Tag Archives: Virat Kohli

Eyes on the prize: the 2018 Elephant Sport cricket awards

As 2018 draws to a close, we reveal our pick of the cricketers who have had a huge impact on their sport in the past year.

Batsman of the Year: Virat Kohli (India)

It has been a year in which ball has dominated bat, especially in England, and only one top order batsman has looked a class above everyone else.

India skipper Virat Kohli endured a torrid time during India’s last tour of England in 2014, when he had issues with poking at balls pitched just outside his off stump.

This meant that he had to work on his technique and in particular, the positioning of his feet, both inside and outside the batting crease.

The changes made by there 30-year-old benefitted him immensely as it has enabled him to consistently score runs in all three formats in 2018.

He went past 1,000 runs for third consecutive season, and is international cricket’s leading scorer in 2018. Can he continue to dominate in Australia on India’s current tour and in 2019?

Captain of the Year: Joe Root (England)

It has been an interesting year for the England Test skipper. Having lost the 2017-18 Ashes series down under, defeat in New Zealand was followed by a drawn home series with Pakistan, questions were asked about inconsistent decision-making in both Root’s captaincy and batting.

During his first news conference as Test captain, he talked about wanting to make his team more aggressive in terms of the style of play, but there is a difference between being aggressive and reckless.

The series win against India was crucial for him as captain. Had England lost it, more questions would have been raised over his appointment, especially after the drawn Pakistan series.

But the 27-year-old proved the critics wrong by guiding England to a 4-1 home series win against India, who were the No.1 ranked team in Tests, followed by a first Test series victory in Sri Lanka in which they earned a 3-0 whitewash.  

Bowler of the Year: James Anderson (England)  

It has been another great year for England’s highest wicket-taker in Test matches.

Anderson surpassed Glen McGrath’s record of 563 wickets to become the most successful fast bowler in the longer format. It came when he knocked over Mohammad Shami to seal victory in the penultimate test of the summer against India at The Oval, and he went on to make it 565 in Sri Lanka.

His next target is former Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble, who is third on the all-time list with 619 wickets in 132 Tests. However, England’s No.1 strike bowler is now 36 years old, so how long can he continue to thrive at the highest level?

All-Rounder of the Year: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

There are many contenders who can make a claim for being the best all-rounder of 2018, but we rarely see anyone from an associate nation who has the ability to become a high-quality player in the space of a calendar year.

Afghanistan have produced a mystery wrist spinner in Rashid Khan, who in his first season in the Indian Premier League bamboozled almost every batsman with his variation of deliveries.

Khan, 20, also played some crucial cameos with the bat to help his IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad post some scores which they could defend with their high-quality bowling attack.

It will be interesting to see how he adapts to red ball cricket, especially after Afghanistan played their first official Test against India early this year.      

Fielder of The Year: Kane Williamson (New Zealand) 

Great fielding is needed by bowlers to help them put batsmen under pressure, but before the Jonty Rhodes era, it was always ranked a poor third among the skills required to be a professional cricketer.

South Africa’s Rhodes played a huge role in raising the standards of fielding, with his countless memorable diving catches and direct-hit run-outs.

Nowadays, most of the top teams have some really good athletic fielders, such as New Zealand captain Williamson, 28, who has taken some great catches this year.

The best of them came during the first Test against England where he took a fantastically acrobatic catch at gully to dismiss Stuart Broad.

Female Cricketer of the Year: Elyse Perry (Australia)

Women’s cricket continued to make great strides in 2018, and nowhere was this more apparent than in an exciting 2018 Women’s  Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies.

Perry’s Australia defeated Heather Knight’s England in the final to claim their fourth World T20 title in the last five tournaments.

Perry, 28, is an all-rounder who bats right-handed and bowls right arm fast. In 2018, she became the first Aussie player – male or female – to notch up 100 international T20 matches.

Test and ODI Teams of the Year

Test: Joe Root (Eng, Captain), Aiden Markram (SA), Usman Khawaja (Aus) Virat Kohli (Ind), Jos Buttler WK (England, wkt),  Ben Stokes (Eng), Adil Rashid (Eng), Jasprit Bumrah (Ind), James Anderson (Eng), Moeen Ali (Eng), Mohammad Abbas (Pak); 12th man Sam Curran (Eng).

ODI: Rohit Sharma (Ind), Jason Roy (Eng) Virat Kohli (Ind, Captain), Joe Root (Eng), Jos Buttler (Eng, wkt),  AB de Villiers (SA), Ben Stokes (Eng), Kuldeep Yadav (Ind), Andrew Tye (Aus), Rashid Khan (Afg).

2019 Prospects

Sam Curran (England) Age: 20

Since making his Test debut in the second Test of the summer against Pakistan, Curran has played a huge role for England with both bat and ball, especially in the series against India.

The left-handed all-rounder played a pivotal role down the order, where made some useful scores to get England out of trouble, especially when their top order failed to produce.

It was he, along with Buttler and Stokes, who frustrated the Indian bowlers as they managed to get England out of  a tricky situation and into a position of strength.

Curran also claimed some important wickets, including India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.  He scored a total of 272 runs, including two scores of 50 or more. His highest was 78, which he achieved in the first innings of the fourth Test at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

Although Curran had an average tour of Sri Lanka, he is surely one of the players to watch in 2019.

Prithvi Shaw (India) Age: 19

Indian cricket has been blessed with high-class and talented batsmen including the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli. In terms of the next generation, Shaw is classed as one of the potential stars of the future.

He started his Test career against West Indies, scoring his maiden Test century in the first match in Rajkot in November. He was then selected for India’s team to tour Australia but sprained his ankle in a practice match against a Cricket Australia XI.

This meant he missed out on an opportunity to play in the first Test in Adelaide. Will he be able to feature in any of the three remaining Tests down under?

Rishabh Pant (India) Age: 21

Another of India’s future prospects is wicketkeeper batsman Pant. During India’s victory in the first Test against the Aussies, Pant took 11 catches, which equals the highest number by a wicketkeeper in a Test match after AB de Villiers and former England gloveman Jack Russel.

Pant, who is usually associated with Twenty20, made his debut during the third Test against England at Trent Bridge in August 2018. He then scored a swashbuckling maiden Test century in the fifth Test of the England series at The Oval.

Although his ton was for a losing cause, his innings showed glimpses of the kind of talent he has to succeed in the game, especially in the one-day and T20 formats.

The left-hander has already made a great start to his career by achieving small milestones such as being the first Indian batsman to hit a six off his first ball in Test cricket.

What will 2019 bring for this exciting youngster?

Is it time for captain Cook to go?

He is England’s most capped player, their highest-ever scorer, longest-serving Test captain, and is a double Ashes-winning skipper.

But all good things must come to an end, and Alastair Cook’s leadership of England’s Test team looks set to end ahead of the summer.

“Captaincy always brings pressure… when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you”

After this winter’s tour struggles in Bangladesh and India, is the time right for the Essex man to step down?

Joe Root, the current vice-captain of the Test side and Cook’s most likely successor, has loyally expressed his desire for him to remain as skipper.

“I do think he’ll make a decision in the best interests of the team, and in my opinion it would be great if he did stay on and lead it forward. I think he’s got a lot to offer.

“Regardless of what decision he makes – whether he’s captain or not – he will continue to be a massive leader and a focal part of this team moving forward.”

Pressure

Former Ashes-winning England captain Michael Vaughan does, however, expect Cook to resign. He told BBC Sport: “His body language over the last three matches [Against India, all ending in defeat]… he looks like he might be thinking of calling it a day.”

Cook without a doubt is one of England’s greatest cricketers, having amassed over 11,000 Test runs. His average as captain in Test cricket is an impressive 47.84, but his recent form in the series in Bangladesh and India has dented that.

Cook’s top score in the series in India, at Rajkot in November, was 130. One century in your last 14 innings is not good enough.

Captaincy always brings pressure. You are expected to thrive in every match but when things do not go your way, instantly questions will be asked of you.

Nothing left to prove?

One example would be Angelo Mathews being captain of the Sri Lankan team. In Test cricket, Mathews’s average has sky-rocketed to 50.94 as captain when critics have been on his back for not scoring runs.

“The pressure onSangakkara was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team”

This shows that Mathews has the ability to handle pressure as captain and continue to score runs and produce hundreds.

This situation on the England Test captaincy is similar to when MS Dhoni gave up the leading India during their Test series against Australia in 2014, with Virat Kohli succeeding him.

After a stellar career at Test level, Dhoni probably felt he had nothing left to prove, and the negative of the job had begun to outweigh the positives.

Cook won’t want to step down after a bad winter for England, but he’s achieved so much and has cemented his place in England’s cricket history.

Match-winning performances

Of course, no-one is suggesting Cook should actually stop playing for England as well. As Root says, he still has a lot to offer, and with the pressures and responsibilities of the captaincy removed, he can just focus on his batting.

Cook’s best Test innings came pre-captaincy in 2011 against India when he scored a mammoth 294. Giving up being skipper has benefited other players, including Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara.

In 15 matches as Test captain, Sangakkara scored seven Test hundreds with one double century. Pretty good, but after he gave up the captaincy in 2011, he became a run machine that could not be stopped.

He scored another 13 hundreds, with three double centuries and one triple ton between June 2011 and August 2015.

The pressure was lifted and he was freed up to focus on delivering match-winning performances for his team.

Inspiring young players

Another reason why Cook should give up the captaincy but remain in the side is because it will benefit up-and-coming Test players, with his experience helping inspire the likes of Haseeb Hameed.

“Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook”

The possibility of him giving up Test cricket completely can’t be totally ruled out, and it would allow younger players a chance to get into the side.

Personally, I think England should want to keep Cook in the Test side, freed from the stresses and strains of the captaincy.

Less pressure will be on him, he can focus on his main strength which is his batting, whilst also helping younger players who are finding their feet at Test level.

But Root will surely become England’s captain and has the potential to lead them to even greater heights than Cook.

England facing tough test in India

England’s Indian sub-continent journey continues as they focus on how to deal with Indian spin duo Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. 

After a disappointing loss to Bangladesh in the second Test match, England must regroup for the five-match Test series against India.

You can’t blame them for wanting to move on swiftly after the way in which Bangladesh claimed their first-ever Test win over the tourists in Dhaka.

Chasing a target of 273, England raced to 100-0, with victory seemingly in their sights. However, that is when the mighty collapse began as they were bowled out for 164.

Positives

There are, however, some positives to take from the series against Bangladesh. Moeen Ali took his second five-wicket Test haul as well as being England’s joint top wicket-taker with 11.

“These capitulations could well have a psychological effect on the players, making their confidence brittle in the face of India’s feared spin bowling attack”

Adil Rashid contributed with both bat and ball. Ben Duckett made his maiden Test 50, and Ben Stokes was his usual aggressive self.

England fans will be hoping these players can continue their fine form in India. Moeen and Stokes, in particular, will be vital if England are to win a series against the world’s No.1-ranked Test team.

Beating India on home territory is never easy, but England managed it in 2013, taking the Test series 2-1.

Before that, though, they hadn’t won in India since 1984-85. So will it be another rare victory or back to business as usual?

Negatives

A few players did not grasp their chance to nail down a place in the side. Gary Ballance was one of them, scoring just 24 runs in two Tests and leaving himself open to fresh doubts.

If Ballance is dropped, could teenager Haseeb Hameed come into the side and open with the skipper Alastair Cook?

“It will be up to England’s seam attack to target the Indians as they are more comfortable facing spin”

The Lancashire right-hander should be given a chance to show what he can do with the bat as well as learning from senior players such as Joe Root.

One thing is for certain: England will be desperate to avoid another batting collapse.

The writing was perhaps on the wall in the second Test after they found themselves 69 for 5 after 15 overs in the first innings, but no-one foresaw that second-innings shocker after they reached 100 without loss.

These capitulations could well have a psychological effect on the players, making their confidence brittle in the face of India’s feared spin bowling attack.

Cook had a fairly quiet series against Bangladesh, with his best score of 59 coming in the second innings of the second match. He does, however, have an impressive record in India, going back to his debut Test century in Nagpur in March 2006.

India

Jadeja (left) and Ashwin aim to send England spinning. Pic from indianexpress

So dominant are India in their home conditions, that touring teams are seldom expected to claim a series triumph.

With a run machine in captain Virat Kohli and a world-class bowling attack in Ashwin and Jadeja, they will be definite favourites against England.

India are coming off the back of a Test series win against New Zealand. Ashwin was the top wicket-taker with a mammoth 27 to his name compared to the 10 that both Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner took for the Kiwis.

With Ashwin is in red-hot form, England will look to play him correctly and not to be too aggressive as he could strike at any moment.

India’s batting line-up is another of their strengths, and the top six-seven can all contribute.

Murali Vijay was in notably good form against New Zealand, and it will be up to England’s seam attack to target the Indians as they are more comfortable facing spin.

Without James Anderson, Stuart Broad is likely to lead the line, with Stokes and Chris Woakes backing him up.

Verdict

England face a tough series against India, but if they can read the pitches well, build big partnerships, avoid batting collapses and take plenty of wickets, then they will be fine.

Ensuring they do all of those things at the same time is, however, a big ‘if’…

They need their spinners to be dominant. Rashid, Moeen and Gareth Batty must trick the Indian batsman as well as getting help from the pitches.

Garry Ballance should be given one more chance in the first Test match to try and produce a big innings, but if he doesn’t then he should make way for Hameed who is eager to make an impressive debut against the best Test nation in the world.

The first Test against India starts on November 9th in Rajkot at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, which is hosting its first-ever Test match.

The last time England played in Rajkot was a one-day international versus India in 2013, with the visitors winning by nine runs.

They’ll be hoping that’s a good omen for the start of what promises to be a demanding Test series.

My England XI for the first Test would be: Alastair Cook (capt), Garry Ballance, Joe Root, Ben Duckett, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Gareth Batty.