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Australia Can Challenge India Sans Steve Smith And David Warner, Says Virender Sehwag

In the last few years, due to the lack of bilateral cricket between India and Pakistan, the India-Australia rivalry has grown leaps and bounds. The 2017 Test series between the two nations was contested aggressively and was in news for many reasons beyond cricket. However, since that eventful series in India, the dynamics of Australian cricket have changed. Virat Kohli is ready to lead his troops for a full series Down Under and it is believed that in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, this is India’s best chance to win a Test series in Australia. However, former India opener Virender Sehwag is of the view that the hosts are capable of giving a hard time to the visitors even without Smith and Warner. “Doesn’t matter if they (Australia) don’t have good players like Steve Smith and David Warner. They are playing in their own backyard,” Sehwag told NDTV in an exclusive conversation. 

“These players who are coming and playing in Test cricket have already played first-class cricket there. They’ve scored a number of runs. They don’t have much experience if you talk about international matches but they will give a good fight to the Indian team.”

He also went on to add that Kohli’s Team India has the capability to win a Test series anywhere in the world.

“I’ve been saying this for last one year that they can win Test series in Australia, England and South Africa. They have to play really well. If they match first innings total with Australia and England, they have a chance to beat them.”

On the other hand, former India pacer Zaheer Khan believes that India will dominate Australia in the upcoming series.

“Absolutely! If you look at the bowling line up, India have got enough in their arsenal to cause a threat to Australia for sure. Obviously, when you’re visiting Australia, there are different challenges, which as a team you have to come together, understand and prepare for the series. You need 20 wickets for sure but the platform needs to e set by the batsmen,” Zaheer told NDTV. 

Finding the right kind of combinations in the batting line-up early in the series will be a huge task for Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli if they want to exert pressure on Australia. 

Sehwag thinks that Prithvi Shaw should definitely open the innings for India

“He (Shaw) is going to play in Australia as an opener because in last two Test matches we’ve seen the way he played. He is a key batsman for me because in Australia you need someone who can play some attacking cricket. If KL Rahul gives him company and they both come good then Australia will have a bad time,” Sehwag said.

Former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum predicted that Virat Kohli will dominate with the bat and will be the highest run-scorer of the four-match Test series. 

“There will be a lot of runs and it would not surprise me if Virat Kohli continues to go from strength to strength and dominate that series as well,” McCullum said.

Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Brendon McCullum will be seen in action in the upcoming T10 league that will be played from November 21 to December 2 in the United Arab Emirates. 

(With inputs from Rica Roy)

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Hardik Pandya Bowls For The First Time After 60 Days On His Road To Recovery

Watch: Hardik Pandya Bowls First Time After 60 Days On His Road To Recovery

Hardik Pandya returned to bowling practice for the first time after two months. © Instagram

India all-rounder Hardik Pandya returned to bowling practice for the first time on Monday after sustaining an injury during the Asia Cup 2018. The 25-year-old Hardik Pandya had suffered an acute lower back injury during the tournament after failing to get his footing right in the match against Pakistan. Hardik Pandya posted a video on Twitter on Monday of his bowling session at nets and said that he is focused and determined. Pandya, who is not a part of the national team squad for the series Down Under also said, “Feels good to be bowling after 60 days, on my road to recovery.”

On Sunday, India’s head coach Ravi Shastri said Pandya will be missed during the tough Australian tour starting Wednesday as he provides proper balance to the side.

“I think one player who we will certainly miss in the squad is Hardik Pandya who is sidelined due to an injury. Pandya lends balance to the side because of his ability to operate as a bowler as well as a batsman which allows us to play an extra bowler,” Shastri told reporters in Brisbane.

Shastri also added that India would be “taking no prisoners” in their approach to the series. “We want to go out and put our best foot forward and focus on our game rather than what’s happening outside,” he added.

India play their first T20I of the three-match series against Australia on November 21. The T20I series will be followed by a four-match Test and three ODIs.

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Ajaz Patel Spins New Zealand To Thrilling 4-Run Win Over Pakistan

Azhar Ali fought a lone battle for Pakistan with 65 and was the last man out when he was trapped leg-before wicket by Patel. He reviewed Bruce Oxenford’s decision but the television replays upheld the decision.

Resuming on 37 without loss, Pakistan began the day as favourites to chase down the 176 they needed for victory although New Zealand will have taken some hope from Pakistan’s failure at the same ground last year to chase 136 against Sri Lanka.

Kiwi spinners Patel and Ish Sodhi opened the bowling and immediately caused problems as Pakistan lost three wickets in the first six overs.

Imam-ul-Haq was trapped leg-before for 27 to a full length ball by left-arm spinner Patel in the fifth over. In the sixth, Sodhi had Mohammad Hafeez caught in the covers and then three balls later held on to a return catch low to his left as Haris Sohail drove a full toss back at him.

Pakistani nerves were eased by the sight of Azhar and Asad Shafiq carefully rebuilding the innings with a fourth wicket partnership of 82.

Shafiq made a cultured 45, becoming the 11th Pakistani to reach 4,000 runs in Test cricket, but his dismissal in the last over before lunch, edging Neil Wagner to wicketkeeper BJ Watling, changed the game as Pakistan lost their final seven wickets for just 41.

After lunch, Babar Azam ran himself out for 13, the guilty party in a mix-up with Azhar and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed fell for a second time sweeping Patel, this time gloving the ball to Watling.

Bilal Asif tried to slog a straight ball from Patel and was bowled leaving Pakistan 154 for seven, still 22 runs short of victory.

The earlier measure at the crease had been replaced by chaos. In the next over Wagner had Yasir Shah caught in the slips and then Hasan Ali attempted a slog-sweep off Patel, picking out substitute fielder Tim Southee on the midwicket boundary.

Azhar then tried to inch Pakistan across the line, farming the strike from Mohammad Abbas.

But with five runs still needed to win Patel found the delivery to win the match for New Zealand.

The second Test starts in Dubai from Saturday while the third and final, again in Abu Dhabi from December 3.

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Virat Kohli Comes Under Attack From Bishan Singh Bedi

Virat Kohli is the current undisputed king of Indian cricket. The Indian captain has reigned supreme with the bat in hand and has left his rivals chasing shadows with some monstrous performances in 2018. However, many have asked if Virat Kohli has too much power in and sway on the team and it’s decisions — former India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi certainly believes so. The former India spinner said that Kohli is “doing all he wants and we are letting it happen”. Bishan Singh Bedi also spoke about the fallout between Kohli and former India coach Anil Kumble.

“That is what I am saying, one person (Virat Kohli) is doing all he wants and we are letting it happen. What would Anil (Kumble) have said, he was gracious to leave it like that,” India Today quoted Bishan Singh Bedi as saying at Sahitya Aaj Tak.

Head coach Anil Kumble stepped down in June 2017 from his post after a year in charge of the Indian team following his much-publicised differences with Kohli.

Kumble, a former captain, had gone to the extent of calling his relationship with Kohli “untenable”. The legendary leg-spinner also revealed that Kohli had reservations about his “style” of functioning.

Kumble’s resignation came two days after India’s 180-run loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final.

Kohli and the Indian team did well under Kumble, winning the Test series in the West Indies (2-0) before winning at home against New Zealand (3-0), England (4-0), Bangladesh (1-0) and Australia (2-1). They also won eight ODIs and lost five during the 46-year-old’s tenure.

After the exit of Kumble, India have had two major tours in South Africa and England. Despite some good performances in the limited overs formats, India were comprehensively beaten in the Test series against both the teams.

India now have another tough tour ahead of them in Australia where they will play three T20Is, three ODIs and four Tests.

“The Indian team is good, we all know that but the same team went to England and South Africa and those teams were also “weak”. Yes the bans have happened on two kids (Steve Smith and David Warner) but a team is not made of two individuals. In fact, our team is made of one person, everything is about Kohli. The amount of focus there is, you don’t realise how much pressure you are putting on that kid (Kohli), both as a batsman and a captain,” added Bedi.

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