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Hardik Pandya just keeps getting better.

Hardik Pandya just keeps getting better.

Young allrounder Pandya adds to credentials as India’s ‘new Dhoni’ with devastating knock against Bangladesh

Hardik Pandya’s reputation as India’s new ‘finisher’ is continuing to gain traction after the all-rounder smashed an unbeaten 80 in his side’s thrashing of Bangladesh in their Champions Trophy warm-up at The Oval on Tuesday night. Pandya has only played seven ODIs but the 23-year-old looms as an important part of an India side looking to defend its 2013 title, and his 54-ball knock against the Tigers, which included six fours and four sixes, took his team to a total of 7-324 and underlined his capabilities at the back-end of an innings.

That prowess was witnessed in India’s ODI series against England in January, when he made key late contributions of 40no, 19no and 56, while in the Indian Premier League, he was unbeaten in nine of the 16 innings he played and piled on 250 runs at a strike-rate of 156.25. “It’s nice to get the role of finishing the game,” Pandya said after the Bangladesh match. “It’s not easy but I’m liking it; whenever I finish the game it gives me the confidence for the next game. “It’s not that easy to come in and play naturally. You need to adapt to the situation, the weather and everything. So it’s a difficult role but I’m enjoying it.”

Of course, Pandya is following in the footsteps of India’s finest-ever finisher, former captain MS Dhoni, who remains a teammate of the youngster and, even a month out from his 36th birthday, another key cog in the India wheel. And while Dhoni’s output has lessened somewhat in recent years (his 1,083 runs since the beginning of 2015 have come at an average of 40 – some 10 runs below his career mark), it’s the advice of the World Cup-winning skipper that has helped Pandya assume the mantle in his stead. “I have taken a lot of advice from ‘Mahi Bhai’ (Dhoni),” he said during the IPL.

“During the series against England, I had the opportunity to talk to Mahi Bhai often and I took a lot of suggestions from him regarding improvement on my batting as well as bowling. “Playing as a finisher in the death overs in either a one-day international or in a T20 match is very tough; it becomes a totally mental game at that time. “Dhoni gave me some priceless suggestions as he said to calculate the remaining runs and overs left while going into bat.

“But at the same time, his suggestion was not to look at the scoreboard after every delivery while batting. “He also gave tips on another thing … make an assessment of the bowlers.  “This helps to take possession on the pitch after going to bat.” India captain Virat Kohli described the young allrounder’s performance against Bangladesh as “outstanding” (he also took 1-2 from 1.5 overs), meaning his likely inclusion at No.7 creates somewhat of a selection dilemma for their opening Champions Trophy match against Pakistan on June 4 at Edgbaston.

Do India go with two spinners in Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja? Or do they back their impressive pace attack and include three of Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar? Whatever the final selections, there will be some high-quality cricketers warming the bench for a team that has flown somewhat under the radar ahead of this tournament.

McCullum out of IPL

McCullum out of IPL

Former Black Caps captain heading home after falling victim to injury.

Gujarat Lions will be without star opening batsman Brendon McCullum for the final three matches of the Indian Premier League season after the Kiwi was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a hamstring injury. McCullum strained his left hamstring in the Lions loss against Delhi Daredevils on Thursday which knocked last year’s semi-finalists out of playoff contention this season.

“Unfortunately I’m going to be on the plane home tonight,” McCullum said in a video posted by Gujarat on Twitter.
“I hurt my hamstring and that’s ruled me out for the next three to four weeks.
“I’ve had a great time. Thanks to all the supporters of the Gujarat Lions and all of my teammates and coaching staff.
“It’s been a pretty cool time over the last two years and I’m sure we’ll have some great friendships and relationships as we move forward.”

The loss of the 35-year-old leaves Gujarat with only four fit overseas players: Aaron Finch, James Faulkner, Dwayne Smith and Chirag Suri from the UAE. The Rajkot-based outfit has been cruelled with injury this seasons, losing Dwayne Bravo and Andrew Tye, while aggressive opener Jason Roy has returned home to fulfil his national duties with England.

McCullum leaves Gujarat as the club’s second highest run-scorer this season having accumulated 319 runs at a healthy strike rate of 147.

Pakistan in World Cup danger

Pakistan in World Cup danger


Time is ticking for lower-ranked ODI sides to secure their place in the 2019 World Cup.
Former World Cup winners Pakistan and the West Indies are in danger of failing to automatically qualify for the 2019 edition of cricket’s showpiece 50-over tournament.

Following today’s release of the updated One-Day International team rankings by the International Cricket Council, eighth-placed Pakistan has opened up a nine-point gap on the West Indies, who sit a spot back on 79 points.

The top seven ranked ODI teams and England, as the host nation, will automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup which means the Windies, who won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, need to perform strongly before the September 30 cut-off date or face the prospect of further qualification. Quick Single: Full squads for the 2017 Champions Trophy Between now and the deadline, the West Indies host 10th-placed Afghanistan for three ODIs in June (during the Champions Trophy which they failed to qualify for) before flying to the UK for a five-match series against England in September.

Pakistan’s only ODI assignment before the cut-off date is the Champions Trophy while seventh-placed Bangladesh, who are 12 points ahead of the Windies, have a tri-series against Ireland and New Zealand ahead of the Champions Trophy.

Those teams that do not automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup must earn a spot by going through the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in 2018, a 10-team tournament comprised of the bottom four ODI sides and six sides from the ICC World Cricket League, with the top two sides advancing.

The latest ODI rankings update takes into account results dating back to May 1, 2014, with the most recent results having the most significance. South Africa remain in first place on 123 points, with Australia (118), India (117), New Zealand (115) and England (109) rounding out the top five.

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