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Why the best team is not in the World Cup final?



ICC World Cup 2019 Team India

A couple of days before league table-toppers India took on New Zealand in the first semifinal of the World Cup on Wednesday, Sachin Tendulkar, a legend of the game, wished the country ‘s most successful captain and wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni on his 38th birthday. But it was more than a simple birthday greeting.

Sachin tweeted: “Wish you a happy birthday @msdhoni! Have a great year. All the very best for the next two games.”

For Sachin, as diplomatic as they come and one who is extremely cautious and measured with his words in the public domain, it was the supreme belief in the calibre of the Indian team, coupled with the fact that they would be taking on the weakest team that made it to the semis of cricket’s biggest spectacle, which got him to emphatically presume that India and Dhoni would win the semis and definitely play the final.

Sachin was not wrong in his assumptions, and as the match showed, despite being in a huge spot of bother while chasing New Zealand’s moderate total, the strong Indian team nearly pulled off a win.

But, various factors contributed to the loss. These factors were visible to all, but got glossed over due to the overwhelming positives that were perceived as making the Indian team invincible.

New Zealand in semis

While the team-related weaknesses were exposed during the league stage, the unexpected emergence of this small country as the opponent only aided in not addressing these weaknesses. For the No.1 team in the world, it would have been euphoria as they avoided the favourite team to win the cup, hosts England, the only team to whom they lost during the group stage.

There would have been the mandatory strategy meetings and analysis of the opposition, but no member of the contingent would have attached the kind of seriousness needed for a semifinal match if it was against England, or defending champions Australia.

Strategy paralysis

While many scenarios would have been mapped, one where the top three batsmen scored just one run each, putting the team in a precarious situation, could not have been imagined by anyone. And that these would include Rohit Sharma, with a record-breaking five centuries in CWC19, and Virat Kohli, captain and probably the best batsman in the world now. Here is where it was required for the team management to quickly rework all the strategies and put forward a clear path towards achieving the target.

Kohli was back in the dressing room with the coach, Ravi Shastri, and they had the brains of Dhoni for assistance. It would be another seven overs before the fourth wicket fell. A strategy was put in place, but that there was a collective vacuum when a crisis came to the fore.

Pant & Pandya

Once Dinesh Karthik returned to the pavilion and the score read 24/4 with 40 more overs to go and an inexperienced Rishabh Pant at one end, there would not be any cricketer or analyst worth his salt who would have not pointed out that Dhoni had to go in to hold up one end and also guide the non-strikers through to victory.

Instead, in came Hardik Pandya, a very talented player, but someone who didn’t have the experience for the situation at hand. Was it the strategy to take the aggressive route where one of them took the battle to the opposition by scoring some quick runs?

A good strategy if it could be implemented well. It would have upset the rhythm of the bowling attack, and simultaneously reduced the runs required for victory. But it was an ill-thought one fraught with problems.

In fact, the team think-tank had just to emulate how the Kiwi captain, Kane Williamson, and their No.4 batsman, Ross Taylor, stitched together a 65-run partnership eating up 17 overs for it with a run-rate of under 4.

Though they were batting first and setting a total, never did they opt for any risky stroke. They would have liked a better run-rate, but the veterans that they are, they did not allow their urge to take control of their better senses. When both Pant and Pandya got out to unnecessary slog shots, the asking rate was just 6 and 7, respectively, which with Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to follow could have got with some patience and smart batting.

While these were problems associated with the semifinal, there were other issues which plagued the team during their league campaign, but got ignored due to their imperious march to the top of the league table.


The vice-captain, Rohit Sharma, had a dream run with the bat in CWC19. He became the first batsman to score five centuries in a single World Cup and became the tournament’s leading scorer. However, he was also dropped the maximum number of times before he even touched double figures.

In fact, the talk became that you drop Rohit and he will go on to make a century. Nobody spoke that if the catches were taken, most of them sitters, he would not have crossed a total of 100 runs. Well, the Kiwis didn’t drop the chance they got. And when Kohli joined him soon after, it was panic mode.

No.4 man

One of the biggest mysteries associated with world cricket, unsolved for reasons unknown, is that a country which has a problem of plenty as far as world-class batsmen are concerned, can’t find a No.4 player.

While the selectors could go back to the problem after the World Cup, it is surprising that nobody considered Dhoni as the ideal man for the job. Again, legacy became a mental block. Termed as a finisher, the team still continues to consider him for that job, while there are better finishers in Pant, Pandya, Jadeja, and even a Karthik. Dhoni should have played the role Taylor has played for the Kiwis. Steadying the innings in a crisis, or accelerating it when things are going good.

Mini Tests

The problem of the No.4 has also been aggravated by the thought process that a 50-over match is two T20 matches rolled into one. Hence, there was this talk about seeing a 500+ score in this edition.

It is ironic that in most matches there hasn’t been a combined score of over 500 from both teams. In fact, the 50-over matches are mini Tests, and therefore there was a strong need for a Ajinkya Rahane, or even a Cheteshwar Pujara in this spot. In their absence, Dhoni could have moved into the spot, not an IPL superstar.

Bad Day

Kohli said in his post-match press conference that 45 minutes of bad cricket cost India a spot in the final. There is also talk that it was a great campaign, and we had one bad day. But that is what champion teams are made for. To conquer that one bad day; definitely if it is a semifinal knockout match.

While tweeting, Sachin would not have thought this Indian team could have a bad day, but even if the thought crossed his mind, he would have been confident that it has the firepower to overcome all obstacles. He will definitely be more circumspect next time.

By: C.P. Thomas

(C.P. Thomas is a co-founder of SportzPower and The Fan Garage. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Pompeo meets Qureshi, lauds Pak’s efforts for Afghan peace




mike pompeo

Washington, Jan 18 Visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here, during which the latter lauded Islamabad’s efforts for a political and peaceful solution to help resolve the Afghan conflict.

Qureshi is on the final leg of his tri-state visit aimed at diffusing US-Iran tensions, as instructed by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Besides the Afghan peace process, Qureshi and Pompeo on Friday also exchanged views on matters pertaining to Pakistan-US bilateral cooperation and regional security situation, reports The News International.

Qureshi, who earlier called on the US to remain engaged in Afghanistan’s reconstruction even after withdrawal of its troops, informed the top US diplomat that Pakistan would continue its efforts for political solution to the Afghan conflict.

“Pakistan is fulfilling this joint responsibility for the Afghan peace process with sincerity of intent,” he said.

In response, Pompeo appreciated Pakistan’s “sincere efforts” for the Afghan reconciliation and peace process and a peaceful neighbourhood.

During the talks, Qureshi also briefed Pompeo about discussions held during his recent visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

He said that Pakistan desird peace and stability and was determined to play its role to defuse prevailing tensions in the region, Dawn news reported.

The Minister also underlined the need for strengthening bilateral trade and investment “in order to give a practical shape to Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump’s vision of comprehensive bilateral Pakistan-US relations”.

The US was the last leg of Qureshi’s three nation trip after visiting Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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Those opposing CAA, NPR should come together: Chidambaram



P Chidambaram

Kolkata, Jan 18 : Urging all parties opposing CAA and NPR to come together, the Congress on Saturday extended the olive branch to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and other leaders who skipped January 13 Delhi deliberations hoping they would turn up in some other meeting that might be convened on the twin issues.

“For the sake of the country, all parties which are opposing the CAA and NPR should come together… What is at stake are far more important issues… One shouldn’t miss the larger picture.

“The larger picture is we are fighting to save the Constitution of India, we are fighting to save the enduring values embodied in th cConstitution of India. So all those who fight for these values must eventually come together on one platform. And I am confident, they will,” Congress Working Committee member P. Chidambaram told media.

Apart from Banerjee, Samajwadi Party, DMK and the BSP did not attend, while Shiv Sena and the AAP said they were not invited for the meeting convened by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Chidambaram said Gandhi made an attempt to invite as many parties as possible, and 20 of them participated.

“Some did not. That doesn’t mean that is the final word. Maybe there well be another meeting, maybe they will attend. What is important is we are fighting, not that we are fighting together always. But fighting separately is also fighting, fighting together is also fighting,” he said.

“The fact is we are trying to build a united opposition to the CAA and NPR. We have succeeded substantially. Some parties are fighting separately. Hopefully, some day they will all come on a united platform,” he said.

Asked whether the Congress would invite to future meetings leaders like Banerjee who stayed away from Monday’s deliberations, Chidambaram said he was certain invitations will go out.

“If somebody asks my view, I’ll say of course we send an invitation. What is the harm? I invite you to my house once, you do not come. That doesn’t mean I don’t invite you again,” he said.

To repeated queries about the lack of unity of the anti-CAA parties in Bengal, Chidambaram said: “In Bengal or in any other state, there are some domestic factors at play. Purely intra-state factors, though the big picture should not be missed”.

He pointed out that the Congress was working with the Left parties in the state, and they were carrying on the movement together at the district level too.

On questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi sending an invite to his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan, Chidambaram said it only means the government has modified its earlier position “about no engagement with Pakistan”.

He disagreed with a scribe who said that many parties now find the Congress unreliable”.

“In the last Lok Sabha election, 19 per cent Indians relied on the Congress and voted for it. The Congress also got votes in the recent assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand.

“But I do admit, we need to do more, we need to get more people on our side. But that doesn’t mean nobody relies on us,” he added.

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PDP leader Altaf Bukhari dares Congress’s Azad to prove charges




Ghulam Nabi Azad

Srinagar, Jan 18 : Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Minster Altaf Bukhari, here on Saturday, dared senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to prove his allegations against him or quit Parliament on moral grounds.

Reacting to media reports in which Azad had been quoted as saying that some Congress leaders were being threatened to join the “Third Front” or face false cases, Bukhari said it was unfortunate that a leader like Azad was playing cheap politics.

In a press statement Bukhari said, “I hold Azad in high esteem, but it’s unfortunate that he has made baseless allegations against me and my colleagues, stooping this low for doing petty politics.”

Bukhari said he neither held power nor was in a position to misuse the state machinery or agencies, as used to be done during the Congress-led regimes in J&K.

“I have reiterated that I am joined by some friends, colleagues and well-wishers of J&K to raise and address the sufferings caused to the people by whosoever has been at the helm of affairs in J&K and in the Centre,” Bukhari said.

He said several senior Congress leaders were in touch with him, but there was no question of coercing them or extending any favour as had been alleged by Azad. “Many Congress leaders share the same vision, passion and motivation to serve people in their own capacities and are coming forward for that,” he said.

The remark by Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha had exposed Azad’s respect for his party colleagues in J&K, whom he termed imprudent to take any decision on their own, Bukhari said.

“The Congress style of politics is over. There is no question of forcing anybody or extending any facilities to someone to garner his/her support for a sacred cause. Yes, Azad is right in his saying that he has run the government and knows about those tricks.

“But let me remind him that the era of manipulations and political manoeuvring is over. I and my friends want the people to get rid of this type of politics. People know everything. My colleagues and friends in the Congress are not politically naive that anybody could take them for a ride,” the PDP leader said.

Some leaders who represented people in J&K House had come together to resolve the injustice committed to the people on August 5, 2019, he said.

“Why the efforts in this direction — for restoration of some of achievable rights — have send shivers down the spine of Congress leadership,” Bukhari said.

Azad was unable to find any fault with his memorandum to the Lieutenant Governor and was trying to malign his own colleagues who came forward to safeguard the people’s interests, Bukhari said.

The PDP leader said the people remembered the communal politics of 2008, causing death and destruction in J&K, and added, the people also remembered the self-centred and despicable laws, like the Roshni Act, that favoured their blue eyed acquaintances at the cost of state.

“Instead of finding faults in others, the Congress leadership, including Azad, should do self-analysis and soul-searching and see how the party is responsible for death, destruction and disintegration of J&K in the last 72 years,” Bukhari said.

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