IPL 2015: team guide to the Twenty20 tournament

Chennai Super Kings

Captain MS Dhoni Coach Stephen Fleming Key Player Brendon McCullum

Last year 3rd (lost play-off for place in final)

Chennai have re-signed Michael Hussey, who spent six seasons there before moving to Mumbai for a season. Many eyes will be on McCullum, whose rampaging batsmanship was such a highlight of the World Cup, but Chennai can also rely on proven performers like Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo.

Five of their eight captures at the auction in February were young local players. Among them, Irfan Pathan, who has fallen off the Indian team’s radar, invited the highest bid of 20 million rupees. Ankush Bains, a 20-year-old who played for India at the Under-19 World Cup last year, could be groomed as Dhoni’s understudy, while South Africa’s Kyle Abbott was a steal at three million rupees. The two-times champions have reached the knockouts in each of the seven seasons, and there’s little to suggest that streak will end this year.


Royal Challengers Bangalore

Captain Virat Kohli Coach Daniel Vettori Key Player AB de Villiers

Last year 7th

The Bangalore side is a fantasy team owner’s dream, and a bowler’s nightmare. Chris Gayle, Kohli and De Villiers can dismantle any attack in the world. Add to that the finesse that Dinesh Karthik – the second-costliest buy at the auction at 105 million rupees – brings, and you have a power-packed batting unit. Yet, in recent seasons, RCB have fallen short due to inconsistent bowling that relies heavily on foreign stars. With Mitchell Starc and Adam Milne, a new recruit, unavailable for at least the first fortnight, the onus is on Ashok Dinda and Varun Aaron to man the pace attack. Australia’s Sean Abbott could be in the fray, while Darren Sammy’s medium pace and lower-order muscle could give the team a much-needed lift as they seek a maiden IPL title.


Mumbai Indians

Captain Rohit Sharma Coach Ricky Ponting Key Player Corey Anderson

Last year 4th (lost in eliminator to make final qualifier))

One of only two sides to have achieved the IPL-and-Champions League Twenty20 double, Mumbai Indians are brimful of experience. Sharma has taken over the leadership mantle, while Kieron Pollard and Harbhajan Singh, who had to watch the World Cup from afar, have much to prove. As does Lasith Malinga, returning to full throttle following ankle surgery. Aaron Finch, a World Cup winner with Australia, and the Karnataka duo of Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, who won a domestic treble, lend the side balance and experience. Unmukt Chand, the Under-19 World Cup-winning captain in 2012, faces a season of reckoning after his transfer from Rajasthan Royals. If they can get their balance right, Mumbai will be part of the play-off picture.


Kolkata Knight Riders

Captain Gautam Gambhir Coach Trevor Bayliss Key Player Sunil Narine

Last year Champions

Narine being cleared to bowl after last-minute tests to determine the legitimacy of his action comes as much-needed relief for the reigning champions. Narine aside, much of their success has been built on dynamic batting at the top from Robin Uthappa and Gambhir. Kolkata are also the only side with a Pakistani in the ranks. Azhar Mahmood, now a British citizen, was signed, along with Johan Botha, in place of Chris Lynn and the injured Jimmy Neesham. Yet, the acquisition that turned heads was that of KC Cariappa, an unknown mystery spinner from Bangalore’s club cricket scene. He was bought for an astounding sum of 24 million rupees, more than what was spent on superstars like Kevin Pietersen. After being subject to ridicule in the first four seasons, Kolkata have been champions in two of the past three seasons.


Delhi Daredevils

Captain JP Duminy Coach Gary Kirsten Key Player Yuvraj Singh

Last year 8th

In a bid to start afresh after seven luckless seasons, Delhi Daredevils have appointed JP Duminy as captain. But the talking point has been Yuvraj. He may or may not play for India again, but his popularity hasn’t dimmed, and his signing for 160 million rupees – the most expensive buy at the auction – brings with it massive hype and expectation. Zaheer Khan is another veteran with the chance to script a season in the sun.

Delhi signed 14 players, the most by any franchise. Among the biggest surprises was Angelo Mathews, bought for five times his base price at 75 million rupees. Australia’s Gurinder Sandhu too is an interesting gamble at 17 million rupees. On paper, they have a team to win the competition, but the real challenge now lies in sustaining momentum over the six weeks.


Kings XI Punjab

Captain George Bailey Coach Sanjay Bangar Key Player Glenn Maxwell

Last year Runners-up

One of the more settled sides, Kings XI Punjab have often struggled to keep pace with teams from the bigger cities. The decision to go for an overhaul last year paid handsome dividends as they finished runners-up after topping the table.

The combination of Bailey as captain and Bangar as coach – two men well aware of life on the fringes – has thrown young Indian players into the deep end and seen them thrive. Axar Patel was a prime example last season. A settled core, including high-impact foreign players, meant the management could snooze through the auction, though they did reinforce the top order by signing Murali Vijay, who had an excellent Test tour of Australia.

Experience goes hand-in-hand with entertainment, as they have in their ranks Virender Sehwag, Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson, each capable of singlehandedly transforming matches.


Sunrisers Hyderabad

Captain David Warner Coach Tom Moody Key Player Shikhar Dhawan

Last year 6th

They have a new captain in Warner, Dale Steyn, a settled Indian brigade in Dhawan, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, not to mention heightened expectations from KL Rahul. Sunrisers, however, have often been hampered by the inability of uncapped Indian players to step up at crucial junctures. In that sense, Praveen Kumar, a former international, lends valuable experience.

Kevin Pietersen’s late withdrawal is a blow, but Hyderabad will benefit from the calming influence of New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, a steal at six million rupees. They can also call on the pace and aggression of his fellow Kiwi Trent Boult, joint-highest wicket-taker at the World Cup.

Sunrisers have often been unable to put enough runs on the board. If the top order can remedy that, they could reprise their 2013 performance and make the playoffs.


Rajasthan Royals

Captain Shane Watson Coach Paddy Upton Key player Steve Smith

Last year 5th

A popular team without superstars, the Royals are almost always underdogs who have turned in eye-catching performances season after season without ever emulating the run to the title under Shane Warne in 2008.

The emergence of Sanju Samson and Pravin Tambe in 2013 was evidence of the franchise’s vision of backing talent irrespective of age and experience. They can also boast of three World Cup winners – Watson, the captain, Smith, perhaps the best all-format batsman of late, and James Faulkner, man of the match in the final. Tim Southee, who didn’t get too many matches last year, could have a bigger role in Kane Richardson’s absence, while South Africa’s Chris Morris, previously with Chennai, lends all-round variety.

Their no-frills approach has yielded impressive returns, and their brand of cricket has made them the neutral’s favourites. They will once again start as underdogs, but they won’t be pushovers.

Full list of commentators for IPL 2015

Team India’s Director of Cricket, Ravi Shastri and former captain Sunil Gavaskar will team up again in the commentary box for the 8th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 8) starting tomorrow (April 8).

Shastri was not part of TV commentary for few months after taking charge as Indian team’s director in August 2014. However, IPL being a domestic tournament, he will be back behind the microphone.

This year, there are four women commentators who will be part of the 26-member team. Former India player Anjum Chopra, Isa Guha (England), Lisa Sthalekar (Australia) and Melanie Jones (Australia) are the four who will providing their insights into the Twenty20 game.

Sony Max and Sony Six will telecast all 60 matches Live. The final is on 24 May. Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders face Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

Here is the full list of commentators for IPL 2015

1. Aakash Chopra
2. Alan Wilkins
3. Anjum Chopra
4. Brendon Julian
5. Damien Fleming
6. Daniel Morrison
7. Damien Martyn
8. David Lloyd
9. HD Ackerman
10. Harsha Bhogle
11. Ian Bishop
12. Isa Guha
13. Kepler Wessels
14. Laxman Sivaramakrishnan
15. Lisa Sthalekar
16. Michael Haysman
17. Murali Kartik
18. Melanie Jones
19. Mpumelelo Mbangwa
20. Ramiz Raja
21. Ravi Shastri
22. Russel Arnold
23. Sanjay Manjrekar
24. Scott Styris
25. Simon Doull
26. Sunil Gavaskar


IPL 2015 begins with dazzling Bollywood-style opening ceremony after heavy rain

Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirit of ‘City of Joy’ as a dazzling Bollywood-style opening ceremony kick started the eighth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL 8) cricket after a one and a half hour delay at the decked-up Salt Lake stadium here today.

The event was a little subdued compared to the galas of the previous editions but the cine stars still managed to put up a show, enthralling the thousands of drenched fans who were glued to their seats.

The cheer was loud for Virat Kohli, louder for MS Dhoni but loudest for their ‘very own’ Gautam Gambhir. While Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan stole the show with his electrifying dance performance, leading lady Anushka Sharma brought on a lot of panache with her performance.

The versatile Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapoor regaled the crowd, both performing to their respective numbers from movies such as Rock On and Kaminey. Shahid hit a ramp slightly and then slipped on the stage before recovering quickly.

Of those from the glam world, Hrithik was the most sought-after as he gyrated to his hit numbers from Bang Bang and Dhoom 2. The eight skippers led by India captain Dhoni signed the MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge to start IPL 8 formally in front of Ravi Shastri before they posed for a formal group photo.

Bollywood then took centrestage with Haider actor Shahid making an entry in a motorcycle to the tunes of local hero Bappi Lahiri.

“Rain or shine the celebration will continue that’s how we love our cricket. Now we have a new season apart from monsoon, summer, winter and spring and that’s the season of IPL,” the anchor of the show, Saif Ali Khan, said in his opening address.

The Omkara star called out the captains of the eight franchises as the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy and George Bailey walked onto the dais. But it was the trio of Dhoni, Kohli and Gambhir who received the biggest applause as firecrackers lit up the Kolkata sky.

The ceremony began after an one hour and 30 minutes delay with a traditional Rabindra Sangeet rendition of ‘Ananda Loke’

West Indies batsman Chris Gayle plays the ball to the boundary during their World Cup Cricket match against Zimbabwe in Canberra

ICC to consider new ODI rules to help bowlers

The highlight reels at the World Cup have been running hot with batsman smashing balls all over cricket stadiums in Australia and New Zealand.

Teams and individuals have been racking up record totals and the crowd have loved it, whooping and cheering every time another ball is dispatched into the stands.

With the benefits of bigger bats and smaller boundaries, the world’s best batsmen have been piling on the runs, hitting more than 450 sixes.

In the previous 10 World Cups, no batsmen had ever made a double century and only once had a team cracked the magical 400-run barrier.

But in 2015, two batsmen, Chris Gayle (215) and Martin Guptill (237 not out) have made double hundreds. And the 400-run barrier has been broken three times.

But for the bowlers, the World Cup has been hard toil. Only one bowler, New Zealand paceman Trent Boult, has taken over 20 wickets in the tournament. At the 2007 World Cup, by comparison, four bowlers took over 20 wickets.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Dave Richardson said the sudden expansion of Twenty20, cricket’s shortest and fastest-moving format, was clearly having a positive impact on other forms of the game.

“I think the change in rules has helped, and the influence of T20 has impacted both ODIs and the way they play test cricket, so the batsmen are far more attacking,” he said on Thursday.

“That’s led to the captains, probably out of desperation, having to be more attacking to take wickets to try and keep the scoring in check.”

But Richardson also admitted that the balance between bat and ball was shifting too much towards batsmen and the rules might have to be changed to give the bowlers more of a chance.

He suggested that one possible rule change could be to allow teams to have five fielders in the outfield in last 10 overs, when batsmen typically score faster.

Under the current rules, teams can only have a maximum of four fielders outside the circle.

“In the old days you had one area you couldn’t defend, now there’s two and if a good batsmen is set as a bowler you’ve got very little prize (for the bowlers),” Richardson said.

“One of the things we might look at is allowing an extra fielder out of the ring in the last 10 overs, remember we were worried about that middle period of the game that became boring where someone would score a run a ball 50 but no one remembering one shot.

“We’ll try and keep that and make sure we don’t get back to that but maybe in the last 10 overs when people are not going to stop slogging or trying to hit boundaries just because one extra fielder is out. That might be a sensible change.”

Australia's captain Michael Clarke reacts after wicket keeper Brad haddin missed a catch during his Cricket World Cup semi-final match against India in Sydney

Losing to New Zealand a kick up our backside: Clarke

Australia captain Michael Clarke praised the “exceptional” Steven Smith after his side beat defending champions India by 95 runs on Thursday to set a World Cup final with New Zealand.
Steven Smith’s 105 and his second-wicket stand of 182 with opener Aaron Finch (81) powered Australia to 328 for seven after Clarke won the toss.
India were only briefly in the hunt and were eventually dismissed for 233, despite a run-a-ball 65 from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who produced a match-winning fifty in the final against Sri Lanka four years ago.
“I feel really excited. Smithy was exceptional once again, and I was really proud of the execution of our bowlers,” said Clarke after a convincing win at the Sydney Cricket Ground where the impressive Mitchell Starc took two for 28 in 8.5 overs and James Faulkner three for 59 in nine.
Sunday’s final in Melbourne will give Australia the chance to avenge their one-wicket loss to New Zealand in a pool-phase thriller at Auckland’s Eden Park last month.
“Losing to New Zealand really gave us a kick up the backside,” said Clarke. “Mentally I think the guys are ready to walk into the final.
“New Zealand have been playing some great cricket, (captain) Brendon (McCullum) has done a great job.”
Smith added: “We thought 330 was around par, we knew we had to bowl and field well and the boys did a great job, so roll on Melbourne. It’s nice to contribute to a few wins.
“I hope I have more runs in the bank — a big hundred would be nice.”
India made a bold start to their chase, with the highest score ever made by a side batting second to win a one-dayer at the SCG the 334 for six made by Australia against England in 2011.
But once opener Shikhar Dhawan holed out for 45 off Josh Hazlewood, India struggled and even Dhoni’s brisk innings came too late to turn the tide.
“Overall Australia played very good cricket. Over 300 is a very big score to chase, but I thought it was just over par,” said Dhoni.
“Shikhar Dhawan was batting freely, he didn’t need to play the big shot. It was too many for me to chase.
“Our lower order really needs to work hard on their batting.”
The 33-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman hinted this may have been his last appearance at the World Cup by saying: “I’m not sure whether it will be my last World Cup.”
But with India having an enjoyed an unbeaten run to the semi-finals, Clarke said: “Huge congratulations to MS Dhoni and his team, I think they’ve competed really well in this World Cup.
“I’m pretty sure it won’t be his last World Cup, he’s got a lot of cricket left in him.”

Australia's batsman Smith acknowledges the crowd after scoring his century during his Cricket World Cup semi-final match against India in Sydney

Smith hundred makes it a trans-Tasman final

Australia put themselves in line for a fifth World Cup title with an emphatic 95-run semi-final victory over defending champions India in Sydney on Thursday.

Steve Smith hammered 105 off 93 balls and Aaron Finch returned to form with 81 as the hosts piled up 328 for seven after electing to bat on a good pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

India were bowled out for 233 in reply despite an opening stand of 76 between openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan and a typically defiant run-a-ball 65 from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

James Faulkner finished with three for 59, while left-arm fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc claimed two wickets each.

Australia will take on tournament co-hosts New Zealand in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

The four-time champions, who last won the title in 2007, have now won all seven World Cup semi-finals they have contested since the inaugural edition in 1975.

India will rue a missed opportunity after an impressive campaign earlier in the tournament when they won all seven matches, piling up 300 or more runs each time they batted first and bowled out their rivals in every game.

But they failed to dismiss Australia as in-form seamer Mohammad Shami went for 68 runs in 10 wicketless overs and Umesh Yadav conceded 72 runs in nine overs for his four wickets.

“I feel really excited. Smithy was exceptional once again, and I was really proud of the execution of our bowlers,” said Australia captain Michael Clarke.

Dhoni admitted the lower-order batting had let the side down.

“Overall Australia played very good cricket. Over 300 is a very big score to chase, but I thought it was just over par,” said Dhoni.

“Our lower order really needs to work hard on their batting.”

A sell-out crowd of some 42,000 at the SCG were treated to good cricket on a grassless, even-paced wicket that enabled batsmen to play shots freely.

Smith and Finch shared a second-wicket stand of 182 before India hit back with quick wickets as the hosts stumbled from 191 for one in the 35th over to 248 for five in the 43rd.

But Shane Watson (28), James Faulkner (21 off 12 balls) and Mitchell Johnson (27 not out off nine) helped Australia plunder 57 runs in the last five overs to ensure they went past the 300-run mark.

Teams batting second had won nine of the last 12 one-day internationals at the SCG and a 10th victory appeared on the cards after Dhawan and Sharma gave India a sound start.

Dhawan was repreived by Brad Haddin in the fourth over when the wicket-keeper dived to his left to hold the edge off Josh Hazlewood, but the ball spilled out of his glove.

Sharma celebrated his partner’s luck by hooking Johnson for a six and Dhawan welcomed Faulkner to the attack in the 10th over with two boundaries and a glorious six over mid-wicket.

The entertaining stand ended in the 13th over when Dhawan stepped out to loft Hazlewood and skied a catch to Glenn Maxwell fielding at deep cover.

Dhawan’s 45 off 41 balls contained six boundaries and a six.

India were hit by a second blow two overs later when star batsman Virat Kohli miscued a pull off a Johnson bouncer and was easily snapped up by Haddin for just one run.

The dismissal continued the Indian vice-captain’s lean run in the tournament where 46 against South Africa was his best effort after a match-winning century against Pakistan.

India were reduced to 108 for four in the 23rd over as Johnson bowled Sharma off the pads for 34 and Suresh Raina was caught behind by Haddin off Faulkner for seven.

Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane added 70 for the fifth wicket but the skipper saw his partner edging Starc for 44 before Ravindra Jadeja was run out for 16 by a direct throw from Smith.

India’s fate was sealed when Dhoni himself was run out in the 45th over as Maxwell broke the stumps with a smart throw from mid-wicket.


Melbourne-bound, this time with Elliott

When New Zealand made a trip to the MCG in October to get a feel for the venue as part of their World Cup preparation, there was a notable absentee from the group. Grant Elliott was not among the 20 who tried to absorb the ground in the hope they would return.

They have made it back, for their first World Cup final, in the most thrilling of ways, and Elliott was the man to carry them there with one of the finest closing innings in one-day history. “He did say when I saw him at the end, ‘does this mean I get to come to Melbourne?'” Brendon McCullum said. But despite not being part of the New Zealand squad until the World Cup 15 was named, McCullum insisted it was not a last-minute change of heart.

“I’m not sure he was a bolter, he’d always been in the frame,” he said. “In the Champions Trophy semi-final against Pakistan he was calm under pressure and stepped up on the big occasion. He has spent some time out but by no means was he out altogether. Domestic performances banged the door down. He grabbed the opportunity and reminded last night why he is never a guy to shut the door on.”

As New Zealand awoke on Wednesday – or at least those who had managed to sleep, which did not include coach Mike Hesson, awoke – that innings from Elliott, and the entire semi-final which will go down as one of the great World Cup matches, was the talk of the nation. Radio, TV and newspapers could not get enough. Adorning the front page of the New Zealand Herald was Elliott, arms aloft, under the headline “The final dream…the six that raised the roof.”

In coffee shops and on the streets, cricket was being talked about, people trying to make sense of everything that had happened. “Were you at the game?” was a common question. It will be one of those matches where the 40,000 present at Eden Park swells to many more in years to come.

Elliott, a self-confessed quiet man who does not like the spotlight, was taking it in his stride as players milled around their Auckland hotel awaiting departure to Melbourne. “Grant is pretty calm,” Hesson said.

Brendon McCullum said: “They came into the changing room for a beer, they were outstanding the way they played and took defeat in their stride as tremendous ambassadors. They showed graciousness in defeat. No one would dispute how good they’ve been and we had to play exceptionally well to beat them.”
A case of the calm after the storm following the heady closing exchanges when the match swung one way then the other. “We were in two separate areas, we didn’t want to move towards the end,” Hesson said. “Half of us were upstairs and half downstairs keeping in touch on a walkie-talkie. When it happened we just jumped up, hugged anyone in sight, yelled and ran downstairs as quick as we could.”

The presence of Elliott in the middle made Hesson and McCullum believe they were never out of the contest. “There were times we were behind the eight-ball,” Hesson said. “To be fair to Morne Morkel he bowled a great over in the 38th when he got Corey out and the rate went big again. That was probably a time when I thought we were in trouble, but never thought we were out of it.”

McCullum, watching on after his 26-ball 59 put New Zealand ahead of the rate, said: “I was pretty calm for most of it, then towards end with no more part to play I had immense faith but it was always an unknown. It took something special to get across the line and Grant was the man to do it.”

When Anderson departed, 46 were needed off five overs. Elliott then put AB de Villiers over deep midwicket, but still it came down to 23 off two and then 18 off eight balls before Elliott cracked Morkel through the covers and was dropped next ball in the deep. Both Elliott and Vettori were alert in running to the wicketkeeper before the final blow.

“Calmness under pressure in the middle, that’s where you need that experience and a guy who can pace a chase,” Hesson said. “He’s done everything and more than we could have asked. There were a few doubters early, but then he got that hundred in Dunedin and a few other pretty damn good innings. I think most people realised he’s a pretty good cricketer.”

After the immediate outpouring of emotion, from the players and the crowd, the team stayed behind at Eden Park, spending time with the South Africans before returning to their hotel and continuing to reflect on what they had achieved.

“We stood around and the guys gave their thoughts,” Hesson said. “Heartfelt emotion, what it meant for the guys to get to where we have done. We’ve got a chance to put on good show on Sunday, and we’ll prepare for that, but also realise we’ve achieved something pretty special.

“It’s a really special time for everyone involved. We are all cricket lovers, involved in the game for a very long time and have loved it since we were kids. There’s a huge amount of pride in being part of a team to make a World Cup final.”

And this time Elliott will be on the plane with them to Melbourne.

Captain McCullum of New Zealand walks off with his team after losing to England during the final cricket match of their one day international series at Eden Park

Vast MCG will hold no fear for New Zealand

Home advantage has helped carry New Zealand through the World Cup, amid frenzied atmospheres that peaked during the astonishing semi-final against South Africa. Now, though, the players have left the feeling of familiarity behind to play the biggest match of their lives. And the contrast in venues does not come much greater than Eden Park to the MCG.

Some of the shortest boundaries in the world will be replaced by some of the longest. Both grounds have hosted four matches in the World Cup: the Auckland sixes count is 56, Melbourne 19. However, to suggest that it is a game-changing difference is to do injustice to New Zealand’s batting. Martin Guptill’s 110-metre six that landed on the roof in Wellington would have comfortably made the MCG stands and Brendon McCullum will just see it as another challenge. Still, there will be a new test presented to the batsmen.

New Zealand visited the MCG in October to get a feel for the venue, but walking round an empty ground cannot start to replicate what they will be greeted with on Sunday. The last time they played in Melbourne was 2009 and they were guided to victory by an unbeaten 61 from Grant Elliott, the one New Zealander not to make the planning trip last year.

Six of the New Zealand side from that day will, barring injury, play the final. Alongside Elliott, there was McCullum, Guptill, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee. McCullum faced 75 balls for his 43; in his current mindset a 75-ball innings would leave him not far short of 150. Luke Ronchi, meanwhile, will bring his Australia and Western Australia memories with him, which amounts to 14 matches on the ground. For four of the likely starting XI – Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry – it will be their first appearances at the MCG.

Vettori, in what is likely to be his final international appearance, will be a key player. Such is his longevity he has played eight times at the MCG from 1997 to 2009, and though he only has eight wickets his economy rate is 4.39 – albeit before the current fielding restrictions. In the 2009 match, he was part of a twin-spin attack alongside Jeetan Patel and bowled his allocation for 35 runs.

Batsmen will need to adjust their sights and running between the wickets will become as important as clearing the rope. As a rudimentary example, there have been 26 threes run at the MCG in four matches compared to nine at Eden Park. That also impacts the fielding, the teamwork and aggression, which have been markers for New Zealand. Cutting off twos becomes a tough task for the deep fielders and you can expect plenty of use of the relay throw. And that’s before you factor in the ‘advice’ that will no doubt be offered from the other side of the fence.

“We’ve played cricket around world so nothing really changes,” Henry insisted. “You just adapt to the conditions, we’ve done that throughout New Zealand. It doesn’t really matter with some of the guys in our team, boundaries aren’t big enough so we don’t need to worry about that. It’s just a beautiful ground, just enjoy it. Soak it up.”

For the players, adjusting their own games is something they have control over. But one aspect of the final that is out of their hands will be the support-base. Whoever had won the second semi-final would have had the majority of the crowd behind them. Now that Australia have made it, New Zealand can expect a hostile welcome especially after the previous meeting at Eden Park.

There will not be a full house roaring their support for New Zealand, as there was that day or in the semi-final, though significant Kiwi backing is expected. Air New Zealand have added an extra charter flight on Sunday morning to ferry fans across the Tasman – the return flight arriving in Auckland at 7.30 am on Monday, in time for work – while Jetstar have said “half their flights” from New Zealand to Melbourne are sold out. Still, a few planeloads of people do not make much of a dent in a 90,000-seater stadium.

“The crowds have been amazing everywhere around the country,” Mike Hesson said. “We’ll miss them, no doubt, at the MCG but I know there’s a fair few going over … they’ll probably be drowned out but we’ll know they are there.”

Henry, for whom this trip is only his second visit to Melbourne, was just waiting to savour the day. “For me personally it’s the first time to touch the turf,” he said. “There’s excitement, it’s not something to be daunted and scared of. It’s a time to embrace it.”

Never mind that they are on Australia’s patch this time, New Zealand’s performances in this World Cup – and especially the semi-final – mean they will have no fear. The MCG provides a vast challenge, in every respect, but the ground alone will not decide the World Cup.


I don’t think Virat Kohli has batted badly, says MS Dhoni

By his own lofty standards, Virat Kohli has had a modest World Cup so far.
But his Indian teammates all think the elegant stroke-maker will live up to his reputation as a big-match player when it matters.

And few games matter more than Thursday’s semi-final against Australia. For Kohli, it’s a golden opportunity to get back amongst the runs.

“I don’t think he has batted badly. When he has got an opportunity he has scored runs,” India’s World Cup captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. “It’s not that he has scored a century every time he has gone out to bat. But everybody relating his performance with the Test series and expecting a hundred in every innings from him.”

Kohli’s lean run at the World Cup has been puzzling, partly because of his great record record in One Day Internationals and his great form this summer. He has scored 22 ODIs, averages almost 52 from 157 matches in the format and is among India’s best batmen.

He replaced Dhoni as Test captain for India’s last match against Australia in Sydney in January and scored four hundreds in the series and averaged over 86. But his form in ODI has fallen away.

He made a century in India’s opening World Cup match against Pakistan but hasn’t made a fifty since. Known equally for his silken touch with the bat and a penchant for run-ins with opposition players, Kohli also found himself embroiled in controversy after swearing at a journalist over a story about his personal life.

The batting mainstay was censured by the Indian board for his ugly outburst against the travelling Indian journalist in Perth and advised to maintain his cool.

After his 107 against Pakistan in Adelaide, he has scored 46, 33 not out, 33, 44 not out, 38 and 3 and Dhoni backed him for a big one soon.

“I don’t think there has been any poor shot selection. He is a dominant batsman who likes playing his shots when he goes in to bat,”

Dhoni said. “It’s quite difficult but at the same time I feel it is important to keep focussing on the process. It’s just around the corner and big players always score in big games.”


World Cup: All you need to know about reserve days for quarters, semis and final

All quarter-final, semi-final and final matches of ICC World Cup 2015 have been allocated reserve days. But if the game is not completed on the scheduled day, the contest shall resume from the same point where it had stopped. There is no option to start afresh.

The group stage ended yesterday (March 15) and we have 8 teams (India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies) in the knockout phase. The quarter-finals begin on March 18. There were no reserve days for Pool matches. But that will not be the case for the all-important knockout encounters.

According to International Cricket Council’s (ICC) playing conditions, the following will apply for reserve days

# There shall be one reserve day allocated to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final on which an incomplete match shall be continued from the scheduled day.
# Every effort will be made to complete the match on the scheduled day with any necessary reduction in overs taking place and only if the minimum number of overs necessary to constitute a match cannot be bowled on the scheduled day will the match be completed on the reserve day.
# If the match has started on the scheduled day and overs are subsequently reduced following an interruption, but no further play is possible, the match will resume on the reserve day at the point where the last ball was played.

Application of the Reserve Day Example 1
Match starts at 50 overs per side and there is an interruption at 19 overs. Overs are reduced to 46 overs per side and play is about to resume. Before another ball is bowled it rains and play is abandoned for the day.
As the match didn’t resume under the revised overs, the match should continue on the reserve day at the original 50 overs per side with the overs reduced if necessary during the day.

Example 2
The same start as in example 1 i.e. match starts at 50 overs per side and there is an interruption at 19 overs. Overs are reduced to 46 overs per side and play is about to resume. This time, play starts and after an over has been bowled it rains and play is abandoned for the day.
As the match has resumed, it is continued on the reserve day at 46 overs per side with the overs reduced if necessary during the day.

Example 3
The toss occurs on the scheduled day but the match is abandoned for the day without a ball being bowled. When play commences on the reserve day:
# The captains shall not be entitled to re-toss (and nominate new teams)
# These matches shall always be regarded in the records as a single match.

Note: If the reserve day is utilised, the hours of play on the reserve day are the same as the scheduled hours of play on the scheduled day, including any provision for extra time. The amount of extra time available on the reserve day cannot exceed that which was available on the scheduled day.