Royal Challengers make the cut, and cricket returns to Pakistan

Royal Challengers make the cut, and cricket returns to Pakistan

The Indian Premier League 2020 has reached its much anticipated final phase. The major surprise is the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s entry in the final four alongside Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians, and Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The tournament was live till the last few matches of the league phase, with several teams vying for playoff spots. While much of the talk has been about the Chennai Super Kings missing out on the final four for the first time in the tournament’s history, the rise of the Royal Challengers, who languished close to the bottom of the table in recent tournaments, has caught experts and pundits by surprise.

The Bangalore Royal Revival

Under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers Bangalore powered through to the playoffs of the Twenty20 IPL. One of the significant changes they made was a revamp to their coaching staff, bringing in Australian Simon Katich to lead the team.

Mike Hesson, the veteran New Zealand coach, was brought in as Director of Cricket Operations. He played a key role in convincing the team to use AB de Villiers as a wicketkeeper, freeing up a spot to bring in an additional batsman. This paid rich dividends in the form of Devdutt Padikkal, the left-hand opening batsman who scored consistently, setting up a base from which the power hitters in the team could tee off with freedom.

To boost the Royal Challengers’ prospects was the performance of Chris Morris, who bowled with renewed vigour, hitting top speed and keeping opposition batsmen honest. The continued excellence and economy of leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal found backing in Navdeep Saini and Mohammad Siraj, giving the attack a balanced look.

Shane Watson calls time on glittering career

The Australian all-rounder, Shane Watson, announced that he was hanging up his boots following the Chennai Super Kings’s unsuccessful 2020 campaign. Watson, who has been an integral part of the Super Kings in past years, ends with a legacy that will be difficult to match.

Watson has been one of Australia’s most successful cricketers in the IPL, having earned close to $15 million from the tournament alone over the years.

Watson’s decision to call it quits leaves him in an elite space, having won two titles, first with the Rajasthan Royals in 2008 and then again 10 years later with the Chennai Super Kings. Overall, Watson featured in 145 matches across three teams in the IPL, where he scored 3874 runs at a strike-rate of 137.91. He hit four centuries and also claimed a hat-trick amongst his 92 IPL wickets. Now 39 and among the League’s oldest players, Watson also had the honour of captaining two teams — Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In his final season, Watson scored 299 runs from 11 matches.

Luke Ronchi appointed New Zealand batting coach

The former wicketkeeper-batsman, Luke Ronchi, has replaced Peter Fulton as batting coach of the New Zealand team.

Ronchi, who played 4 Tests, 85 ODIs, and 33 T20Is, joins head coach Gary Stead and bowling coach Shane Jurgensen in New Zealand set up.

Ronci, it is worth noting, played international cricket for both Australia and New Zealand and has vast experience as a domestic cricketer. Ronchi retired from international cricket in 2017 but has had active coaching roles both with Wellington in New Zealand and Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League.

Big Bash League to get under way as schedule is announced

Australia’s premier Twenty20 franchise-based tournament, the Big Bash League, has got the green light to go ahead. The Covid-19 global pandemic had left the tournament in a state of limbo. Still, it was announced that it would go ahead, initially in bio-secure bubbles in Tasmania’s Hobart and Queensland’s Brisbane. Later in the tournament, matches will also be held in Adelaide, South Australia.

Cricket Australia said that the 21 matches to be played in December came about after the League’s most complex fixturing task. The governing body for cricket in Australia is working with state governments to take the tournament to more geographies. It was expected that a further announcement on the remaining fixtures would be made in due course.

Hobart Hurricanes, Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades, Sydney Sixers, and Adelaide Strikers will all play their first games at Bellerive Oval in the hub at Hobart. At the same time, Sydney Thunder, Brisbane Heat, and Melbourne Stars will do so at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.

It has been particularly tricky to schedule these matches as they will clash with India’s Australia tour at the end of the year. Nine matches of the BBL would have been concluded when India play their first fixture, and after a break, the BBL will resume.

Shakib wary of return from ban

Shakib al Hasan, the Bangladesh allrounder, one of the best players his country has produced, is set to return to top-flight competition after serving a one-year ban from all cricket forms for failing to report a corrupt approach. Shakib, who was found to be in breach of the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Code of Conduct, will be back to active cricket in November. His ban ended on October 29, 2020.

Shakib revealed that the period in which he was speaking with authorities was the most difficult phase of his career as a cricketer. “It was really challenging to perform in the World Cup as they (ACSU) were regularly talking with me, and it was an uncomfortable situation,” Shakib said on his YouTube channel. “Certainly, it was not a nice feeling to go to bed with. I was assuming that something might happen, and there were times when I felt nothing might happen because I was not sure what kind of result was waiting for me. That was not an easy part when I was going through the investigation.”

The Bangladesh Cricket Board announced on October 4 that Shakib would take part in a fitness test on November 9 to make himself eligible for the forthcoming Bangabandhu T20.

Shakib has played 56 Tests, 206 One-Day Internationals, and 76 Twenty20 Internationals for Bangladesh in a stellar career where he has performed with bat and ball, making him one of the leading allrounders in the world. Shakib has scored more than 12000 international runs and taken more than 550 international wickets, apart from leading his national team. Shakib has also been a successful Twenty20 franchise cricketer, playing in leagues all around the world.

Pakistan dominate Zimbabwe in home series

Pakistan, who were so keen to resume cricket at home, have dominated Zimbabwe in the three-match One-Day International series that has just concluded. Pakistan won the first and second matches while the third ended in a tie.

Haris Sohail was the star in the first match, scoring 71 as Pakistan racked up 281 for 8 in their 50 overs. In response, Zimbabwe could only muster 255, and despite Brendan Taylor scoring a brilliant 112, succumbed to a 26-run loss.

In the second match, Sean Willians made 75 as Zimbabwe set up a target of 207. Iftikhar Ahmed took 5 for 40 to keep the Zimbabwe batsman down to a simple target. Babar Azam, fast making a name as one of the best batsmen in the world game, steered the chase with an unbeaten 77 as Pakistan won comfortably by six wickets.

In the final match, Sean Williams again went to the fore as he made 118, backed up by Brendan Taylor, who scored a crisp half-century. Zimbabwe put 278 on the board from their 50 overs, and this was evenly matched by Pakistan, who were bolstered by Babar Azam’s glittering 125. In the Super Over that followed, Pakistan lost wickets, putting only two on the board, setting up a simple target for Zimbabwe, who finished the game via Sikandar Raza.

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