A Game For The Ages….

Wow! What a match! This will go down in the history of Indian Cricket as one of the closest matches we ever lost. To be honest, I don’t think this England is as strong or mighty as the 2014 one. If I had to place my money on one team to win the series, I would chose India, even after this minor setback. Still, coming back to this match, it really belonged to several individuals. Let’s be honest, India would have been handed an innings defeat if it wasn’t for Virat Kohli, and England would have surely lost had Ben Stokes not taken that one very important wicket of Kohli. Another characteristic was that lots and lots of catches were dropped. The likes of Dawid Malan and Shikhar Dhawan must pull up their socks if they are to remain in their sides.

Sam Curran – Like Father, Like Son

Well, the likes of Peter and Kasper Shmeichel might be the most popular pair who come under that saying, but Sam Curran has proved that he is no less. His father, Kevin Curran also played cricket for Zimbawe (The family lived in Zimbabwe till they were forced to migrate to England) but he never came close to performing as well for his team as his son. In the first innings, Sam’s last wicket partnership made the difference, while in the second innings, he was the top scorer for his team. Superman would be shocked at how he rescued his team from a position of utter despair. Not only that, but this all-rounder took the 4 wickets that mattered the most in the first innings, and also broke the rhythm of the batsmen with his excellent bowling in the second innings. At the end of the match he deservedly became the youngest English player ever to win a Man Of Match award. He’s only 20!

All Hail The King!

Before this match, we used to refrain from calling Virat Kohli the king of modern cricket because of his poor record in England, but now, after his single-handed performance in both the innings, he can be called so deservedly. I mean, scores of 149 and 51 where the second highest score is 26, is not a task which goes without appreciation. Just to give you an idea of how much the Indian team depended on him, he scored 200 out of the 436 runs the team scored. That’s like 46% of the whole score. 1 player scoring 46% of the runs, and the other 10 are scoring 54%. That’s shameful.

What India Should Do…..

The moment I was informed that Pujara was not playing, I knew something was going to be wrong. Not playing Pujara was the biggest mistake India made. He knows how to handle these kinds of situations, and he also plays county cricket. So when the other players were having fun in the IPL, he was toiling it out on the English pitches to get used to the conditions, just so he could play well in this series. So for me, India’s first step should be to get him back in the side at the expense of either Vijay, Rahul or Rahane. Secondly, Shami could be replaced by Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav. Getting Jadeja in would beef up the batting, but Kuldeep has an X-Factor to his bowling and he has proved on several occasions that he deserves to play. Ashwin took 7 wickets. That means that the pitches will support spin as well, so we need a second spinner. I think Kuldeep would be the better option but the coach and captain should make the right decision.

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Time For The Most-Watched Match In The World

A long time ago, a little ball boy went up to Zinedine Zidane and asked for his shirt. As Zidane had already exchanged it with an opponent, he asked the boy to come with him to the dressing room, where he took off his shorts and gave them to the boy. Antoine Griezmann has been holding on to the pair of shorts till date and maybe now it is time to repay Zidane with a France jersey with two stars above the logo.

France – Going For Glory

This French team is no less than their Cup-winning side of 1998. Antoine Griezmann, their evergreen leader, Kylian Mbappe, the pacy youngster, and Olivier Giroud, the experienced striker make for France’s 3 Musketeers. In the midfield, Paul Pogba has won almost every tackle, while Ngolo Kante is an expert in creating chances for the poster boys. Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane, the best defending pair in the tournament have also scored goals to reach here. Benjamin Pavard, with his witty clearances, and Lucas Hernandez, with his excellent crosses are the finds of the tournament for France. Hugo Lloris, their own Captain Cool and goalkeeper will lead the team into the most important match of their lives, and probably one that will end in victory. And Didier Deschamps will be hoping to become just the second footballer to win the World Cup, both as a player and a coach.

Each World Cup has a story that will be forever etched into our memories. Regardless of today’s result, that story this World Cup, will be Croatia. With a population of 4.3 million, less than the state I live in, they have defied all odds to reach the World Cup final. Few expected them to reach till the quarters even, leave alone the finals. They were expected to crash out in the Round Of 16 itself, but they have showed tremendous grit to reach here.

Croatia – Small Nation, Big Dreams

The sole value of this team is,’one for all, all for one’. Luka Modric can be called the player of the tournament for his performances, his assists, his goals, his penalties, but most of all, for the impression he has had on his teammates. He is a leader who pushes his team forward, and takes a backseat when it comes to showing the glamour to the world. The fuel that the team runs on is their midfield. With players like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Perisic, the midfield is solid and that is why they manage to keep possession most of the time. From sending a player home midway because he was faking an injury, to firing an assistant coach, Croatia have gone through it all, and regardless of today’s result, they are winners.

My Prediction

I believe France have an upper hand. But I don’t expect Croatia to go down without a fight. As for the score, I think France is gonna win 2-0 or 2-1. If Croatia scores, I think Mandzukic would score that, and one goal from France would surely be by Griezmann and the other, if it is scored could be by Mbappe or Pogba.

World Cup 2018 – Star Players Who Failed To Make Their Country Reach The Quarterfinals

How many surprises have we seen in this World Cup? Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Poland. All of these teams have failed to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup. While Germany and Poland failed to even qualify out of the group stage, Argentina, Portugal and Spain were shocked by inferior teams in their first knockout stage match. In this blog, I’ll be making a team of 11 star players who were unable to make their team reach the quarterfinals.

Goalkeeper

1.Manuel Neuer – Germany

He did just recover from an injury, but he has injured Germans’ hearts this World Cup. Going out in front leaving the goal wide open for the opposite team to easily score a goal? Conceding a goal from 10 metres outside the penalty area? That’s not the no.1 keeper in the world! Those are rookie mistakes! I expect Neuer to do better than this.

Defenders

2.Sergio Ramos – Spain

He has been the leader of Real Madrid’s defence and has also been the unbreakable wall at the back for Spain. This year he was dented with the ‘guilt’ of injuring Mohammed Salah and the criticism coming from all Liverpool fans from all over the world. But he is a class player after all, and he will recover and come back strong.

3.Mats Hummels – Germany

After a strong season with Bayern Munich, there were great expectations on his shoulders, or rather feet. He was expected to score a few goals too along with letting the opposition know that he was the star defender of the star German side. Instead, he was the star disappointment for the star-studded disappointing German side.

4.Joshua Kimmich – Germany

Arguably the best left back in the world, Joshua Kimmich has definitely fallen short of expectations this World Cup, much like his team. He is an attacking defender and his job is to supply crosses for team members to score. This year, he failed at the task and managed to score no goals, no assists, and conceding 4 goals in 3 games and 2 losses.

5.Nicolas Otamendi – Argentina

While Otamendi’s performance was average, his team was far below average. Otamendi needed to lead his defenders and stop Croatia from scoring the 3 goals, France from scoring those 4 goals and Iceland from scoring that 1 all-important goal against his team. Argentina’s defence looks weaker with every passing match, and they need a rephrase of team now.

Midfielders

6.Toni Kroos – Germany

I know this list is getting too crowded with Germans but they really are a class team, whose classiest player is Toni Kroos, arguably the best midfielder in the world. This man needs no introduction and his playing style needs no praise. Even though he saved Germany the insult of losing all 3 matches with one of the best goals in this whole tournament, he couldn’t manage to get his team out of the group stage.

7.James Rodriguez – Colombia

After the breakout World Cup in 2014, James Rodriguez was expected to hit many goals and do well, but that was not the case. His team just managed to scrape through to the Round Of 16. And was knocked out by an England who was 3-2 down on penalties. Although Rodriguez performed well, he will have to do better next time.

8.Isco

Where there were once Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva, there is now Isco. He has now become one of the best midfielders not only in his country, but also in the world. Isco is quite an attacking player, and that was clearly visible in the matches. But the thing that matters ultimately is how your team performs. His nation has been let down and he is one of the reasons for it.

Forwards

9. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

Well, Ronaldo has been through a lot in this World Cup. From a record-breaking hat-trick, to a tax fraud allegation. But the biggest news is that he is transferring from Real Madrid. Now this might be because of Portugal’s misery at this World Cup, or because the Spanish government is against him. I for one, cannot imagine Ronaldo in Juventus or Man Utd. colours. Nevertheless, he performed excellently at this World Cup and proved that he still has that flair in him.

10. Robert Lewandowski – Poland

The king of Polish football and definitely one of the top 3 strikers in the world, Robert Lewandoski’s performance at this World Cup was way below average. In fact, some people told me that Lewandowski has retired as they didn’t see him at all this World Cup! The Bayern Munich striker needs to do much much better than this if he wants to keep Poland alive in the race for the best footballing nations.

11. Lionel Messi – Argentina

What is a football team without Lionel Messi! This World Cup must have been an emotional rollercoaster ride for Messi, as many have assumed it to be his last shot at World Cup glory. Still, the Argentinian could’ve done better than 1 goal and 1 assist. Messi would be under tremendous pressure as he is always the one to be blamed for Argentina’s failures. But let’s not write him off just as yet, because who knows, he might just come for World Cup 2022, and maybe even win it!

The Final Team.

India Crush The Green Micks

India proved against Ireland that they aren’t the No.1 team in the world for nothing! And Ireland proved that they aren’t the No.17 in the world without a reason. When the players took the field on Friday, I’m sure David and Goliath must have been seeing the match and feeling proud in their successors. With a 143 run win, India won the series with an expected score of 2-0. This was a practice series anyway and the real fun will begin later when India take on England, the current best limited overs side after India, or not?

India’s Conundrum

As Virat Kohli said, he’s having a headache deciding who to pick for the playing XI. He should too. 4 openers were used in two matches. 2 people at No.4. 2 people at No.5, 2 people at No.6. In short, no position has been assigned to any player. Suresh Raina has been given a spot at No.3 but the rest do not have any assurance about the spot at which they will play it even whether they will play or not. I believe Kohli should give himself first preference over Raina and go in at No.3, his patented position. KL Rahul has performed in every match he has played so far so he must be given a chance to open. The same thing can be said for Shikhar Dhawan, who should open with Rahul. At No.4, Raina and Rohit can pit each other for the spot according to their form. Dhoni can walk in at 5, being followed by Karthik and Hardik Pandya. I believe that’s the best XI India can play.

Spider-Man Must Be Proud

Spider-Man would be very happy with the performances of spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvwndra Chahal who took 13 wickets between the two of them. They spun a web around the Irish batsmen similar to the one Spider-Man builds around weak villains. This just goes to prove that not always do conditions matter more than quality of players and opponents. Spinners have always been the pride of India and in the upcoming England series, I think it will be the same way.

Ireland – Do They Really Deserve It?

After the thrashing against Pakistan in the Test Match, some were already doubting Ireland’s capability on the highest level of the game. I believe that Ireland’s batting is alright, with people like Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson taking charge. The real matter of concern is the bowling. They gave away 12 wides in a match! 4 leg byes and a no-ball too! On the other hand, India gave away only 1 wide. You can very well see the difference. In both the matches, India crossed 200 while their own batsmen could not even reach 135! They need to take serious measures if they are to make a case for themselves in any of their upcoming matches.

Germany Crash Out Of FIFA 2018!

Some things are never supposed to change! The sky is blue, the grass is green and Germany is there in the knockout stages of the World Cup. It’s just the way things work. Well, you might just want to take another look at the sky because Germany have failed to qualify for the knockouts this time around. Lost to Mexico. Lost to South Korea, and needed a last minute goal to salvage an undeserved victory against Sweden. They’re the No.1 ranked team in the world, the defending champions and really quite good too, so what exactly could have gone wrong?

What Went Wrong?

Since the first time I saw Germany play, I have kept noticing the same problem over and over again. They keep possession. They control the opposition. The problem is that they don’t think of good attacking strategies to score goals. If you see the stats of their defeats against Mexico and South Korea, they were clearly the better side with more possession, more shots, less fouls and all the stats going in favour of them. The shots that they shot were never really meant to be goals, even the ones that were on target. In turn, the opposition makes full use of the limited opportunities they get. Germany needs to think of better tactics for goal-scoring.

Champions’ Curse

Well, if you were surprised that the defending champions were knocked out in the group stage, you shouldn’t have been. Italy of 1950, Brazil of 1966, France of 2002, Italy of 2010, Spain of 2014 and now Germany of 2018. This is a group of defending champions who could not even make it out of the group stage in the next World Cup. Just goes to show how drastically the composition of a team can change in the span of 4 years. Or maybe it’s just a matter of overconfidence?

You might’ve heard the famous quote by Gary Lineker, ‘Football is a simple game. 22 men run around for 90 minutes chasing a ball around, and at the end, the Germans always win.’ Well, Mr.Lineker has been proved wrong and I don’t think he’s very sad about being proved wrong either!

As you might know, I don’t write about football, so this blog is a first! Please give any feedback or suggestion through comments! Thank You for reading!

The Yo Yo Test

Suresh Raina had made a comeback into the Indian team. He took a late-evening flight to Bangalore. He had just played a Ranji Trophy match for Uttar Pradesh but hadn’t batted in the second innings as he wasn’t fully fit. Next morning, he took the Yo Yo Test, flunked it and was sent back home in an embarrassing way. After some more matches, he was asked to take the test again but flunked then also, failing to reach the mandatory level of fitness which has been set as a standard by the Indian team,

Ambati Rayudu has always been very low on BCCI’s playing XI options. He was always the 4th or 5th option that came to mind. But one good IPL season, and he finally made it to the Indian team after 9 years being seen as only a mediocre option. Can you imagine the joy he had been feeling then, and can you imagine that joy being taken away from you because you couldn’t run one more shuttle? Rayudu failed the Yo Yo Test and we won’t be seeing him in Indian colours anytime soon.

Mohammad Shami has been in the press for all the wrong reasons recently. First the wife issue, then the poor IPL form, and now failing in this much dreaded Yo Yo Test. Imagine how he must be feeling! He gets selected in one format of the game and that too gets taken away from him because he failed a test with a name similar to a slang rap sensation! The Yo-Yo Test denied Shami a chance to make a comeback to cricket and maybe renew his poor reputation.

We have been talking about the stalwarts of the game who have slipped up while taking the Yo-Yo Test, but what about the youngsters? Sanju Samson couldn’t play the tri-series of India A against Australia and England because he couldn’t pass the Yo-Yo Test. Let’s not forget that Sanju is the player his IPL team relied on to anchor the innings ahead of Rahane, Stokes, Tripathi and Darcy Short. Then what is the harm in playing him?

The Yo-Yo Test – How It Works

When I first heard about the Yo-Yo Test, I thought cricketers must have had to rap while batting or bowling! But of course, it’s not that. In fact, it’s quite complicated. The picture below will help you understand better.

A Yo Yo Test involves a player shuttling between two cones(B and C) and for recovery, walking from B to A and back. A player starts on B when the first beep goes, and runs to C before the second beep goes. He then tries to run back to the B come where he started before the third beep goes. This whole run from B to C and back is known as a ‘shuttle’.

There are 23 speed levels, but no one has even gotten close to the 23rd level yet. Each level has different amounts of shuttles to be run. If a player fails to reach a cone before the beep goes, he gets an official warning. 3 official warnings usually mark the end of a Yo-Yo Test.

Different countries have set different benchmarks for passing the Yo-Yo Test. What you have to understand is that India is not the only country conducting this test and certainly not the best conductors of it. Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand all have higher benchmarks for selection in the team.

I think that Yo-Yo Test is okay as long as players receive a second chance. They should give players a chance to practice hard and try again.

Miles To Go Before Afghanistan Can Sleep

Here we were, wondering whether the rain of June would even allow a result in this test match. Wondering whether the game would need more than 5 days to seal itself. India has thrown all that out the window with a 2-day test match which was only a second of its kind in Asia. The mighty Indians needed only 2 days to trample all over the weak Afghans who have a lot of work to do after this shameful defeat. This was also India’s largest Test Match victory ever. This was also the Test Match where the fewest balls were bowled by India and the fewest runs were scored against India. I’d say that India are all set for the England tour now and that they can surely win the trophy there.

What Went Wrong? – Bowling

For the Afghans, they pride themselves on their bowling attack. Well, in this match, the main problem was the opening partnership. The captain was most at fault here. Even when he saw that both the openers were gathering pace hitting shots in only one part of the ground, he still kept an attacking field and did not realise that that would allow India to get into their groove. Another problem was that their spinners did not live up to their reputation. Their combined figures added up to 4 wickets giving away 294 runs. That’s not really good for Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Mohammad Nabi as a group. But they will learn with time and hopefully come back stronger. One special thing was that after India won, Rahane called the Afghan team to pose with the trophy. This shows sporting gesture and I’m sure it gave inspiration to the Afghan team too.

What Went Wrong? – Batting

This was known before the tournament as Afghanistan’s Achilles Heel and all the Afghan batsmen did was to confirm the fact. There was a certain hurry to play shots among the batsmen. Mohammad Shahzad played all attacking shots and was a guest of few balls. Javed Ahmadi failed to impress with scores of 1 and 3. Rahmat Shah had a good technique but lacked cricketing sense. In the first innings, Mohammad Nabi proved that he was the most experienced player in the Afghan side, but in the second innings, he too went without scoring. Asghar Stanikzai, the captain played very well and at one moment, it felt as if Afghanistan could avoid innings defeat, but he too undid all his hard work with a stupid shot straight into the hands of Dhawan. The only plus point for Afghanistan was Hashmatullah Shahidi, who came up with double figures in both the innings and remained unbeaten in the second one too.

India’s Dilemma

Remember that this match had been played without Virat Kohli. So when he returns, India will have to change their team. Now that Dhawan and Vijay have given good performances, they are set as the openers. Pujara is set at 3 and Kohli is set at 4. Rahane, Karthik and KL Rahul are fighting for 5 and 6. Don’t forget that KL Rahul is a part-time keeper too. So he can come in for Dinesh Karthik. All of these things need to be thought over by the Indian team management. Also, Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar will be back for the England tour. After good performances by Umesh. Hardik and Ishant, would it be okay to drop any of them? Or would only one out of Jadeja and Ashwin get to play at the expense of another fast bowler? India has reached a sticky point right now.