Misbah-ul Haq, the Pak skipper, hoping like his Indian counterpart MS Dhoni that a full day of cricket is available for fans.

The match may be inconsequential because India have already qualified for the semifinals and Pakistan are already out of the tournament. However, for the Pak team that was booed on its way out of Edgbaston the other day after losing to South Africa, winning against India may allow them to head back home with a consolation win.

In India's case, it'll be an opportunity to test their in-form batting order against one of the best pace and spin attacks in the tournament.

The weather -- around which everything comes into play -- has been most unpredictable in Birmingham. The sun tends to come out and go away in a flash and so does the rain. The only constant is perhaps the irregularity with which things change.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Final-before-the-final-India-face-Pakistan-in-inconsequential-tie/articleshow/20597166.cms

South Africa into Champions Trophy semifinals after Windies tie
Samstag, 15. Juni 2013
CARDIFF: South Africa advanced into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy on superior net run-rate after their rain-marred match against the West Indies in Cardiff on Friday ended in a tie.

The West Indies, who had to win this match to go through to the last four, were exactly level on the Duckworth/Lewis system for rain-affected matches at 190 for six off 26.1 overs when Australian umpires Rod Tucker and Steve Davis decided the rain was too heavy to continue and took the players off the field for the final time at 7.43pm local time (1843 GMT).

Crucially, shortly before play was abandoned, with West Indies then ahead of their D/L target, Kieron Pollard was caught for 28 by Dale Steyn at third man off Ryan McLaren and his exit swung the match back to parity.

South Africa made 230 for six off their 31 overs, leaving the West Indies a target of 231 in 31 to win.

The Proteas joined already-qualified India as one of the two semi-finalists from Group B.

For South Africa, often dubbed 'chokers' for throwing away promising positions, this result was in marked contrast to their 1999 World Cup semifinal tie with Australia at Edgbaston, which saw them go out following a pool loss to the Aussies, and their exit from the 2003 World Cup on home soil when a failure to correctly interpret the D/L sheet saw them tie with Sri Lanka, rather than win, in Durban.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/South-Africa-into-Champions-Trophy-semifinals-after-Windies-tie/articleshow/20587347.cms

Consistency pleases skipper MS Dhoni
Samstag, 15. Juni 2013
BIRMINGHAM: There was a stark difference in the manner in which India captain MS Dhoniand his Pakistan counterpart Misbah-ul Haqspoke to the media on Saturday.

While Misbah gave the match against India a lot of importance and said that a victory in this game would give his beleaguered team a lot of confidence and an opportunity to return home with heads held high, Dhoni said it was just another game in which his side would look to do well.

It could only be either because Dhoni is already looking at the bigger picture and the prospect of winning the tournament. Else, his only objective to treat this encounter as just any other game would be to emphasize that it is Pakistan which is under pressure, and not India.

"Doesn't really matter which side you are playing, because the reason is all international sides are good enough, so no real point taking any added pressure," Dhoni said when asked about the importance of the Saturday game.

Asked about the most pleasing aspect of his team's campaign so far, the skipper said: "I think the fact that we have consistently scored runs. That's something very important. The fact that we have been able to chase scores, and good scores, against good bowlers on good wickets has been a very pleasing aspect.

"Our fast bowlers have been very good and they have shown if there's a bit of help for them, they can come back into the game and bowl very well in the middle overs. I'm very happy.

"We are not known for our fielding standards, but I think right now we are the best fielding side. You can compare us to any team and most of our fielders are good while the rest are above average."

It's a known fact that Dhoni loves to talk, especially when he has something positive to convey. And right now, in England, Team India has been a bouquet of positives so far, mauling opponents with precision and being tagged as favourites for the title.

The skipper says there's been no need for any added motivation here to bring the best out of his young players. "Motivation has never been a factor, especially when you're representing a country of about 1.2 billion people and the expectation level is always very high. I think all of them are very motivated. It's just that it's important to enjoy the game," he said.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Consistency-pleases-skipper-MS-Dhoni/articleshow/20597336.cms

Ton-up Sangakkara blows England away in Champions Trophy
Freitag, 14. Juni 2013
LONDON: Kumar Sangakkara smashed an unbeaten 134 off 135 balls as Sri Lanka stunned England by seven wickets in a high-scoring thriller on Thursday to stay afloat in the Champions Trophy.

The Islanders, chasing England's seemingly impregnable 293-7, launched a spirited chase in the day-night game at the Oval to surpass the target in 47.1 overs and throw open the semi-final race from group A.

Sri Lanka, who would have been knocked out of the tournament had they lost, are now level with England on two points each, one behind group leaders New Zealand.

Australia, the fourth team in the group have one point.

The two semi-final spots will be determined after the last round of matches when England take on New Zealand in Cardiff on Sunday and Sri Lanka clash with Australia at the Oval on Monday.

Left-handed Sangakkara, cheered on by a big Sri Lankan contingent in the packed stands, anchored the chase with his 15th one-day hundred that was studded with 12 boundaries.

Pinch-hitter Nuwan Kulasekara, who was sent in at the fall of the third wicket, hit a quickfire 58 not out during a match-winning partnership of 110 from 71 balls with Sangakkara.

Kulasekara, who had two previous one-day half-centuries to his credit, plundered five fours and three sixes that demoralised the England attack.

Seamer James Anderson claimed two wickets, but Stuart Broad went for 67 runs in 8.1 overs and Tim Bresnan gave away 63 runs in 10 overs.

Sri Lanka's reply began badly when Kusal Perera fell in the third over, caught at mid-on for six while attempting a big shot off the wily Anderson.

Sangakkara then put on 92 for the second wicket with Tillakaratne Dilshan and 90 for the third with Mahela Jayawardene to leave Sri Lanka well-placed on 187-2 in the 36th over.

Dilshan holed out in the deep off Graeme Swann after making 44, while Jayawardene (42) pulled Anderson high to mid-wicket where substitute fielder Jonny Bairstow picked up an easy catch.

England's total revolved around Jonathan Trott's 76 and Joe Root's 68 off 55 balls after Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to field under overcast skies.

Skipper Alastair Cook chipped in with 59 and Ravi Bopara smashed 28 runs from the final over after Sri Lanka grabbed four wickets for five runs towards the end to make it 254-7 in the 48th over.

Bopara boosted the total with three sixes, two boundaries and a two in the 50th over sent down by seamer Shaminda Eranga to return unbeaten on 33 off 13 balls.

Root, the victim of what England cricket authorities said was an "unprovoked physical attack" by Australian batsman David Warner in a Birmingham bar over the weekend, hit five fours.

Cook, dropped twice by the normally agile Dilshan, put on 48 for the first wicket with Ian Bell and 83 for the second with Trott.

England, who were 131-2 in the 29th over, picked up their scoring rate when Root arrived at the crease and reached 201-2 at the end of 40 overs.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Ton-up-Sangakkara-blows-England-away-in-Champions-Trophy/articleshow/20572823.cms

Dhoni & Co. firm contenders for Champions Trophy title
Donnerstag, 13. Juni 2013
BIRMINGHAM: From the galleries across the grounds in England and Wales where theChampions Trophy matches are being played, to media briefings, team hotels, tube stations and even the streets of London, Cardiff and Birmingham -- the decibel is on the rise in the United Kingdom majorly because of the Indian team.

MS Dhoni & Co seem to be everywhere, in apparel stores, pubs and restaurants, city centres and sundry public places across the three cities. Just a week ago, if they were conspicuous by their absence, preferring to stay only inside their hotel rooms and avoiding any fan or media interaction, they're suddenly back in the focus now after winning two successive matches and being tagged -- unanimously -- as firm contenders for the Champions Trophy title.

"They're a bunch of very talented guys and a very good team," said Dwayne Bravo, after the loss to India on Tuesday evening in London. "Most people said India is not going to be good in these conditions and team can roll over them. But I don't agree with that," he added.

India are looking good, no doubt. If it was exceptional batting alone that saw them emerging superior to South Africa in Cardiff, London was about some exceptional bowling too. "Most of them play short, fast bowling very well and India always play spinners better," explains Bravo about this new-look side.

Apart from winning the two matches so far, India have looked, by a fair distance, the most challenging team to beat in the tournament. Whether a stand-in opener or stitching a five-bowler specialist attack, adjusting to the weather or getting the spot-fixing controversy off their back, they've done what it takes to be seen as the strongest team in the Champions Trophy so far.

"You've got to give credit to them. Virat KohliShikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja-- they have very good players all around," says Bravo.

Perhaps, in being able to make the most out of the resources available has been one of the reasons for Team India looking so good here. But more importantly, the secret lies in the manner MS Dhoni has marshalled his resources.

Talking to this young bunch, accommodating their weakness, backing their strengths, and above all, not letting any unrelated issue get to them at this point of time has mostly been Dhoni's doing.

Talk to any member of the Indian team informally, and the respect he has for Dhoni shows almost immediately. The skipper's conflict-of-interest theories notwithstanding, the mentoring he's done so far is reminiscent of the way Sourav Ganguly handled his younger bunch in the days post the match-fixing scandal in 2000.

It is very likely that India can win this tournament, firstly because they look in good form, and also because some other -- usually strong ODI sides -- are looking unbalanced at the moment because of injuries and player unavailability. If India do win, it will be another feather in Dhoni's glowing cap.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Dhoni-Co-firm-contenders-for-Champions-Trophy-title/articleshow/20563655.cms

Champions Trophy: Dhawan, Jadeja star as India march into semifinals
Mittwoch, 12. Juni 2013
LONDON: The Oval looked like a photoshopped image of a cricket ground on a grey canvas here on Tuesday. Adding life to that image was Team India and the scores of high-decibel fans who had arrived here in the morning to show their support.

MS Dhoni and his boys did not disappoint, putting in a dominating performance with both bat and ball to beat West Indies by eight wickets with 65 balls remaining.

The thumping win gave India an easy passage into the semifinal and also shut out Pakistan's hopes. West Indies's next match against South Africa is now a virtual quarterfinal, while India's next game against Pakistan is a dead rubber.

Shikhar Dhawan (102 not out off 107 balls; 10x4, 1x6) scored his third consecutive international hundred and man of the match Ravindra Jadeja (5/36 off his 10) were the two men who fashioned victory for India. There's little that Dhawan can do wrong these days. And even if he does, expect a Kemar Roach to be there to drop him. Roach did just that, dropping an easy one when the batsman was unbeaten on 41. The left-hander never gave the West Indies another chance.

A six over third-man brought him his second successive ton and he celebrated in trademark style. The target would've been way lower than the eventual 233 set by the West Indies if not for Darren Sammy's unbeaten 35-ball 56, inclusive of five fours and four sixes, that changed the course of the game. Until then, India — riding on Jadeja's thrilling five-wicket haul — had done very well to restrict the West Indies to 182-9.

The left-arm spinner, who also won a review for Marlon Samuels' dismissal, happens to be in the same zone as Dhawan, hardly going wrong with the responsibility entrusted to him. While remaining the most economical of all bowlers, Jadeja picked 5-36 from his 10 overs, inclusive of two maidens, that set the bar high for the rest of the attack.

Except for part-time bowler Virat Kohli, the other bowlers shared a wicket each. Riding on a disciplined attack and some impressive fielding, India would've enjoyed an easier chase if not for Sammy throwing his bat at anything that came his way.

India began their chase in the manner they began their innings in Cardiff, with Rohit Sharma's finesse complimenting Dhawan's aggression. Sharma reached his 15th half-century before a DRS review suggested a faint nick off the bat.
Incidentally, India twice opted for the decision review and got it right both times.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Champions-Trophy-Dhawan-Jadeja-star-as-India-march-into-semifinals/articleshow/20546564.cms

This five-wicket haul is very special: Jadeja
Mittwoch, 12. Juni 2013
LONDON: India's newest 'Man Friday' Ravindra Jadeja feels that secret of his success lies in "keeping things simple" which helped him get a career-best of five for 36 against West Indies in a group league of Champions Trophy on Tuesday.

"This is my best bowling performance and I am very happy about it. I have had three four-wicket hauls, but this one is special. I just tried to keep things simple," Jadeja said in a post-match media conference at the Ken Barrington Cricket Center at The Oval.

"I was just aiming to bowl the right line which I did. The Oval wicket was dry and affording spin and I wasn't surprised by the conditions even if it was overcast," Jadeja said.

Jadeja said he has worked on his game in the last six months and always tried to keep things simple.

"Earlier, I would strategize too much and get all mixed up. Now I just come for a game and adjust to the conditions and play my best," he said.

The Saurashtra all-rounder thanked his skipper for showing faith in his abilities.

"Mahi bhai is a thinking captain. He can read your abilities very well and I am happy I am doing the job for him," Jadeja said, adding with a smile: "I still can't figure out why he calls me Sirji."

Jadeja said he wasn't scared that West Indies had big hitters in their ranks like Kieron Pollard andChris Gayle.

"It is always better to think what I can do and not worry about batsmen. I was able to bowl a straight forward line and the batsmen made the mistakes," Jadeja said, adding India's biggest plus was their fielding.

"All our fielders are very good. We don't have a single player whom we need to hide in the field. We have the correct balance in the team and that's the biggest advantage for us," Jadeja said.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/This-five-wicket-haul-is-very-special-Jadeja/articleshow/20546330.cms

Struggling Australia look to make amends against New Zealand
Mittwoch, 12. Juni 2013
BIRMINGHAM: After their meek surrender against England in their opening game, a struggling Australia will have to work on their batting frailties when they take on a confident New Zealand in a Group A match of theChampions Trophy on Wednesday. 

Australia, sans their regular skipper Michael Clarke, proved to be no match to the English side as they suffered a huge 48-run defeat to start their campaign on a wrong foot. 

With Clarke, who is suffering from a back problem, still nowhere near making a comeback, it will be a big test for the stand-in skipper George Bailey to turn Australia's fortune around on Wednesday. 

Australia bowlers Clint McKayJames Faulkner and Shane Watson did a decent job in restricting England to 269 when they were looking at a 300-plus score at one stage but they still need to add more sting to their attack. 

The Aussie batsmen could not pose any threat to the England bowlers, who strangulated them with both pace and spin. 

Barring skipper Bailey and all-rounder James Faulkner, none of the batsmen were up the mark. What was baffling was most of them got starts but later blew those away. 

The two-time champions, hence, will have to re-think about the team composition as another defeat will pave their way for an early exit from the tournament. 

"We need to get the balance right, we need to get partnerships going, that needs to be addressed. We have to turn around things," Bailey had said after their loss to England. 

New Zealand, on the other hand, are high on confidence having started their campaign on a winning note, beating Sri Lanka by one wicket. 

The 2000 winners came into the tournament after a morale-boosting 2-1 series win over England and they would look to carry their good form when they clash with Australia. 

Left-arm medium pacer Mitchell McClenaghan, pace spearhead Kyle Mills and their part-time spinner Nathan McCullum did a wonderful job, sharing eight Sri Lankan wickets among them in their opener and skipper Brendon McCullum will expect a similar effort on Wednesday as well. 

However, the Kiwis will have to work on their batting as they would not want the job to be left till the last man, the way it happened against the Sri Lankans. 

New Zealand have an able opener in Martin Guptill, who smashed two consecutive hundreds in the England series, while their batting mainstay Ross Taylor also have been in good form ahead of the champions Trophy. 

Brendon too on his day can demolish any attack but his batsmen panicked during their chase against Sri Lanka in the low-scoring match and this is one area, the skipper would want his team to improve. 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournament/icc-champions-trophy-2013/top-stories/Struggling-Australia-look-to-make-amends-against-New-Zealand/articleshow/20536735.cms