Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kumble, Pandey, Balaji In Indian Sixes Cricket Team

Fans of traditional crowd favourites India will be eagerly anticipating this year’s Hong Kong Cricket Sixes with confirmation that Lakshmipathy Balaji and exciting youngster Manish Pandey will join the legendary Anil Kumble at the 2009 event, to be played at the Kowloon Cricket Club on October 31-November 1

First played in 1992, the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes is the longest-running international tournament of its kind and will this year celebrate its 15th edition. As such, the Sixes has been included by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as a ‘Catch the Spirit’ event to celebrate the global governing body’s centenary celebrations.

It was announced that Kumble would be a member of the India team, who have won the Sixes just once, back in 2005, when this year’s tournament was launched last month. However, the squad has now added plenty of power to Kumble’s experience and heading the way is the 28-year-old Balaji.

The eight-Test, 30 ODI veteran is one of the great stories of Indian cricket in recent years. Having being a regular member of the national set-up in 2004 and 2005 he was struck down with stress fractures, sitting out cricket for three years before returning to take 11 wickets in the IPL last year, including a hat-trick. His return was made complete earlier this year, when was called into the national team in February against Sri Lanka.

Said Balaji: “Playing against Sri Lanka earlier this year gave me a taste of being back with an Indian team, so I am thrilled to be playing at the Hong Kong Sixes. Any team that has Anil has a chance to do very well and I am sure we can be real contenders for the Cup final.”

Along with Kumble and Balaji, also representing India is Kumble’s Champions League Twenty20 team-mate from the Bangalore Royal Challengers – Pandey.

The just-turned 20 Pandey stunned world cricket when he became the first Indian to record a century in the Indian Premier League (IPL), smashing 114 off just 73 balls against the Deccan Chargers earlier this year in South Africa in the tournament’s second edition. With the innings including 10 fours and four massive sixes, the athletic right-hand bat will relish the chance to tee off at the Kowloon Cricket Club’s short boundaries.

Said Pandey: “I have heard great things about the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes from Anil, who is an inspiration for all cricketers in Bangalore and India. I am thrilled to be coming to what I have heard is a very exciting event for the spectators and look forward to trying to put on a show for the Hong Kong fans at the Kowloon Cricket Club.”

The 2005 Player of the Tournament at the Hong Kong Sixes, Retinder Sodhi, will return once again, while also on the Indian squad are Sridharan Sriram, who has played eight ODIs, Stuart Binny, the son of former Indian all-rounder, Roger, and Jagadesh Arunkumar, the leading run-scorer in the domestic Karnataka Premier League Cup.

Captain Shahzada Saleem Ahmed, President of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, said: “This is a stronger India side than the 2005 Sixes champion team. If you were putting together the ideal side for the Sixes, combining the leadership of someone like Anil Kumble and the youthful energy and hitting power of Manish Pandey would be a dream comes true.

“Along with those players, we will also have the opportunity to see Balaji, Sodhi and Sriram, who are great talents and will put on a show at the KCC,” he added.

In a new innovation for 2009, the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes pools will be divided into Northern and Southern hemisphere groups. As such, India will take part in showpiece matches against geographical rivals Pakistan and Sri Lanka on day one, along with a round-robin match against defending champions England.

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