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Thursday , January 23 2020

Kuldeep’s loss of form worrying for India before World Cup

MS Dhoni, captain of Chennai Super Kings, plays a shot during the VIVO IPL T20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings in Bangalore, India on April 21. (AP)

Paceman Hassan surprise pick in Afghanistan WCup squad

MUMBAI, April 22, (RTRS): Kuldeep Yadav is expected to lead India’s slow-bowling attack in the World Cup but his poor form in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) could become a headache for Virat Kohli’s men with just over a month left before the 50-over tournament.

The left-arm wrist-spinner sits at seventh in the bowlers’ rankings in one-day internationals, one spot ahead of spin-bowling colleague Yuzvendra Chahal.

The duo have emerged as India’s frontline spinners and named in the 15-man World Cup squad alongside left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.

The wily 24-year-old has 87 wickets from 44 ODIs at an enviable average of less than 22. He took 12 wickets in the 2017 edition of the IPL and five more last year but has endured nightmare this season.

Kuldeep has taken four wickets in nine matches at an economy rate of 8.66 while bowling 33 overs for the Kolkata Knight Riders, who have lost five matches on the trot and are placed sixth in the eight-team league.

He was dropped for Sunday’s outing against Sunrisers Hyderbad after the mauling he received against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday during which he took 1-59 in his four overs.

“Definitely a form issue, he didn’t stand up for us in the previous game. That’s why we had to give him a break and get him back fresh,” KKR captain Dinesh Karthik said after his team’s loss on Sunday.

“Kuldeep’s not been bowling as well as he would have liked, as we would have liked as well. That’s why we gave him a break, that’s the only reason that we haven’t played him this game.”

Despite the difference in formats, the IPL is the only competitive cricket left before the World Cup-bound Indians leave for England.

Kuldeep has always looked to be attacking, tempting batsmen with his flighted deliveries and in the process conceding some extra runs, but the assault by England all-rounder Moeen Ali on Friday left him broken.

The left-handed Moeen smashed Kuldeep for three sixes and two fours in a 27-run over before falling on the last delivery, leaving the bowler teary-eyed and dejected on the field.

Bangalore and India captain Kohli was at the other end witnessing Kuldeep’s misery and would hope his ace spinner will regain both his guile and confidence before India begin their quest for their third World Cup title with a match against South Africa on June 5.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan named fast bowler Hamid Hassan, who last played for the side in July 2016, in their 15-man squad for the Cricket World Cup on Monday.

Hassan, 31, has played 32 one-day internationals for the war-torn nation and was also part of Afghanistan’s maiden appearance at the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand four years back.

“Luckily for us, the comeback of senior fast bowler Hamid Hassan is a good news,” Afghanistan chief selector Dawlat Ahmadzai said in a statement.

“However, we will take into account his form and fitness during upcoming practice matches.”

Earlier this month, Afghanistan replaced long-serving ODI captain Asghar Afghan with Gulbadin Naib as part of wholesale changes to the team’s leadership structure across formats.

While several senior players questioned the timing of the leadership changes before the May 30-July 14 World Cup, Afghan kept his place in the squad.

The spinners are the biggest strength of Afghanistan, touted as the ‘dark horse’, and they named three specialist world class slow bowlers in Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Rashid, 20, is the top-ranked bowler in the shortest Twenty20 format and third in the list of bowlers for the 50-over format.

“It has been a six-month preparation process for the ICC Cricket World Cup,” Ahmadzai said. “The mission is to play inspirational cricket in the tournament; I know there are strong teams but we will do our level best to achieve our goals.

“As chief selector, it is my duty to select a competitive team. However, there were some challenges that we needed to handle. We selected the best squad considering factors such as experience, fitness, team balance, current form and conditions.

“We hope to play great cricket without any fear and with a fighting spirit in the tournament.”

Wicketkeeper-batsman Ikram Ali Khil and the pace duo of Karim Janat and Sayed Shirzad were named reserve players for the team, who begin their campaign against Australia on June 1.

Squad: Gulbadin Naib (captain), Mohammad Shahzad (wicketkeeper), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

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