MARCH 02, 2015

World Cup 2015: New Zealand

Sir Richard...now Sir Brendon?

ESPNcricinfo staff

Brendon McCullum is receiving levels of attention and admiration rarely handed to cricketers in New Zealand as he fearlessly leads their World Cup campaign in the field and with bat in hand. In the New Zealand Herald, Chris Rattue is the latest to laud his performances and even those who had doubts when he was promoted to the captaincy can't help but be pulled along with the tide of emotion

There will be different perspectives on the McCullum path but one thing is certain - his image has undergone a u-turn. Saturday's World Cup victory over Australia was almost too perfect for words - a rare case in sport of the outcome beating the hell out of the build-up. A tournament crying out for a nail-biting finish between heavyweights got it. McCullum provided the subplot of quiet courage, taking a savage blow during another terrific innings.

FEBRUARY 27, 2015

World Cup 2015

Mahela-Sanga, a 'hyphenated hosanna'

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Baum pays tribute to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who have been inseparable in the minds of followers for nearly 15 years.

Together, you've graced all the grounds and ennobled all the occasions. Once, in a Test against South Africa in Colombo, you came together at 2/14 and put on 624, the biggest partnership for any wicket, anywhere, in first-class history. As the record neared, you both grew nervous as schoolboys; this was not the time to let down a mate. You didn't. They lit fireworks for you then, and they are lighting them still.

You were still at school when you first met, and were rivals then. Eventually you came together in the national team, alone in your age group in that team. Soon, you would prove a class apart. Fortunately, you enjoyed each other's company, off the ground as well as on. In aggregate, you've made around 53,000 international runs, Test, one-day and T20, when it came along. You've both captained your country, to a World Cup final each, losing both, and the bitter memory drives you on still.

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

World Cup 2015

McCullum and Carter: two World Cups?

Brendon McCullum is the focus of most of New Zealand's attention at the moment, but later in the year that will shift to another famous son, Dan Carter, when the rugby World Cup takes place. In the Daily Telegraph, Steve James looks at two sportsmen whose careers are intertwined back to their school days.

There is talk, and it is not idle, that New Zealand could even win the World Cup with McCullum at the helm. While McCullum's star keeps rising, so Carter's seems to be fading. Why the comparison? It is not about the opinion I expressed recently in this column about the relative merits of the CWC and the Rugby World Cup (the latter is much more important), but rather it is about the manner in which the careers of Carter and McCullum have enfolded, and, more importantly, how they began.

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

New Zealand cricket

Chris Harris: Medical rep, father, fighter

In his piece for the Indian Express, Sriram Veera explores Chris Harris' transformation from a versatile allrounder to a medical representative, who spends hours in the operation theatres, assisting surgeons. Then he wraps up work and goes home to play with his daughter, who suffers from hemiplegia.

Five years ago, when Harris's daughter Phoebe was born, she wasn't breathing. Her twin brother Louie, who was pushed out second, breathed first. As the doctors tried to resuscitate her, Harris was in great anguish for three to four minutes before he heard her scream. In a few weeks, though, the doctors discovered that there was a slight discrepancy in Phoebe's left side and right side -- she had hemiplegia which causes problems in movement and coordination. Although the muscles are fully formed, messages from the brain have trouble getting through -- her right side would move but her left wouldn't, and it has led to some trouble. Like a black eye on her second birthday when she fell down and hit a table. He and his wife Linda, who had to spend 7 weeks on the hospital bed after Phoebe's birth, are still learning to deal with it.

FEBRUARY 22, 2015

World Cup 2015: India

Dhawan's rise thanks to romance and Facebook

Shikhar Dhawan turned his form around with a century that set up India's win over South Africa in Melbourne but, writes Dileep Premachandran in the Guardian, his rise from misguided talent to international match-winner is even more intriguing:

We do not know whether Shikhar Dhawan possesses a Moleskine notebook or not but if he was ever to jot down his story, it should surprise no one if it was titled: How Facebook Changed My Life. Back in 2004 he had been the leading run-scorer at an Under-19 World Cup. After that, he spent more than half a decade treading water. There would be the odd sparkling innings for Delhi but as the years passed, those that watched him wondered how badly he wanted to make the step up. Those younger than him - Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma being the most prominent names - established themselves in the Indian side even as he remained on the fringes.

Then, Dhawan came across the Melbourne-based Ayesha Mukherjee, of British-Bengali origin, on Harbhajan Singh's Facebook friends' list. On an impulse he sent her a friend request. By late 2009 they were engaged. They married in 2012. A year later Dhawan destroyed Australia on his Test debut, carrying that form forward into the Champions Trophy, where he was player of the tournament.

FEBRUARY 22, 2015

World Cup 2015

Investigating ODI myths

Once teams scoring more than 300 could be confident that it was a match-winning total. Now, however, the big scores are being chased down more frequently. With such a rapid transformation in ODI cricket over the last few years, Jonathan Liew - writing in the Telegraph - looks at a few preconceptions surrounding the ODI format - like the assumptions of what a safe score is and the importance of the first 10 overs - and examines their relevance in the current context of the World Cup.

A surprising number of the old maxims hold true. Doubling a team's score after 30 overs still just about works (it's actually nearer 31 overs, but same difference). Seeing off the new ball(s) is as important in 2015 as it was in 1975.

But for fielding captains as well as batting captains, the modern one-day international is much more of a juggling act than ever before. It's not fashionable to dole out praise to governing bodies, but the new regulations have breathed unpredictability and variety into a format that looked on the verge of extinction just a few years ago.

FEBRUARY 21, 2015

World Cup 2015

England v Scotland - a banana peel waiting to happen

In his column for the Telegraph, Geoff Boycott says that Scotland could fancy their chances of beating England after the side's poor start in the World Cup and suggests a few changes England can make to freshen things up.

After the New Zealand hammering they have to make some changes to the team to freshen it up. We need some purpose and energy with bat, ball and in the field. Surely they can't stick their heads in the sand and pick the same team. Steven Finn has to go along with Gary Ballance, and England hope that does the trick.

Coach Peter Moores, and captain Eoin Morgan, can talk all they want and use the excuse they have just lost to two of the favourites to win the tournament. They can say it has not changed their focus and belief that England will get to the quarter-finals and might still win the World Cup. But you would be hard pressed to find any England supporters who believe that.

FEBRUARY 19, 2015

World Cup 2015

The comeback of the year?

Grant Elliott's recall to New Zealand's one-day side is shaping as a selection masterstroke as he adds solidity to the batting order and provides some nagging medium pace. Ahead of the World Cup he spoke to Alexander Bisley for a Guardian sportsblog where the conversation turned to an infamous incident at The Oval in 2008 early in Elliott's career

Though it would be entirely understandable if the incident had provided added motivation for his appearance against England in the Black Caps' third World Cup outing, in Wellington on Friday, Elliott remains gracious. "Oh, heat of the battle," he says. "It was a tough situation for [Paul] Collingwood." He gives the then-England captain the benefit of the doubt, even though Collingwood later apologised for the incident. "Collingwood didn't see what was going on, so I guess he was going on the words of all his senior players."

Meanwhile, as New Zealand and England go head-to-head in Wellington, Chris Rattue, writing in the New Zealand Herald picks out sporting battles between the two countries from a various fields.

FEBRUARY 19, 2015

World Cup 2015: India

Why should I support India?

The team isn't representing the nation, but a private trust worth several thousand crores of rupees, argues Jayaditya Gupta writing for Live Mint.

The question on my mind has always been this: How does one square the near-virulent antipathy towards the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with support--even adulation or idolatry--for the team that wears its logo? This is not India, this is the BCCI's team. The BCCI today, in India and in the eyes of the cricketing world, is a discredited organization, whose various administrative decisions over the past five-odd years are the subject of judicial and governmental scrutiny. It is rotten at the top; so rotten in fact that the top exists at the mercy of the Supreme Court. Am I am supposed to place my unflinching, unquestioning loyalty in the team and system it controls so tightly?

FEBRUARY 18, 2015

World Cup 2015

The joy of the dot

The early stages of the World Cup, with the exception of New Zealand's match against Scotland, have been dominated by bat over ball - as many expected would be the case. The final 10 overs of an innings have been especially brutal with run-rates in excess of ten-an-over. However, writing in the Age, Greg Baum delves a little deeper having watched India take on Pakistan and revels in the value of a dot-ball and the match-changing potential of a maiden over.

But because the number of available deliveries is rationed, even a dot ball implies runs that can never be recovered. Six dot balls is a maiden over's worth of them, not a wicket as such, but having the effect of one. In Test cricket, crafty bowlers build dots into maidens, maidens into miserly spells, and are admired for their skill. In contracted forms of the game, a maiden at the right time can be as good as a spell, a dot as good as a maiden. It is skill in itself, not of attrition as in Test cricket, but of nerve and knowing.

FEBRUARY 16, 2015

World Cup 2015

Ireland gatecrash the cartel

Writing in the Guardian, Tim Wigmore suggests that Ireland's display in knocking over West Indies so comfortably was another example of their "relentless harassment of cricket's cosy cartel":

This did not feel like the classic underdog result characterised by a dodgy pitch, as was the case when Ireland toppled Pakistan in Jamaica in the 2007 World Cup, or a player enjoying the game of his life, as in Kevin O'Brien's evisceration of England at Bengaluru in 2011. Rather it was a victory for a side who appeared better drilled, more confident and better versed in the cricketing fundamentals.

FEBRUARY 16, 2015

World Cup 2015

Scotland at home in Dunedin

Scotland begin their World Cup with a daunting fixture against New Zealand, but the venue of their match could give them the feeling of playing at home. As Nick Hoult writes in the Daily Telegraph, Dunedin is the old Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and even produces its own haggis. More pertinently, New Zealand also have cricketing reasons to be wary of Scotland.

Of the associate nations, the patronising term cricket gives to non Test playing countries, they start the tournament in the best form. Scotland thrashed Ireland by 179 runs and scored 310 against the West Indies, losing by just three runs.

Last year they played a New Zealand XI in Lincoln, near Christchurch, and were beaten by just one run. That New Zealand team included five players who appeared against Sri Lanka at the weekend including Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi.

They have bags of county experience through Northamptonshire's Kyle Coetzer, Matt Machan of Sussex and Durham's Calum MacLeod. In total nine of the 15 man squad have played professional cricket in England and Scotland now employs players on its own full time contracts. Gone are the days when Scotland players had to beg time off from day jobs to play in a World Cup. MacLeod is the player tipped to catch the eye in Australia. He is the first Gaelic speaker to appear in a Test match having been a sub fielder for England in the Ashes series of 2009 but he was released by Warwickshire when he could not recover his bowling action after it was reported by umpires while playing for Scotland. He rebuilt his career as a batsman in Scotland and led his country to World Cup qualification with a 62-ball 113 against the UAE and 175 against Canada.

FEBRUARY 16, 2015

UAE cricket

Meet Mohammad Ishaq

Mohammad Ishaq, who had played first-class cricket in Pakistan, was one of the stars of the UAE team that played the 1996 World Cup. A car accident has left him in a wheelchair, but he is still passionate about cricket and regularly attends matches at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium. With UAE back in the World Cup after 19 years, Paul Radley of The National chats with Ishaq about his career and the early years of UAE cricket.

The story of Ishaq's arrival in the UAE is typical of so many leading cricketers in this country. He had shown talent as a first-class cricketer in his homeland and was reckoned to be in the running for selection for the Pakistan national team. Two hundreds early in his Qaid-e-Azam trophy career earned him recognition and a call-up seemed imminent when Imran Khan and Zaheer Abbas, two seniors of the side, fell out with the Pakistan board ahead of a tour to Australia.

"My blazer was made, but at the last moment Imran and Zaheer patched up their differences with the board," Ishaq said. "That was very sad for me. I had prepared with the team. So I was near to the team, but my financial condition was too low."

Offered a secure job as a money-market officer with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, on the simple proviso he score runs for the staff team, he opted to leave.

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

Cricket commentary

Commentary degenerates to buffoonery

Criticising the lowering standards of Channel Nine commentary, Geoff Lemon, in the Guardian, writes capable experts have descended to "buffoonery" that either the channel tolerates or expects.

Of course viewers want fun - the art of filling slow hours is cricket commentary's joy and genius. But there's a reason that it's great to sit around with a bunch of mates and talk shit among yourselves, and boring to sit next to someone else's bunch of mates while they talk shit among themselves. In-group banter is inherently dull to the world it excludes. A couple of minds in a commentary box must connect with a million outside it.

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

World Cup 2015

Clarke: I've never been scared of being dropped or injured

Australia captain Michael Clarke talks about dealing with his injury, ahead of World Cup 2015, in his column in for News Corp Australia.

My attitude to the game, and life in general, changed a lot in 2007 when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. To that point, I had been totally consumed by cricket. Everything was about the game. But that all turned upside down the day I learned my dad had Hodgkin's lymphoma. It made me realise that, in the grand scheme of life, cricket was just a game and I had been incredibly blessed to have had the career and experiences I've had.

FEBRUARY 13, 2015

World Cup 2015

Vaughan: How to be successful at World Cup 2015

Former England captain Michael Vaughan on why there will be huge totals at the World Cup, and what bowlers could possibly do to counter that, in a column in the England papers.

We will see massive scores. This will be the World Cup of 350-370 totals. The era of scoring 250-275 and winning on a regular basis will die (if it has not already) at this tournament. Having a fifth fielder in the ring makes players just go for it. The two new white balls were brought in to redress the balance and give the bowlers some firepower. But they are not swinging and it has actually given batsmen a harder ball to hit.

FEBRUARY 11, 2015

ICC Cricket World Cup

Four players, four journeys

George Dockrell, Mohammad Nabi, Darren Sammy and James Faulkner - four players, four countries and four contrasting journeys that will converge at this edition of the World Cup. The Age presents the four profiles here:

Nabi loved the game and developed his skills in the guest room of his family's crowded house. His parents had been among the millions of Afghans who fled their homeland after the Russian invasion in 1979, settling first in a refugee camp and then building a life in Pakistan. Nabi's family could still live comfortably on the proceeds of his father's business. "There is no future in cricket," his mother told him. "Study. See your cousins? They are studying."

FEBRUARY 11, 2015

England news

Trott eyeing Ashes comeback

Jonathan Trott, who will be at the World Cup as an expert, still wants to play Tests and ODIs for England. Speaking to the Guardian, Trott said he was ready to open for England if need be.

It will come as no surprise to hear Trott is quietly but tenaciously focused on playing for his country again. "Yes, Test and one-dayers. I'd love to play again. I wouldn't have gone on the Lions tour if I didn't want to play for England again. Whatever happens from here, if it happens, would be fantastic."

FEBRUARY 10, 2015

ODI cricket

Cricket and semantic satiation

In his piece for the Guardian's Spin, Andy Bull analyses how Twenty20 cricket and rule changes have made traditional ODI strategies redundant and have disempowered fielding sides.

You may say it's made the game good to watch. It's certainly more unpredictable. In the scramble onwards, who knows what a par score is, or a winning total? But as Finch said, there should be a place for the tight contests too. "From a player's point of view, I think the most exciting games are the low-scoring ones, when you're defending 180 and you've got nothing to lose, they can be really exciting games." One thing is clear: if the ICC is serious about trying to redress the balance of the game, bat-size can wait - it's its own meddling with the regulations that has tipped it out of kilter. It has chosen to disempower the fielding side at the very moment the game was already evolving in favour of the batsmen.

FEBRUARY 09, 2015

World Cup 2015

India's unhealthy losing habit

In his column for Star Sports , Aakash Chopra dives deep into how consistent defeats are hurting India's strategy ahead of their World Cup defence.

The Indian world cup team has had a horrid run to the beginning of their title defence and that can't be a good sign. The first byproduct of such a long losing streak is that you start fiddling with the playing XI too often. Since the Champions Trophy in 2013 in England, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was India's new ball bowler but now, he seems to be fighting for a place in the side with Stuart Binny. Bhuvneshwar isn't looking a 100% but the idea to replace Kumar with Binny has little to do with latter's bowling prowess, for it's his ability batting lower down the order that's tilted the balance in his favour. MS Dhoni is insisting that India needs multi-utility players and hence he's tempted to play bowlers who can bat. It's worth noting that this wasn't India's game plan for the last three years.

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