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A home World Cup is special to New Zealand and their build up has had people dusting out those dark horse quotes. Some have tipped them to clinch the trophy and to a large extent, that comes down to their abundant and impressive pace reserves. One of them, though, has posed an interesting problem to the captain, coach and selectors. Osman Samiuddin, in the National wonders how they can fit Adam Milne into the XI with Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matt Henry and perhaps a couple of others as well
Milne is something else, though. There is nothing more bracing in cricket than happening on a new, largely unseen and super-quick bowler. If you have ever allowed the evening breeze of Karachi to bring you to life, especially after sweating away the day, it is precisely that effect. The world becomes a better place.
There is no better time for him to be in the side, either, with Shane Bond as bowling coach. There is actually something very Bond about Milne, not just in that upright simplicity as he begins his action but also in the stripped-down style of bowling itself.
The ICC stance against illegal actions has been quite decisive. Saeed Ajmal can no longer bowl in international cricket. Neither can Sachithra Senanayake. Sunil Narine was reported twice by Champions League T20 match officials. While this purge has been met with support, some of the criticism against it has been regarding the timing - months before the World Cup. With bigger bats, smaller grounds and lesser mystery to worry about, Chloe Saltau of the Age, wonders about the balance between bat and ball during the showpiece event.
Ajmal and Narine are the most dangerous spinners in the world and arguably the most alluring, and while cricket's most prestigious global tournament is no place for those who bend the rules, an unfortunate consequence of the crackdown could be that the World Cup is one big free hit for batsmen in a game that is already tilted towards their kind
The prospect of James Anderson fronting up against India at Old Trafford, his home ground, puts England in the driver's seat. That advantage, though, has come about in the backdrop of an unsavoury dispute with Ravindra Jadeja. Geoffrey Boycott, in his column for the Telegraph, believes dominating the opposition can happen without resorting to offensive behavior.
Sledging is a blight on cricket and needs stamping out. Light-hearted banter, amusing remarks are great for the game. But this stuff is downright offensive. Downton agreed with me but was reluctant to tell Jimmy not to do it in case he lost his competitive edge. Presumably winning must be everything whatever the cost. I believe if something is not right you should set a moral standard. It ishould have nothing nothing to do with winning or losing.
Farokh Engineer, a former match referee, is bemused that the James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja dispute has taken nearly a month to resolve. Speaking with Andy Wilson of the Guardian, offers his brand of justice along with a few anecdotes.
"It's ridiculous that it has all dragged on for so long. I blame the match referee [David Boon] and the ICC. If I'd been the match referee - and I used to be one - I'd have had Jimmy and Jadeja into my room there and then, asked them to sort it out between them and, if Jimmy was at fault, I'd have asked him to apologise. If he refused, then it could have been an issue but it should have all been sorted out in five minutes."
Ajinkya Rahane has bedded into the Indian middle order and has sparkled away from home, especially with his temperement while batting with the tail. His state-mate Rohit Sharma, though, is slipping up both on the field and in terms of percetion. Amit Gupta, in Mumbai Mirror, seeks an explanation for this disparity between two talented players
As former India player and Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar says, "They are two different personalities and not just players. Rahane calmer, Rohit flamboyant. At this point it will be a little bit unfair to say that it's turning out to be two different stories. Rahane is having a good run but Rohit had to sit out of the first two matches and come back and get runs when team was under pressure ... But yes, Rahane has taken that one step higher in the last three away tours."
There weren't too many Indians who could remember the 2011 tour to England fondly, but Praveen Kumar, who was thrust with the mantle of leading the bowling, responded by becoming the team's top wicket-taker. Speaking to Saneep Dwivedi, of the Indian Express, he explains how English conditions might not necessarily remain batting-friendly, even if they start out so, and the importance of having specific plans, like the one that almost worked on Kevin Pietersen.
"So I started with a series of balls that moved away from the off stump and this was followed by an in-coming effort ball on the legs. And all through the plan Dhoni had placed Rahulbhai (Rahul Dravid) as the leg-slip. Pietersen fell for the plan. After being starved of his favourite shot, he flicked the faster in-coming ball," he says before revealing the anti-climax end. "The ball fell just short of Rahulbhai. Had it travelled a bit more we could have got a big wicket." Pietersen, on 49 at that point, went on to score a double hundred.
Cheteshwar Pujara has borne the tag of being the next Rahul Dravid for the better part of his Test career. The similarity in temperement is apparent and their fondness for playing the long innings is another unifying factor. Shirin Sadikot of bcci.tv asks Pujara how his technique compares against his predecessor's.
I think his square drive was much better than mine is right now, mainly because he could play that shot even on the front-foot. I am good at playing the square drive on the back-foot but I haven't tried doing it on the front-foot. It's about picking the swing and the length early on. You really need to be good at it to play the square drive on the front-foot because otherwise it puts your wicket at risk. These are the shots you try out in the shorter formats rather than in Tests. I have tried it out in the Ranji Trophy but not at the Test level, where the ball comes at a higher pace and the wickets have more bounce. It's better to play it on the back-foot.
England's hopes of a new era were struck down in Headingley by a young and hungry Sri Lanka. As much praise as Angelo Mathews and his side deserves, the hosts did not do themselves justice both in terms of the cricket they played and the tactics they used. Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, casts the magnifying glass on the captain Alastair Cook and suggests he might be trying too hard to change himself and the process if proving to be detrimental.
If Cook were to score runs in the kind of quantity he once managed, then that would underpin the innings, with others feeding from it, and leadership would seem easier. It does appear, however, that he might be placing too much emphasis on being in the vanguard, perhaps trying to be something he is not, rather than being a little more selfish in that regard and thinking primarily about his own game. The point has not yet been reached where either Cook or his employer should be considering whether his position as Test captain is appropriate for both the team benefit and his own but it will be under discussion.