IPL Central: ‘I loved watching the sixes’ – Michael Phelps gets a taste of cricket

Look who dropped in on Virat Kohli

Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri joined Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli at the IPL camp in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Similarities between Kohli and Chhetri don’t end at being captains of their respective Bengaluru teams. Kohli, the most popular cricket name in the country currently, leads India in all three formats and Chhetri, who led the India football team until recently, is the most-capped player and the all-time top goalscorer for India. But the similarities end there. While Bengaluru FC, who won their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) title recently, have won six domestic titles in as many seasons, RCB are yet to win a title and finished poorly in the last two seasons, ending 2018 at sixth place and 2017 at the bottom. Bengaluru fans will desperately hope Chhetri passed on some title-winning tips to Kohli.

Shivam Dube happy to take up finisher’s role

Shivam Dube, who was bought for INR 5 crore (USD 694,000) by Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL auction last December, is looking forward to playing the finisher’s role for his team.

A left-hand batsman, Dube came into the limelight after he hit five successive sixes off Pravin Tambe in a Mumbai T20 League fixture in March last year – a feat he repeated against left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh during Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy 2018-19 match against Baroda.

“Ashish [Nehra] bhai and Gary [Kirsten] sir told me I am going to bat at No. 6 or 7,” Dube said on Wednesday. “So they are thinking of me as a finisher. They said they can analyse that during practice. So I am prepared for that.”

Before the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Dube suffered a lower back injury that kept him out for most of the competition. Dube then spent almost two months at the NCA in Bengaluru, working on his fitness and sharpening his skills.

“I was working a lot on my batting and bowling also [at the NCA]. I was not doing just rehab. Rehab was one part and my practice sessions were another part. I was practising to be at the same level as of IPL players,” he said.

Sam Billings and Harbhajan Singh warm up ahead of a Chennai Super Kings training session PTICSK have no time for yo-yo tests

The yo-yo test might be mandatory to be part of the Indian team, but Chennai Super Kings have no time for the fitness yardstick. CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said yo-yo tests have “never been” part of their planning because there are loads of other “priorities” to focus on.

“We have enough work to get the guys up to speed in terms of how we want them to play,” Fleming said in Chennai on Tuesday. “We can only speak from CSK’s perspective. There is an expectation that fitness will be met. We don’t spend time policing them because we have other things that we have prioritised.”

One of CSK’s senior batsman, Ambati Rayudu, failed the yo-yo test last summer and so was dropped from India’s limited-overs tour of the UK. Fleming said he understood that the fitness requirements when playing for the country are different to those while playing for a franchise.

“We try and empower the players to make sure that they are in the best shape possible both mentally and physically. That is part of the advantages that we [have] playing for only two months [a year], whereas the national team has concerns for 12 months. So, yup, I expect the guys to do their work so that when they play for India they arrive in peak condition. I don’t want it to be labelled that they were underperforming with their fitness when they were with CSK, but our players are very professional with that.”

ALSO READ: How yo-yo test became selection standard for India

Narine is ‘ready to go’

Sunil Narine has linked up with his Kolkata Knight Riders team-mates after missing the PSL with a finger injury, and Carl Crowe, the team’s spin-bowling coach, expects the spinner to be at his best when Knight Riders play their first game, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on March 24 at home.

“He’s looking in good shape and ready to go. His performance levels have maintained a high quality – obviously his batting is part of his game as well – but when you modify your action, to have been able to maintain the standards of performance he has done, credit to him,” Crowe said.

Narine has been one of the stalwarts for Knight Riders over the years, a mystery spinner who has continued to befuddle batsmen, apart from now also being an opening slugger scoring crucial runs.

“With analysis, everyone’s videoing everything you bowl, the batsmen are watching, so we’re very aware of that. You might have seen last year, his action changed slightly in terms of hiding the ball, and we’re still working with him in terms of staying ahead of the batsman,” Crowe said.

“As long as you’re spinning the ball both ways, you’re creating doubts in the batsman’s perspective. The batsmen then have to be reactive rather than proactive. And you have to have some of that individuality in your bowling, whether it’s wristspin or fingerspin, I think that’s the key to T20 cricket.”

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal share a light moment on the field BCCIKuldeep’s method? Not for Chahal

March 19

Kuldeep Yadav recently told ESPNcricinfo that he doesn’t bowl much in the nets during the IPL because he doesn’t want to “give away too many clues” to batsmen who will be in the opposition when the IPL ends. But his spin twin Yuzvendra Chahal prefers to do the opposite because bowling to big hitters gives him an insight into the batsmen as well.

“I think mine is a bit opposite. There are videos for everyone to see. If you want to check upon my variations, it is even there in the YouTube,” Chahal said in Bengaluru. “When I bowl to big hitters, then I will get a fair idea as to where I should not bowl to such batsmen. I will learn where I should bowl to them.”

ALSO READ: ‘Can’t become a better bowler, if you fear getting hit’ – The Kuldeep Yadav interview

Chahal also expected the new, high-scoring pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium would toughen him.

“It’s going to be like the 2014-15 wicket, you might see totals of 190 to 200-plus every match,” Chahal said. “It’s going to be a good challenge, how you will mentally prepare yourself, how you come back in the next match when someone hits you for 40 runs in four overs.”

Chahal also felt that RCB were a stronger side than in 2018. “In the last season, we struggled in the middle overs, but you can see here that there are around four to five middle-order batsmen like [Shimron] Hetmyer, Gurkeerat [Singh] and all. So, we can say that we are a stronger side compared to last year.”

Five SA players likely for IPL’s opening weekend

Three South African players – Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, and Lungi Ngidi – are expected to be available for selection when Chennai Super Kings take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in the season opener on Saturday even though their team is currently playing Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series. Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada should be available for Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals respectively on Sunday.

Four of those five players were named in the starting XI for the first T20I in Cape Town; Ngidi was missing with a side strain which, Mike Haysman on commentary, said wasn’t too serious. A press release from CSA on Sunday said all five players were “rested” from the second and third T20Is. David Miller, the only other player in the squad who plays in the IPL, will play the entire series which ends on Sunday. His team, Kings XI Punjab, play their first match on Monday.

March 18

Remember what happened exactly a year ago? Dinesh Karthik walked in with India needing 34 runs in two overs. And walked out with India having won the trophy. Listen to Karthik, reliving that day.

With IPL 2019 around the corner, all eight teams are busy with extensive preparations. There are another eight teams – the marketing gurus in each franchise – who are burning the midnight oil too, driving engagement and innovative campaigns for their respective sides. The Chennai Super Kings’ social media team smartly drummed up support with appealing videos on the fandom around MS Dhoni.

Now, it’s the turn of Royal Challengers Bangalore, using their the megastar vehicle of AB de Villiers, to drive promotions.

Will never get used to my pic on a bus #AlwaysWithABD Please support my app, take selfies & help grow my charity #fun pic.twitter.com/miavCBkpHK

— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) March 18, 2019

Please download my selfie app ABDCAM and support my charity, it’s fun sharing cool cricketing selfies https://t.co/ysepzMcoQq pic.twitter.com/njnpyYKhNK

— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) March 18, 2019’Dhoni, Dhoni’ – Chennai can’t get enough of their hero

A stadium packed to capacity, heaving, chanting the name of their hero. MS Dhoni has experienced such fandom for more than a decade in Chennai, where he is treated like a god, the man who has led Chennai Super Kings to three IPL titles.

To experience the joy he brings to his worshippers, watch this video put out by the Super Kings of Dhoni walking out to the middle at Chepauk to what seems like a full house chanting “Dhoni, Dhoni”. You should know that Dhoni was just taking part in the team’s first full-fledged practice session in Chennai on Sunday. Imagine what will happen when it’s the first home match of the season.

Whistle parakkum paaru! #ThalaParaak #WhistlePodu #Yellove pic.twitter.com/6EeMkYT0QY

— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 17, 2019

Goosebumps? And here’s Dhoni having a spot of fun with his fans.

Catch Me If You Fan #AnbuDen Version! #SuperPricelessThala @msdhoni and the smiling assassin @Lbalaji55! #WhistlePodu pic.twitter.com/xvqaRKp9kB

— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 17, 2019Kuldeep is not scared of getting hit – Chawla

Kuldeep Yadav has emerged as India’s first-choice spinner in white-ball formats, and is going to be a key part of India’s World Cup 2019 plans. Before that though, he’ll be in action for KKR in the IPL. Kuldeep has played a lot of his cricket alongside Piyush Chawla, both in Uttar Pradesh early on and then with KKR, and the legspinner praised the left-arm wristspinner’s ‘big heart’ and skills.

“He is someone ‘jiska jigar bahut bada hai’ [he has a big heart]. He is not scared of getting hit, which is the most important thing for any spinner – not just wristspinners,” Chawla said. “If you get belters (during the World Cup), the responsibility on the wristspinner is more.

“Kuldeep has himself said he is not a ‘mystery’ spinner. According to me a ‘mystery’ spinner is just a myth. He is a very skilful bowler, and as the day progresses you just need to make that skill even more powerful, and he’s working on that.”

Chawla echoed Virat Kohli’s words on managing workloads during the IPL keeping the World Cup in mind, saying it was up to individual players. “We all know IPL is also quite a big event. It’s one of the biggest leagues happening in the world right now,” he said. “Workload – we are all professional cricketers. There is workload on everyone, and somehow you have to manage things on your own because you know your body and how it will react to the workload. Everyone is different. They know when to play and when to take a break.”

Shreyas Iyer eyes IPL route to World Cup squad

Delhi Capitals captain Shreyas Iyer is looking to use the IPL to push himself into reckoning for a place in the World Cup side. The 24-year-old Mumbai batsman played six ODIs and six T20Is between November 2017 and February 2018, before losing his place in the India team.

“I have been doing really well in all the formats. And if I perform in the IPL, then they will have to think twice about me,” Iyer told the Times of India. “Recently Gagan Khoda (one of the national selectors) came up to me and said I have been playing very well lately. He asked me to maintain consistency and I’ll definitely get my chance.”

Iyer comes into the IPL in good form. In the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he was the second-highest scorer with 484 runs in ten innings at an average of 60.50 and a strike rate of 152.50.

March 17

Smith, Warner available from first IPL game

Steven Smith and David Warner will be available for selection for their franchises – Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively – from their first IPL games. Although their ball-tampering bans will end on March 28, that is for international cricket. The duo had been banned from IPL 2018, and ESPNcricinfo understands that the IPL ban was only for that season.

Warner and Smith recently reintegrated with their teammates during a short stopover in Dubai.

The picture you all have been waiting to see for so long! @stevesmith49 is back
On a scale of 1 – #HallaBol, how excited are we Royals? pic.twitter.com/B7LtNcjI3x

— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) March 17, 2019

View this post on Instagram

Great to be back here in Hyderabad with @sunrisershyd I can’t thank the franchise and fans enough for your loyal support over the last 12months. Time to get back into it. #orangearmy #sideprofile

A post shared by David Warner (@davidwarner31) on Mar 17, 2019 at 4:17am PDT

KKR add KC Cariappa as an injury replacement

After earlier naming Sandeep Warrier in their ranks, Kolkata Knight Riders have added KC Cariappa to fill the gaps left by the injuries to the pace-bowling duo of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi.

Warrier, who was with Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier, had gone unsold in the auction despite a low base price of INR 20 lakh. He has had an excellent season, though, with 44 wickets in 10 first-class matches for Kerala and then eight wickets in six games, including a hat-trick against Andhra, in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Cariappa, the 24-year-old wristspinner with a bagful of variations, had been a part of the Kolkata set-up in 2015 before being picked up by Kings XI Punjab in 2016.

Kolkata bowling coach Omkar Salvi felt Cariappa had “evolved into a much better bowler, which is why he’s here”. On Warrier, he said, “Our talent scouts have been watching players throughout and they recommended his name too. We are lucky to have lots of unique and versatile bowlers, there’s a lot of variety in our attack.”

Space for ‘pupporters’ at Bangalore’s home matches

You might spot a few special ‘pupporters’ at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru during the IPL this year.

In a bid to make their home matches pet-friendly, to an extent, Royal Challengers Bangalore have created an exclusive lounge at their home base, which will be open to dogs and cats and their humans. There are no tickets for the lounge; instead, for each match, 30 winners of a contest on the franchise’s app will be invited along with their pets.

“We have created a zone exclusive for pet-parents to experience a match with their pets. Treats for pets will be available in the customised space. We will also have well-trained people to care for them,” an RCB official told the Times of India.

Fans will have access to the stand through a gate normally closed to spectators, and facilities have been put in place with help from the Karnataka State Cricket Association.

March 16

Rishabh Pant gestures at the camera BCCIPonting backs Pant to come good

Rishabh Pant may not have had a great time behind the stumps in the last couple of ODIs against Australia but he has the backing of Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting ahead of the IPL.

“I think it’s actually a big job for me and the coaches when he [Pant] comes in, to make him forget what’s happened in the last few days,” Pointing told the Times of India. “He’s probably lucky it happened in the last couple of games. It would have been hard to play all five games under that kind of pressure. Now he’s back in a competition where he has dominated in the past. If he can win a couple of games for us then everything will be forgotten. I can’t see anyone better than him as a second wicketkeeper in that Indian World Cup squad.”

Ponting also said that having Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the batting order would allow them to play a majority of foreign bowlers.

“You have to make sure you get the guys you know a lot about, then slot them into certain roles,” Ponting said. “This year we’ve got Shikhar Dhawan. We needed that really good Indian top-order batsman who averages about 450 runs a season for four-five years. That allows us to play a majority of foreign bowlers. The biggest challenge is to set down a culture: how you will train and prepare. It’s hard to do that when most of the overseas players arrive late because of international commitments.”

Varun Chakravarthy joins Kings XI Punjab camp after regaining fitness

After being ruled out of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Tamil Nadu mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy is fit again and has joined the Kings XI Punjab camp.

Varun had injured his shoulder while playing for his club Vijay CC in a first division game. He was subsequently ruled out of Tamil Nadu’s squad for the group stage of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and was in with a chance to return for the Super League stage but Tamil Nadu failed to qualify because of their net run rate.

A spinner with seven different variations, Varun was bought by Kings XI for INR 8.4 crore (USD 1.17 million approx) at the auction.

Fans start queueing up in Chennai

At the other end of the country, ticket sales have opened in Chennai for this year’s tournament opener between defending champions Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore on March 23. Super Kings had finished the league stage second last season before beating Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first qualifier as well as the final.

With a week left for the opening match, fans have started queuing up already and how.

This is our #Yellove, and this #Yellove knows no bounds! Main picture on 23rd March! #KannaKonjamEttiPaar #SuperFans #WhistlePodu pic.twitter.com/BuoyGdsWdc

— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) March 16, 2019Fit again, Hardik joins Mumbai Indians

India allrounder Hardik Pandya has regained full fitness and has joined Mumbai Indians’ preparatory camp which started on Tuesday. Hardik had been rested by the Indian team management for the entire limited overs series against Australia due to “lower back stiffness.” During the time away from the national team, Pandya was at the NCA in Bengaluru for rehabilitation. On Thursday, Hardik even tweeted a video of him batting at the nets, asking fans who he was trying to imitate.

Guess my inspiration behind this shot?pic.twitter.com/9mwQ6uNg3g

— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) March 14, 2019KKR get Warrier; Nagarkoti, Mavi ruled out

Tearaway quick Kamlesh Nagarkoti has been ruled out of the IPL for a second time running, as he’s yet to recover from a back injury. The franchise has signed Kerala fast bowler Sandeep Warrier as his replacement.

ALSO READ: Sandeep Warrier’s journey from Mumbai to the Kerala Ranji team

Nagarkoti, one of India’s key players during the Under-19 World Cup triumph last year, was signed for INR 3.2 crores. He’s currently at the NCA, and will need another “two-three months” to fully recover. In his absence, KKR had signed Karnataka seamer Prasidh Krishna last year. He has now been inducted as a permanent member.

Shivam Mavi chases after a ball BCCI

Their injury concerns don’t end there. Shivam Mavi, also part of the Under-19 World Cup winning team last year, has been ruled out of the ongoing season with a stress fracture in his back. Mavi, who plays for Uttar Pradesh in the domestic circuit, is likely to be out of action for at least six months.

Meanwhile, this will be Warrier’s second IPL stint, after being part of Royal Challengers Bangalore for three seasons (2013-15), but couldn’t get a game. Warrier, who had set his base price of INR 20 lakhs, went unsold. He played a key role in Kerala’s first-class season, picking 44 wickets in 10 matches.

His eight-for in the quarterfinal against Gujarat took Kerala to the semi-final for the first time in the tournament history. He carried his form to the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he picked eight wickets in six matches, including a hat-trick in the game against Andhra in the group stage.

Ganguly roped in by Delhi Capitals as advisor

There were whispers as early as March 2018 that Sourav Ganguly was advising Parth Jindal, the new franchise head, on matters regarding Delhi Capital (formerly Delhi Daredevils). On Thursday, it was announced that Ganguly has been signed as an advisor, although the exact nature of his role is yet unclear. Ganguly was part of KKR’s leadership for three seasons, and finished his IPL career with Pune Warriors in 2013.