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World Cup 2015: Can India bring back glory?

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By Harshmeet Singh

Cricket World Cup 2015 is about to begin. Contenders are many but hopes of the defending champion India are high. With many star players either retired or left out, can they pull it through this time too?

cricket world cup 2015 team india

2nd April 2011. An entire country came to a standstill. People cried with joy. Half of the nation was out on the streets at midnight. Strangers danced together and hugged each other. For a generation of cricket lovers who grew up watching black and white photograph of a grinning Kapil Dev holding the World Cup trophy at the Lords’ gallery in 1983, this was a moment to savour.  4 years later, as M.S. Dhoni and his select group of men get ready to defend their title, even the most ardent fans would accept that a repeat of 2011 wouldn’t be anything short of a miracle.

Emergence of cash-rich T20 cricket leagues like IPL and the Big Bash League over the past decade has changed the loyalties of a cricket crazy fan. With the shortest format of the game drawing huge audiences of all age groups into the grounds and the ‘Test cricket’ still being regarded as the real test of a player’s ability, the once glitzy One day International cricket is fast losing significance. However, none of these factors take away the sheen of the Cricket World Cup. With the stage all set and some pulsating contests in store, the 2015 Cricket World cup promises to be a fan’s delight.

Advantage of playing in the home conditions and riveting form of late have placed Australia and New Zealand among the favourites to lift the trophy on 29th March. While Australia are used to starting as ‘favourites’ irrespective of the conditions and current form, New Zealand has never faced such high expectations. For the first time, rather than being referred to as the ‘Dark Horse’, New Zealand is being considered as a real threat to the top teams in the tournament. Their splendid run in 2014 combined with a deadly fast bowling pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and an array of in-form batsman places them in a good position to come out of their ‘perennial semi-finalist’ record and go all the way. Australia, on the other hand, has never been a weak side. Boasting of an enviable combination of destructive batsmen and fearful bowlers, anything less than a runners-up position would be a major disappointment for the Kangaroos.

Just like all the past editions where they have participated, South Africa remains a team to watch out for. They would be hoping to avoid ‘choking’ themselves to death, as they so often manage to do while playing in the world cup. With Dale Steyn – one of the best fast bowlers of all time, and AB de Villiers – the batting genius among their ranks, the world cup is theirs to lose. Among the other teams who can spring in a surprise is Pakistan. Famous for being ‘consistently inconsistent’, the mavericks open their account against India on 15th February. The team would have high hopes from their formidable pace battery and Boom Boom Afridi.

On current form, the reigning world champions India don’t inspire much confidence even in the minds of the most religious fans. A winless two month long tour of Australia wasn’t an ideal preparation camp for the team. The team’s plans of starting the bowling with Stuart Binny sending down balls at mid 120s don’t inspire much confidence either. The team would be pinning its hopes on its formidable batting line up, led by Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. But expecting them to chase down a target in excess of 350 every single time they take the crease would be too much to ask for. With no Sachin, Yuvraj or Sehwag in the pavilion, it won’t be fair to compare this team to the 2011 world champions. But as a hopeless cricket romantic would imagine, the highly stacked up odds might just be the antidote that gets the Indian juggernaut moving!

Image Credit: vijay chennupati

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Virat Kohli Grabbed The Position of Top-Ranked Batsman in ICC Test Batting Rankings

Virat Kohli became the top-ranked batsman top-ranked batsman in Test cricket for the first time in his career as he ended Australian Steven Smith's reign of nearly 32 months.

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Kohli emerged the lone batting star for the visitors in the 31-run loss at Edgbaston. Flickr
Kohli emerged the lone batting star for the visitors in the 31-run loss at Edgbaston. Flickr

India captain Virat Kohli on Sunday became the top-ranked batsman in Test cricket for the first time in his career as he ended Australian Steven Smith’s reign of nearly 32 months.

Kohli scored 149 and 51 in India’s 31-run defeat in the first Test in Birmingham against England and has gone up by 31 points, according to an International Cricket Council (ICC) release.

“The 29-year-old right-hander from Delhi also became the seventh India batsman and first since Sachin Tendulkar in June 2011, to top the rankings for Test batsmen, which were released on Sunday morning following the conclusion of the Edgbaston Test,” ICC said.

Kohli now leads Smith (who had held the top spot since December 2015) by five points, but will have to maintain the form in the remaining four Tests to finish the series as the world’s highest-ranked batsman.

Tendulkar had joined South Africa’s Jacques Kallis in the number one position in January 2011, but had dropped to second spot following the Jamaica Test in June 2011 after he had missed the three-Test series against the West Indies.

Virat Kohli. Flickr
Virat Kohli. Flickr

Apart from Kohli and Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag and Dilip Vengsarkar are the other India batsmen to have achieved number one rankings during their careers.

However, at 934 points, Kohli has become India’s highest-ranked batsman, 14th overall, on the all-time tally of points. Kohli had entered the Edgbaston Test on 903 points, 13 points behind Gavaskar, and is now ahead of the ICC Cricket Hall of Famer by 18 points.

If Kohli can deliver another strong performance in the second Test at Lord’s, then he can break into the top-10 by leapfrogging Matthew Hayden, Kallis and AB de Villiers, whose highest points tally was 935 each. Donald Bradman (961) and Steve Smith (947) are the two batsmen sitting on top of this exclusive list.

Kohli, who powered India to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup title in 2008 and then won the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2017, is the 76th player to top the Test batting rankings.

He is also the number one ranked ODI batsman, but is ranked 12th in T20Is, 220 points behind number one ranked Aaron Finch of Australia.

Top-ranked batsman, Virat Kohli. Flickr
Top-ranked batsman, Virat Kohli. Flickr

However, in the rankings, India’s Lokesh Rahul 19th (down by one place), Ajinkya Rahane 22nd (down by three places), Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dawan, who now share 25th position after slipping two and one spots, respectively, have lost ground.

Following the Test in Birmingham, the batsmen to lose ground after the Edgbaston Test include Alastair Cook 17th (down by four places), respectively, and Ben Stokes 33rd (down by five places).

In the bowlers’ table, Stuart Broad of England and Mohammed Shami of India are the two bowlers inside the top-20 who have dropped their positions, while James Anderson has retained his top position but his lead over Kagiso Rabada has been reduced to two points.

Broad is now ranked 13th after falling one place, while Shami is in 19th spot after sliding two places.

Also Read: Virat Kohli to Endorse Male Grooming Products

Stokes has compensated for his double failure with the bat by taking six wickets in the Test, including three of India’s last four wickets. For this performance, he has been rewarded with a rise of four places, which has put him in 27th position.

India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has gained 14 points following his four for 62 and three for 59, which means he now trails South Africa’s fourth-ranked Vernon Philander by just one point.

Pacer Ishant Sharma has collected 19 points to move within 13 points of 25th-ranked team-mate Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

England’s 20-year-old Sam Curran is another fascinating story from what was a nerve-wracking 1000th England men’s Test. The left-handed all-rounder scored 24 and 63 with the bat, and claimed match figures of five for 92 with the ball, which not only earned him the player of the match award but significant gains in the latest rankings.

In the batting table, Curran has jumped from 152nd to 72nd, the bowling table has seen him rise 49 places to 62nd, while in the all-rounders’ category, he now sits in 37th position after jumping 58 places. (IANS)