Author Archives: Dev Tyagi

5 Drivers who need a Good Russian Grand Prix Today

Sochi, the venue where Mercedes have dominated with stupendous consistency could well see the dominant narrative making space for a boy who’ll dominate the sport in the years to come. 

In what is an excellent opportunity for Lando Norris to storm to a maiden victory, McLaren quite literally are in the driver’s seat. With a clear track ahead of them to bag a second – and lest it not be forgotten, stupendous- victory in 2021. 

Followed by the quietly efficient Sainz, in his maiden season with the Scuderia and Russell in third, Sochi’s starting three could well be this year’s most admired and widely exciting troika. 

What’ll happen up ahead is something only time will tell. But for now, let’s see which drivers would love to make a race to remember given not such a fantastic quali and recent race form?

Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s final season in F1 isn’t going to plan

The Iceman, competing in the last few races of his F1 career, will be keen to make the most of what’s left. It didn’t help Kimi, standing next to an abominable points tally of 2, that he had to sit out of Monza and Zandvoort thanks to the Coronavirus. 

Yet, true to the surprising ways in which one of the sport’s icons has fought back, the Finn’s got something that’s admirable. 

The old man of the grid has shown the youngsters how it’s done on race days. Despite 2021 being the year where his qualifying form has been “s*it” as how he’d himself put it, he’s still gained the most positions when compared to nineteen others on the grid (29) after fourteen rounds. 

Moreover, a P16 in the driver’s standings means Raikkonen has, at least, emerged ahead of Giovinazzi, who’s constantly outpaced him on most Saturdays so far, hasn’t done too miserably. 

Not that the soon-to-be 42-year-old would count it as anything but still, in the context of the race and knowing his penchant to make the most on the race days, Kimi Matias Raikkonen will be keen, albeit reticently, to make a race out of Sochi. 

But can he actually do that? 

Sebastian Vettel

Aston Martin are slowly slipping further and further behind AlphaTauri

Here are the previous four race results for the German Aston Martin driver, all set to start his Russian contest from eleventh on the grid. 

A 12th at Italy, 13th at Zandvoort, a 5th at Spa-Francorchamps, and an embarrassing – if not controversial- disqualification at the Hungaroring. 

It’s been a season where one’s witnessed shades of the dauntless Vettel of the past, the man who stormed to a fine podium at the incident-marred Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a result that should ideally have shut his critics’ mouth. 

But that being said, Vettel, who’s not been able to ace his Saturday game as such this season, would look at Sochi as a great opportunity to bounce back to form and collect handy points. 

That the last two races didn’t result in any should motivate the four-time world champion to get up to speed and hit back hard. 

But will it be any easy given Ocon (tenth), Perez (ninth) and teammate Stroll (eighth) could possibly make life difficult for Vettel? 

It’s a Bond of trust and redoubtable capability that the German would like to forge with his AMR 21 here at Sochi. 

Forget not that the License to drive and excel rests with you, Seb! 

Yuki Tsunoda

Tsunoda finds himself in this dishonourable top five yet again

Tsunoda, who starts from thirteenth on the grid, would be keen to convert his insipid qualifying result into a prominent performance at Sochi. 

But hang on, P13 isn’t nearly as bad as what the AlphaTauri driver managed in the previous two Saturday battles! 

Since the Italian and Dutch GP, quali runs were anything but mind-blowing. 

A seventeenth on the starting grid at Monza and a fifteenth at Zandvoort suggest Tsunoda’s not exactly been having a ball on Saturdays. 

This is primarily why his Sochi run is a tad bit disappointing albeit being better than the recent efforts. 

But in a few hours’ time, it’ll be down to how Yuki manages his race at Sochi which will form one of the key highlights of the race, especially down to the fact that he’ll be right behind Gasly for the 53-lap run. 

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen will hope he can charge through the field this afternoon

The last three race results for the current championship reader read- DNF at Monza, which came prior to two race wins, one each at the returning Dutch GP and the Belgian GP. 

While Spa-Francorchamps’s race win may not count as a win from the purist’s perspective, the win at Zandvoort was Max back to his best. Something he’d quite like to have maintained at Monza which is when the dramatic, widely debated and rancor-causing crash with Hamilton happened. 

While it ended both drivers’ race, from the perspective of maintaining the lead over the championship, it was a massive blow for Verstappen in that where it stands today, his lead over second-place Lewis Hamilton is a mere five and a half points. 

It’s something he’d quite like to have build on here at Sochi had the start from the back of the grid not have hurt Max’s chances, which are seriously slated to dent a chance in his championship unless a miracle happens and the Flying Dutchman is able to storm to the top three at Sochi. 

It’ll be an exciting contest to watch out for. 

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton has work to do if he’s to capitalise on Verstappen’s back-row start. Image: F1

A fourth in qualifying isn’t the worst possible place on the starting grid- is it? 

But the moment you see Mercedes, winners of every single Grand Prix here at Sochi, starting from behind a troika comprising McLaren, Ferrari and Williams, the latter, their customer team, you feel something’s amiss. 

Where Sir Lewis Hamilton, second on the Driver Standings, is concerned, a result among the top three, which isn’t impossible at all, would be akin to a win given his target has to be to finish as ahead as possible over his archrival Max Verstappen. 

But what shall the 53 laps up ahead unfold- a triumph for LH 44 or a disappointing race finish given those in front of the seven-time world champion are among the youngest and finest on the grid- it’ll be endlessly fascinating. 

Can Hammertime strike the remainder of the grid akin to Putin’s feared reign of Russia? Let’s wait and see. 

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to qualifying at the Russian GP? Never fear, the Grid Talk crew are here with their latest podcast! Ruby Price hosted Tom Downey and Louis Edwards as they analysed qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

5 Drivers who need a good Italian Grand Prix today

Despite winning the sprint race at Monza, Valtteri Bottas finds himself at the rear end of the pack owing to a lot of changes in his Mercedes car. This means an opportunity has been lost for the Finn, despite having won a short stint at the heartland of the Italian Grand Prix. 

But which drivers have the most work to do today? These are the five men we think need a good Sunday drive later on!

Antonio Giovinazzi 

Italian Jesus may need a miracle to score points later today.

Blessed will be those who’ll get to see the Italian Jesus, as he’s called, save his career and secure a fascinating finish to the Monza race. Among the nicest-natured drivers in the sport, and one who certainly won the qualifying battle this year against Kimi Raikkonen, is a man on a mission. 

His brave defensive driving from a rapid Sergio Perez helped Antonio Giovinazzi collect a P8, which tomorrow will be a seventh-place start underlined his passion to succeed. The man who brought home the first points for his Alfa Romeo team this season by showing great skill at Monaco now has his task cut out at Monza. 

He’s got a solid grid position too, from which to launch himself into a fine battle up ahead. 

May he continue to persevere and succeed in bringing much-needed points for a Constructor that’s demonstrated exceedingly underwhelming results this season. Honestly, it’s all to play for, for the long-locked bloke behind the beard and innocent smile.  

Lewis Hamilton 

It’s not always that one finds a certain Sir Lewis Hamilton on the list of drivers who need to deliver a strong Grand Prix. But to err is human, even though Hamilton’s penchant for great results and unbelievable consistency since 2014 onward have merited him a superhuman persona.

The man who got passed by a Red Bull, then both McLarens and will be keen to make amends for the lost ground during the sprint race. 

Known for his proclivity to raise his game especially under pressure -remember his recovery drive at the Hungaroring– don’t be surprised if Hamilton finishes second, if at all, a race win is utterly out of his grasp. 

But his boots are meant for racing, and pushing the throttle hard is what they’ll do. The five-time Monza winner would love to mount a daring fightback against the drivers who found him wanting on a not-so-sunny Saturday after all for Mercedes. 

Sebastian Vettel 

Aston Martin need both drivers to perform to catch AlphaTauri and Alpine

Sebastian Vettel couldn’t do anything astounding in the sprint race other than the decent move he pulled on another great veteran of the sport – Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. This was right after the safety car period. Though, the two-time world champion fought right back against the four-time world champion to retake track position even as Stroll, in the other Aston Martin stayed clear of the two battling heroes of the sport. 

But given Vettel’s disqualification at Hungaroring, followed by a fifth at Spa, and then a lowly thirteenth at Zandvoort, the German is clearly one of the drivers who needs to deliver a strong race at Monza. 

That’s also from the perspective of keeping up the pressure on his teammate Lance Stroll, on whom he enjoys a lead of 17 precious points in the standings where it currently stands. 

So, can race day at Monza unfurl the familiar battler on the track, one who secured a brilliant win with Toro Rosso in 2008 or will we see an under pressure driver who forged a dubious reputation as a spinner, remember the opening lap episode of 2018 at the very track? 

Only Seb has the answers and only time will tell. 

Charles Leclerc 

Ferrari look set to lose ground to McLaren this weekend

Not only because it’s Ferrari’s home Grand Prix should Charles Leclerc raise his game, but the fact that he’s contesting on the very track where he brought home a magnificently fought victory, back in 2019, should push the Monegasque to achieve a higher result in the race. 

At present, Leclerc, who qualified sixth but as a result of Bottas’ receding to the very end of the grid starts fifth, has an ample opportunity to push hard on Sunday. Though the only issue is he’ll be tailed by another Ferrari, Sainz, who is all set to begin from sixth on the grid. 

So will team orders come into play and if so- by whose side will we find Ferrari? 

Eventually, what matters is that Ferrari, the team, as one unit, should do well in front for the Tifosi and to continue to fight back to the top, which is where it’s always belonged. 

Yuki Tsunoda 

Tsunoda is making yet another appearance on this list after a poor qualifying

The last three Grands Prix results for the young Alpha Tauri driver read- P6 at Hungaroring, followed by a fifteenth at the Belgian Grand Prix- if it could be called a Grand Prix- and a DNF in the Netherlands. 

Though, that’s not the only reason why Yuki Tsunoda would want to do a better job at Monza, where he drives his maiden Italian Grand Prix. Driving the same car as his teammate, who won twelve months back at the same venue, Tsunoda’s lost the momentum and flourish that one saw in the first half of the season. 

Remember, this is a bloke who attained massive reception at the back of a brave P9 finish at Bahrain, his Formula 1 debut drive. But the Japanese driver one sees today, albeit still highly inexperienced and only on his maiden season, can do much better than what he is at present. 

A reason to spur himself to greater performances is that he neither has an insipid or weak machine nor a car that would make him this grid’s back marker. 

At Monza’s Sprint race, Yuki also had some colourful words for one of racing’s veterans, Robert Kubica with whose Alfa Romeo the Sagamihara-born driver would clash albeit both drivers narrowly avoiding what could’ve been a heavy crash. That’s even as Kubica was the loser in this episode, his car spinning out in the opening lap only to minimise his chances of getting a better track finish.  

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to today’s Sprint Qualifying? Never feat, the Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast. Owain Medford hosted Steve Jackson, Aaron Harper and Mikael Kataja in their 2021 Italian Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying Analysis. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

5 Drivers who need a Good Belgian Grand Prix today

The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix might or might not be a great race in the end, but certainly from what one saw at the rain-soaked qualifying yesterday, it does appear that we saw the best qualifying battle thus far in the season.

Can the race make the contest even bigger and brighter especially for the able young drivers out there who are keen to write their own script in a sport as dogged and difficult at Formula 1 – we shall have to wait and see. 

Can we have a young race winner? The one who might be vying for a Mercedes driver albeit amid circumstances that aren’t always determined by driver skill alone but perhaps by making politically correct decisions? 

Questions there are many, most of which  will be answered when the five red lights turn green at the most serene albeit daunting F1 venue. 

That being said, which drivers will need to deliver a strong Belgian GP?

Charles Leclerc

The Ferrari driver missed out of Q3 for the first time in his Ferrari career at the Belgian GP. Remember he was the race winner here at Spa in 2019, where he led every single lap from pole to gather a brave win ahead of the mighty Lewis Hamilton. 

But amid rains and unbearable driving conditions, Leclerc’s race craft – or would you call it- rain craft got tested a bit. 

Along with Sainz, his was the other Ferrari that failed to make it to Q3. 

Originally, Leclerc, who got an eleventh, would clearly have had his task cut out that being to break into the top ten, but owing to Norris’ grid drop thanks to the gearbox change for today’s race, Leclerc has not such a terrible race lined up ahead. 

It’ll be now down to how well can he maximise his chances at the famous Grand Prix of Belgium. 

Daniel Ricciardo

Even as the great Australian driver has managed a fighting fourth as of Saturday, for his own race form and chances in the remainder of the year, Daniel Ricciardo must deliver a strong race weekend. 

A race win will be very difficult, what can’t be ruled out – and shouldn’t- is a podium finish. 

Moreover, a P4 is a very delightful and strong qualifying result, the best thus far, for Ricciardo. 

But for that to happen, the smiling man from Perth, due to contest his 200th Grand Prix will have to make the best of his sandwiched position, with Vettel on fifth and Hamilton up in third. 
What can the Honeybadger do when the lights go green at Spa? 

Kimi Raikkonen

Last year he managed a twelfth here and this year if he makes it anywhere close to P12, you’d term it moral victory. 

Once called the King of Spa once for his undulating consistency at the longest venue when compared to all on the calendar, might not be wrong to call the Iceman the man behind a new sobriquet- the ‘spin of Spa,’ his current fortunes attributed to how sadly do fortunes spin in Formula 1, once a repeat winner now nosediving to a back marker position. 

P18 is what a four-time winner at Spa managed on Saturday. Moreover, what many might not remember is that back in 2019, when aligned with a stronger machine, Raikkonen grabbed a fighting P8 on qualifying day.

He proved he still had it but that was for as long as the car suited his style and offered power. 

Now, almost 41, Kimi is having none of the chill that so quintessentially decorated his career.

One can only offer wild theories at what might he do today. So, let’s leave him alone and see what happens at Spa! 

Yuki Tsunoda

Time and again, the F1 newcomer has been outwitted completely by a more experienced campaigner Pierre Gasly, the Sagamihara-born’s teammate. 

On Sunday, Yuki, who begins his maiden Spa drive from 16th on the grid would be aware of the challenge that’s to unfold at the most picturesque F1 venue.

Being pursued by Mick Schumacher, P17, one of his young adversaries and trailing Giovinazzi, P15, under pressure to retain his Alfa Romeo seat. 

But fortunately, being allied by a car that’s anything but a vapid, underperforming machine, Tsunoda would want to maximise his challenges and offer something to write home about. 

Though, can that happen? 

Valtteri Bottas

Starting a Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso in your rear can be a daunting experience. More so when you are comfortably out of the top ten. 

Life for Valtteri Bottas, P13, in qualifying has hardly been a bed of roses. However, it could soon turn into a house of thorns should young George Russell bag his Mercedes seat even as the idea seems mired in utopia and less determined by plausibility for with all due respect, how can Hamilton be assisted in the end, also determines Mercedes’ team mate decision.  

Though truth certainly is that the Finn, whose career isn’t quite frankly going anywhere, isn’t the happiest man in F1. 
After causing a string of crashes at Hungary, his 2021 Spa drive has already got compromised by a five place grid drop. Moreover, there’ll be a host of hungrier drivers out there to vie for a best possible spot much like Valtteri on race day. 

Think Leclerc. Think Vettel. Don’t forget Ocon and Perez. 

But should Bottas, who’s yet to win at Spa Francorchamps, deliver a promising race result, it might just ease some of the insane pressure he’s been under, though for absolutely no fault of his critics. 

He’s got the car that might not be the fastest this year but is yet, second best only to the Red Bull. 

This article was written by Dev Tyagi for Sportlightpro.com

Why Pakistan Women’s cricket And Nain abidi will Never forget august 22?

Nain Abidi

August 22 is quite an eventful date for the world for a unique constellation of independent events occurring on the date shaping it in different ways. As early as 1603, on this very day, man laid the first stones at Amsterdam-bound Zuiderkerk. In 1639, the famous Indian city of Madaras was founded this very date by the-then ruling British East India company using Sliver of land.

In 1770, James Cook’s famous expedition landed on the East coast of Australia and over a century later, circa 1901, the world found to its merriment the formation of the Cadillac motor company on this date.

Then later on this date in 1987 one of Madonna’s greatest singles, “Who’s that Girl” became the number #1 chartbuster hit.

But there was something else too, albeit in the firmament of sport, that made August 22 a unique date, a date that no Pakistani will ever forget.

It was on this date, back in 2012 that Nain Abidi stroked the first-ever ODI century for a Pakistan batswoman.

To strike century and score runs in cricket is equivalent to a doctor succeeding by way of treating patients, saving lives and being recognized for victory in the strife against mortality.

But to be the first to do so beckons celebrations, marking a moment that becomes timeless in the strands of history.

What’s rather fascinating about Nain Abidi- one of the most studious and determined Pakistanis to ever wield the bat in a nation obsessed with Cricket- is that since her dogged ton in ODIs, only one other batter has gone on to register another three-figure score in the format.

The special feat belongs to current Pakistani captain Javeria Khan, who with her 133 unbeaten runs stroked her proud nation to a sweet victory over Sri Lanka.

But that Nain Abidi, well over 1600 runs in 50-over cricket, held the major record for no fewer than half a decade underlines the importance of a feat that since its conception has gone on to inspire countless girls in a land where heroes in cricket have always been men.

Think the great Wasim Akram, the yorker king Waqar Younis, the elegant Saeed Anwar, the brave Javed Miandad, the iconic Hanif Mohammad, and the wild and winning Shoaib Akhtar to quote just a few.

A technically correct batswoman known for playing every delivery to its merit aligning technical virtuosity and patience, Nain Abidi has been a senior figurehead of a team that today sits beautifully on a mélange of wealth of experience and exuberance of youth.

While her 101 unbeaten runs thumped an Ireland powered by the likes of Isobel Joyce, Laura Delany and the modern great Kim Garth, that the maiden ODI ton by a Pakistani batter came of just 129 deliveries meant a certain fluidity about the knock that’s remembered even fondly today.

That’s when it’s been nearly a decade since the match-winning knock neutralised the Irish at their own backyard, in a lush-green Dublin.

But all of that said, what must be said about Nain Abidi- nearly 2,600 runs for Pakistan- is that Karachi’s finest export to the women’s game arrived early in the game in which she’d become a force to reckon with.

In a sport so often obsessed with numbers and big achievements, Nain Abidi duly underlines the value of longevity, without which one cannot walk the distance in sport.

For someone who arrived in the game aged just 21 back in 2006 and since then has gone on to represent one of cricket’s most mercurial outfits for 155 international appearances, Nain Abidi is a giant of the game, albeit an underrated one.

In this stat-obsessed number crunching age where anyone can become a hero on any given day courtesy social media posts, and trolls break hearts and reputations, Nain Abidi has been an athlete who’s conducted herself with a sense of dignity, focused on cricket and not in the theatrics that have become a normality.

That the love for cricket in her case hasn’t subsided one bit whatsoever, despite marriage and moving bases, actually relocating millions of miles afar from Pakistan to the United States is something worthy of respect.

Just is the fact that even after embracing motherhood, parenting a beautiful young boy, Nain Abidi is still involved with the game, now dedicating herself to lift the United States Cricket team.

At a time where the rigors of life especially after the massive change marriage and responsibilities beckon make one fall out of the sport, taking the convenient route of prioritizing family over anything else, Nain Abidi, 12 fifties for Pakistan, is balancing cricket and personal commitments beautifully.

And guess what! In doing so, she’s creating a new template of inspiration for fellow mothers to follow, those who thought juggling tasks with a kid and husband and a family commitment was just not possible.

Women today have gone way beyond merely breaking the glass ceiling; they’re wielding the cricket bat on the 22 yards whilst running after the naughty toddlers in malls and parks whilst putting them to sleep after a long day’s run.

And where it comes to doing both with her quintessential zeal and understated appeal, Nain is doing her bit despite being in the sphere for no fewer than a decade and a half.

May runs and many through fifties and tons come her way and lift her United States cricket team to a new pedestal in the game!

F1 2021: Drivers that Need a Good Hungarian GP Later Today

The gloves are off, and we are back to the F1 battleground. The stage has shifted from Silverstone to the Hungaroring that holds much promise to offer another enticing Hamilton versus Verstappen duel.

With Sir Lewis Hamilton taking a record-breaking ninth career pole at the Hungaroring, the most by any driver at the venue, the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix is poised to be an exciting battle. Even more so since Max Verstappen, who’s authored a great challenge to the king of the throne thus far, has managed a third in qualifying.

And perhaps what only exacerbates Red Bull, aggrieved given their plea against Hamilton’s penalty at Silverstone wasn’t entertained by the FIA, is that none of their drivers start from the front grid, with Valtteri Bottas slated to begin second.

A lot of action and drama is poised to be unfurled at Round 11 of the 2021 World Championship, an event where there are a few drivers who’d be determined to up their game.

So let’s find out which drivers need to deliver a strong Hungarian GP?

Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz has ground to make up after his qualifying crash. Image: Ferrari

After sliding outside of the track in Q1, Ferrari newcomer Carlos Sainz Jr., who had been much quicker than Charles Leclerc for the better part of Friday. The talented Spaniard will be keen to pounce on the challenging midfield in the next few hours.

Starting today’s 70-lap challenge from fifteenth on the grid, Sainz will know that he’s got a car that’s nearly as quick as the McLaren. If not in terms of straight-line speed where, one has seen the other Ferrari of Leclerc being challenged, such as in events like Baku, where it didn’t take Hamilton and Mercedes long to pass the pole-sitter.

That being said, having been the better finisher among the two Ferraris, finishing above Leclerc in both rounds at Austria and having gathered a strong P6 at Silverstone, it’ll be brilliant for Sainz to collect a strong race finish at Hungary.

READ MORE: 2021 HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX – FP1 & FP2 REPORT: COULD BOTTAS UPSET THE TITLE FIGHT?

Yuki Tsunoda

Tsunoda has flattered to deceive after his incredible debut in Bahrain

The rookie Japanese driver, who collected points in his very first outing in Formula 1 has shown lukewarm form where the recent events stand. Although, where the last four Grands Prix are concerned, the Sagamihara-born driver managed to beat a more experienced teammate in Gasly on two occasions.

Picture the Steierkmark Grand Prix and the recent race at Silverstone saw Tsunoda finished ahead of Gasly.

Though, for Sunday’s Hungarian contest, Yuki begins from sixteenth on the grid, having failed to put together a strong lap in Q1, from which he was knocked out.

Knowing that he’s got a car perhaps slightly stronger than the Aston Martin and at par with Alpine Racing, Tsunoda should be in a position to contest the packed midfield shortly. But will he improve on his lowly starting position?

Max Verstappen

Verstappen will need to overtake at least one of the Mercedes to maintain his championship lead. Image: F1

Having crashed out in two important races now, one each at Baku and the next, at Silverstone, for no fault of his own, Verstappen, regardless of some of the way he’s been portrayed on social media, will be feeling crestfallen.

Someone who himself stopped the interviewers from hurling him questions related to the Silverstone saga, Max would know he has better things to focus on.

And right now, it’s to find a way to do better than what he managed during qualifying.

Aware that he’s starting from third on the grid and isn’t nearly as close to Hamilton as what he’d have liked in order to pose an early challenge, it will be an interesting sight to see the resilience of Hamilton being challenged by the aggression of a talented and fiery driver.

Moreover, for the sake of extending his lead over the world championship, instead of seeing it shrink, the chances of which are highly likely, Verstappen has to deliver a very fine Hungarian GP. Importantly, it also happens to be a venue where he’s never won a race before.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: BUTTON ENDS LONG WAIT FOR FIRST FORMULA 1 VICTORY

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen’s season has yielded only one point so far

The Iceman with his thirteenth on the grid during Saturday’s qualifying provided a moment of reprieve to himself – provided he felt pressure in all this time- and to millions of fans who were rightly distraught at having seen a driver of such fine caliber having been knocked out in Q1 itself for the last four consecutive qualifying battles.

Starting P13, Raikkonen, given his penchant to move swiftly up the grid not long after the red lights turn green, would want to demonstrate a similar act, doing which he could land himself in a point-scoring chance.

Something that hasn’t happened for long, Baku being the last and only occasion where the sport’s most enigmatic and experienced driver scored a point and that too, a solitary one.

Having scored 9 of his 103 career podiums at Hungary, while a top-three finish is about as probable as is imagining the Adriatic sea minus water and fishes, Kimi’s task is clear and cut out- he’s to fight for points and make a possible race finish inside the top 10. Some would reckon even a P10 won’t hurt so much. But is it going to actually happen? We shall have to wait and see.

Grid Talk Podcast

If you want more reaction to yesterday’s qualifying session, the Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast. Ruby Price hosted Steve Jackson and Tom Downey in their 2021 Hungarian GP qualifying analysis. Audio and video versions of the show are both available below:

Faf du Plessis – The Vigilante of South African Cricket

In an age where the narrative around Cricket is constantly changing, a sport that once had just two formats to now accommodating even The Hundred, where basing a career in has taken a backseat to milking money from. Where talents play as opponents first only to become teammates the next day thanks to T20 leagues, it’s rare to find consistency. 

Rather, time has come to ask fans and those who dabble with punditry- just how important is consistency in an age where Cricket, apart from being commercialised, is seen filling the vacuum of entertainment?

And if holding the baton for one’s nation still as relevant as finding oneself adapting to whatever cricket’s changing vagaries ask of its devotees- then have we properly examined Faf du Plessis? 

Who is Faf du Plessis?

For a career that was born amid crisis- South Africa on the brink of a great defeat at Adelaide, only to find a young debutant hold his ground in striking a century (110 v Australia)- and continues to flourish amid one- think those 11,000 plus international runs, aged 37, at a time where political control over their cricket is still very much a reality- Faf is no less than a national hero. 

Except the country to which he belongs doesn’t believe in making Gods out of mortals, which is actually even better for all that Faf du Plessis – former captain, rescuer, smooth sailor, frequent run hitter – has done for South Africa. This makes one react with awe given he’s a man of flesh and blood albeit one of a lion-hearted will. 

22 centuries, 56 fifties, a highest individual score of 185 in ODIs, over 1,500 T20I runs, pounding 888 Test runs versus Australia and striking Sri Lanka with 1,100 ODI runs, Francois du Plessis has done more than what he’s gotten in return for a country for whom de Villiers is an icon and Faf is not nearly as great. 

Though in reality, it was Faf who extended the love for the game and blazed a legacy that de Villiers, the genius left behind, with unfettered excellence and boundless enthusiasm. 

Not to mention, an astonishing show of dominance in white-ball cricket where starting 2017-19, having reached the declining years of prowess and reflexes, Faf scored ODI runs at an average of 60, 62, and 67- respectively. 

Post-captaincy

When de Villiers stepped back from the captaincy in December 2016, a period in which South Africa were nearing their decline accentuated by frequent injuries to key names, one man stood up and made himself counted. 

Not the man with silken touch, Hashim Amla and not the force with Steyn-gun of deadly pace either; it was Faf du Plessis. The man under whose leadership South Africa registered a famous Test series win in Australia, 2016, the man under whose captaincy South Africa hammered India in 2018 at home. 

The very man, who after rescuing South Africa, time and again from the unlikeliest of situations, today finds himself having to knock on the doors for selection in the upcoming T20 World Cup squad. 

The conundrum, if any, that surrounds Faf, who’s played 50 T20Is for South Africa, remaining unbeaten in 7, and scoring runs at a strike rate north of 134, is not of capability or availability but of the team’s make up! 

Whether Faf should play a key ICC event reminds one of his importance to the team, a lifelong example of which would lead the Protea fan to revisit a heart-breaking albeit meltingly beautiful semi-final contest (50 over World Cup) of 2015, where he single handedly made 82 of South Africa’s 281 runs. 

In the aftermath of the contest where everyone was in tears, the South African hearts crushed, one man controlled his tears, not because the river ran dry but because the true measure of a man is his poise under pressure and his control amid adversity. 

That was Francois du Plessis! 

Whether Faf is made to play ultimately will rest in hands of those who probably may not consider his selection as being a litmus test where alongside exuberance of youth, what one may need is also experience, that of a soldier unwilling to put the gun down. 

The truth certainly is that whilst his career doesn’t boast of multiple double hundreds nor has seen South Africa lift a prominent ICC crown, Faf has seldom choked under pressure and fought fire to fire when the chips were down. 

Picture 2019 ODI World Cup where no South African went on to hit the three-figure mark save their captain- Faf du Plessis, whose 100, that came at better than a run a ball gave fans something to cheer about when the scenes were listless. 

Not that Faf du Plessis’ 100, which came against a Starc and Hazlewood-powered Australia helped ease the hurt the campaign brought to a team that had seen far better days in the past. 

Though forget not that in an age where Faf too may have gladly retracted and decided to take it easy, playing the safe option as did a few in their times, he continued fighting bowlers and detractors alike with the bat. 

In 2019, when aged no spring chicken at 35, du Plessis hammered 814 runs in the ODI calendar year. 

In some ways, he’s matured like fine wine that gets better with age minus any hang-ups or bitterness toward anyone. Make no mistake though- he’s no monk and been found guilty of ball tampering, a controversial saga that’s hurt the South Africa-Australia contests in the path. 

But whenever the team needed a figurehead to hold it together- Faf held it close to his, against a beating heart displaying- not showing off- those throbbing veins and that burlesque Sparta-like figure. 

What verdict might one pass on the career of a hard-as-nails cricketer who emerged as a tough cookie, stroking a deadly 199 against Sri Lanka just last year to help his team achieve yet another series triumph against an opponent its often toyed with? 

That’s a matter that cricket will be convinced to pass a ruling on and cannot shy away from akin to the soldier who never shied away too in rescuing an often-embattled Proteas, much like a lion, often single-handedly. 

Caught at Point Podcast

For more info on the South African vigilante of cricket, check out Caught at Point’s Podcast where Dev Tyagi and Pranay Rangra discuss his impact on the sport:

F1 2021: 5 Drivers who Need a Good Austrian gp today

2021 Austrian GP

After winning the French and Steiermark Grands Prix from pole, Max Verstappen clearly starts as the favourite to win the 2021 Austrian GP, having captured his first hat-trick of pole positions in Formula 1. This is going to be a race which should the young Dutchman win, will mark his fourth victory at the famous Styrian hills-bound Spielberg circuit. More importantly, it would mean a show of absolute dominance by a Red Bull driver at the Milton Keynes-based outfit’s home race event.

Though in order to do so, Max Verstappen will have to defy the staunch attack of a driver who always gives his hundred percent in a duel, not Lewis Hamilton for a change; but young Lando Norris who starts from a career-best qualifying position of second on the grid.

So what we shall get to se in the next few hours will hopefully be a mouth-watering prospect of seeing two young forces of Formula 1 getting embroiled in a close duel, but what about the rest?

That being said, which drivers failed to impress on Saturday and therefore, must deliver a strong Austrian GP today?

Lewis Hamilton

For someone so habitual of finishing at the top step of the podium, one Grand Prix after another, it’s honestly hard to believe that Lewis Hamilton hasn’t won a single race in the last five contests. Another failure to win a race today at Austria would mean that this will be the only occasion in the turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1 where a giant has been defined a victory for five consecutive occasions. 

Though what must be hurting Hamilton, who just hours ago, signed a new contract extension deal with his Mercedes team (which means he will remain in the sport, at least, until 2023) would be a rather forgettable qualifying run, which yielded a fourth on the grid.

It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the great Briton fights on and salvages, at least, a podium, if a race win is out of reach.

But then, you never know what a true titan of a sport can manage- do you- especially when confronted by pressure?

Antonio Giovinazzi

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Antonio Giovinazzi’s most memorable moment of the season came well over a month ago, at the famous Principality of Monaco, where the man fondly described as the ‘Italian Jesus’ scored a fighting tenth, and thus helped his outfit open its account in 2021.

Since then, while he’s shown flashes of blazing speed, managing to outperform a much experienced teammate- also his idol- Kimi Raikkonen, on race-day, however, it’s Raikkonen who’s managed to get the better of him.

Now, starting from fifteenth on the grid, having comfortably been inside the top six in the opening session of Qualifying on Saturday, the Martina Franca-born driver will be keen to cover lost ground, especially on a venue which is very close to his heart. Why? It was here in 2019, where Antonio scored his first Formula 1 points, courtesy a fighting tenth. 

But he must think of doing even better as lights go out soon for the 2021 Austrian GP.

Fernando Alonso

For someone who looked so strong in Saturday’s qualifying run, managing to put, if only for a few seconds, the fastest time on the sheets during Q2, before being eclipsed by Hamilton and then, Perez, respectively, Fernando Alonso will be raring to drive a strong race in the next few hours. He may not be liking his P14 a great deal, truth be told. Not someone who likes to rest on easy laurels, such as outperforming his teammate in qualifying, which Alonso did manage with relative ease on Saturday, it will all boil down to his race performance for the 71-laps that are soon to unfold.

Moreover, why Alonso needs a strong race finish is also down to the fact that he’s clearly been on song in the last few races, starting with a very strong sixth at Baku, followed by an eighth at France, before managing a ninth at the Steiermark Grand Prix, all of which clearly suggest he can do great in the Gand Prix event, further extending the advantage that Alpine currently enjoy over the likes of an Alfa Romeo, Williams, and Haas.

Charles Leclerc

(Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The simplest reason why Charles Leclerc must deliver a strong Austrian GP boils down to his last two Grands Prix results. While a P7 at the same venue a week earlier isn’t exactly disastrous, that he earned a sixteenth at the French Grand Prix supports the fact that Leclerc desperately needs a top five race finish.

Driver of the day the last week for having mounted an excellent recovery drive at the very same venue after the skirmish with Pierre Gasly, Leclerc does succeed in managing to get that extra bit out of his car at the venue. Perhaps on Sunday, he would reminisce the great battle with Max Verstappen in 2019, where he all but succeeded in grabbing a mega win.

So Forza Charles, gets deliver a cracker of a race today!

Daniel Ricciardo

The ‘Honeybadger’ who starts his Austrian GP from thirteenth on the grid, not the most powerful qualifying performance, actually bagged a P13 in his last race, at the same Spielberg-bound serene venue.

But in order to have serenity prevail at the end of the day, Ricciardo will have to do a lot better in the race, the chances of which aren’t difficult but will be probed by several faster cars that the Australian will have to counter.

Take the example of the twin Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc, who too will be keen to pounce on the points up for grabs. More importantly, given the fact that Ricciardo failed to finish the race the last year around, albeit to due problems with his Renault (overheating of brakes) should serve him that extra bit of motivation to contest a strong Grand Prix.

F1 2021: 5 Drivers Who Need a Good French GP Today

The fact that no Red Bull driver has ever won at Le Castellet or on any other circuit at the French Grand Prix should make Sunday’s supposedly dreary and sleep-inducing contest plenty of fun, sprinkled with thrills. 

Moreover, with Max Verstappen occupying P1 on the grid, he denied both Mercedes drivers the glory of the pole. This is poised to make the 2021 French GP a slugfest of speed and one with unending surprises for how Max can convert pole into victory.

Who knows which driver will become the first to see the checkered flag? 

But what about the rest of the grid? Which drivers need to contest a strong race for the 53 lap contest based on recent form and their Saturday’s qualifying result?

Lance Stroll

For a driver who’s yet to really put a fantastic, eye-opening lap together during Saturday’s all-important qualifying session, Lance Stroll has ahead of him really testing 53 laps for Sunday.

Not only because he failed to set a lap time and finds himself down in eighteenth, even behind Kimi Raikkonen, but also because it won’t ever be easy to make it count, especially when one begins so far behind the grid.

Moreover, the pressure to keep himself embroiled in the battle with a visibly superior teammate in Sebastian Vettel will always put that extra bit of pressure on the talented Canadian. P18 was a disappointing result in quali at the end of the day, but come race day, Stroll would want to extract every bit of pace from a car that’s more than some insipid midfield machine.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: VILLENEUVE & ARNOUX’S MESMERIC FRANCE SHOWDOWN

Yuki Tsunoda

Contesting a race for the very first time at the exhausting Circuit Paul Ricard, young Yuki found it really difficult to negotiate Turn 6 of the track. His spin and contact with the barriers prompted the red flags to come out again during qualifying.

The result of this incident-marred run was that the talented Japanese is to begin his maiden French GP drive from the very back of the field.

Though he’s aligned with a car that’s visibly quicker than the likes of Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin, the question is, can Tsunoda vault ahead right at the beginning and make amends for a horrid quali result?

Surely, moving past the likes of Raikkonen and the Williams of Latifi shouldn’t take an awful lot of effort. Moreover, one reckons, Tsunoda will have the extra motivation to make up for the lost chances at races like Monaco and Spain, where he endured a DNF and P16, respectively.

READ MORE: SMOLYAR BEATS MARTINS TO P1 IN A SENSATIONAL FIRST F3 SPRINT RACE AT PAUL RICARD

Nicolas Latifi

Yet to open his account in Formula 1, quite like his fledgeling fortunes last year, if there’s one driver who’s been quietly operating under the radar then it’s the Canadian Nicolas Latifi.

Though, credit must be given to the young Williams man for keeping the nose of his Williams ahead of that of Kimi Raikkonen’s for a sixteenth place, but Sunday’s contest will see him amid an interesting challenge.

While the Alfa Romeo driver will fancy his chances early on to pass the Williams, what Latifi will also have to contend with is the fact that Mick Schumacher, provided the German’s mechanics manage to put together his car in one piece following that scary spin at Turn 6 in Q1, wouldn’t be so keen to allow Latifi to pass through his defences.

So, can the Montreal-born 25-year-old contend solidly and gather a respectable finish at the French Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo

Finding himself outpaced by his teammate yet again, Ricciardo, not in the greatest form this year, is set to begin his French GP challenge from tenth on the grid. Meanwhile, his teammate is already on P8.

But we know Ricciardo’s prowess at real racing, he’s not called the master of late braking for nothing. Having failed to score at Monaco and managing a somewhat lowly P9 at Baku, this is his golden opportunity to make amends and score some decent points.

A finish ahead of Norris, if at all possible, should serve him the mental advantage that all’s not lost yet since the 2021 world championship is a pretty long and arduous season anyways.

Moreover, with a best-place finish of P6 at Imola and Spain, it doesn’t appear as if Ricciardo has got the hang of the MCL 35M thus far. Probably, about time to get to his best on-track performance.

READ MORE: TOP 10 MEMES OF THE 2021 FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX

Kimi Raikkonen

If there’s ever been a woeful season for the most experienced driver on the grid, then surely 2021 is it. A man who was easily outpacing a much younger teammate in qualifying for much 2020, has found the tables turned this time around in 2021.

How can it even be when with the same Alfa Romeo he got only a lowly and very shabby seventeenth on the grid whilst his teammate found himself a respectable P13?

Is the Ice melting? We don’t know. What we do know is that it’s best to leave Kimi Raikkonen alone, for perhaps this time, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So maybe the answer at improving and rising back again can only come from him, not us speculative fans!

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to qualifying? The Grid Talk crew reviewed the French Grand Prix qualifying right after the session concluded yesterday. Ruby Price hosted Tom Horrox and Steve Jackson in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

Mignon du Preez: A Giant of Women’s Cricket Turns 32

In a game that loves to anoint famous nicknames to its icons, Meg Lanning known as “Superstar,” Sachin revered as the ‘Little Master,’ Shabnim Ismail famous for being “Cape Town Express,” and Brian Lara celebrated as ‘The Prince of Trinidad,” Mignon du Preez of the Proteas women doesn’t really have one.

Not that she would mind being this absolute beacon of simplicity.

Though, what the famous South African batswoman does have is something none around her or in her league have- a branch of South Africa’s famous SuperSport Park stadium being named after her- the Mignon du Preez gates.

Unveiled in mid-March, 2019, Mignon’s name has also been carved on the wall of fame.

Forging a path for good

In an age where cricket is still accommodating and often ‘accepting’ women in the mainstream, Mignon is a trailblazer of sorts, a character in an age favouring shenanigans, a real hero in a time where countless exist on social media landscape in virtual avatars.

Rare are moments where the game rewards itself by extending tribute to characters that have helped shaped its identity. Its stature. Its very being.

And when Cricket South Africa honoured Mignon by naming those gates after her, in truth, one was reminded fervently of a biblical expression in Revelation 21:21, “Those not fit to enter heaven are denied entrance at the gates.”

Though, in cricketing parlance, you could be anyone- a newbie, someone trying to find her feet in the international annals, an experienced ‘have-been,’ or a talent stymied by uncertainty- there’s most definitely a chance that Mignon du Preez would make space for you and there won’t be any denials!

No boundaries

At the conclusion of South Africa’s record-breaking tour to India where for the first time in history, the visitors smashed the hosts in both ODIs and T20Is, Mignon took to social media to post a picture with someone who happened to be an opponent.

Putting her hands on Deepti Sharma’s shoulders, posing with that bright smile that can electrify a city for its innocence and charm, Mignon’s caption read- “Friendship has no boundaries!”

And that’s really what makes South Africa’s most illustrious run-scorer endearing to tens of thousands around the world.

Perhaps with the Aussies and the English you can sense a bit of sternness on occasions, the occasional stare, if not a rebuke.

But what you get from the famous Pretorian is a feeling of earthiness, a down-to-earth-ness that’s hard to find in an age where fans are perhaps crazier to create rivalries between sides than the sides themselves.

Though, make no mistake. In the exact same charismatic batswoman, there exist two characters.

So, what we have here?

There’s the serious grafter of runs, who, specifically from the onset of 2018, vastly improved in the briefest form of the game, which is mostly about switching modes as a batter. This is the person who will combat all adversaries who push the Proteas women to the edge and will stand in between an opponent and the Proteas.

Then, there’s the ever-smiling persona beneath the helmet with twinkling eyes and an affability that’s rare to find. Well, exceptional for a cricketer whose name bears a plethora of achievements.

And in being all of this, forget not what Mignon du Preez has accomplished- over 5,200 international runs, 3 centuries and 23 fifties.

But while the excesses of international cricket pose threats of severity, challenging the physical frame of athletes, imposing the daunting challenge of playing all throughout the year, Mignon, hardly hampered by these demands, has emerged as a parable of longevity.

A school-girl prodigy, she was once a kid who debuted aged 18. For someone who struck a mega double hundred when she had barely entered her teens, greater heights would soon attract the smiling attacker of bowlers.

Where most cricketers dream of donning the captaincy, Mignon did so for both T20 Internationals as well as the ODIs and for well over half a decade.

To this date, she’s played in seven world cups and hasn’t merely contested but scored most runs for a South African cricketer – amassing 1750 T20 international runs at a healthy strike rate of 101 and nearly 3500 ODI runs.

And at that stage of her career where she could simply have become resistant to change, unwilling to adapt to growing demands, Mignon even excelled in the most watched premium T20 franchise-based league- Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League.

What about the future?

In a sport that likens young blood akin to a girl’s love for diamonds, a 30-year-old Mignon du Preez became the second-highest scorer for the Melbourne Stars, smashing 266 from just 14 games. But implicit in du Preez’s desire to excel is her penchant for improvement and taking each game as a new challenge.

It’s worth noting that someone whose T20I strike rate was no more than 95 two and a half years ago, currently sits north of 101.

A lot of it could be credited to a rather impressive outing she had and that too on spinning, testing sub-continental turfs of India, during the 2018 tour.

Starting with a 27-ball-31 in the opening T20, following it up with cameos like an 11-ball-17, du Preez was just beginning to get into the groove.

In the pinnacle of the contest, the 2020 Women’s World T20, her final over six on Katherine Brunt walloped England and sailed South Africa right on top of an opponent it had never previously beaten in any of the world cups.

Mignon’s contribution- an unbeaten 15 off just 11 at the crunch situation of the game!

To this day, one wonders what might have been the run tally that one of the most dependable batters around would’ve gone on to amass had we seen more Test cricket for women, which rather inexplicably misses nearly every team’s yearly calendar.

It didn’t take long for the bright-eyed right-hander to stamp her authority in cricket’s longest format, smashing 102 in the only Test she played around a decade back in time.

That the standard-bearer of excellence for Proteas women is still around, despite a 15-year-long run spells good news for just about everybody.

Mignon’s seen generations change around her, having played with the likes of Cri-Zelda Brits and Sunette Loubser to now being an anchor to the likes of Laura Wolvaardt, Tumi Sekhukhune, and Anneke Bosch.

Yet, what hasn’t changed is her desire to excel and represent what it truly means by the phrase Proteas Fire- the spark of incandescence that burns with bright hope to seek victories for South Africa eternally!

At 32, having witnessed both peaks and lows, the latter perhaps reminding one of the Proteas’ heartbreaks at the 2017 ODI world cup, where they were the semi-finalists and the 2020 T20 world cup, where they lost to Australia, Mignon is gearing to inspire a new generation of talents who desire to stoke the Proteas fire.

Just like the figurehead who sports a warm smile and commitment, but never any trace of arrogance or ire.

Caught at Point Podcast

If you want to hear more opinions on the world of cricket from Dev Tyagi and Pranay Rangra, check out the Caught at Point Podcast:

Ode to a true Australian titan – Steve Smith, a batsman like no other

Cricket expects England to continuously dominate, and the world champions truly came into their own in 2019, having demonstrated a spark of unsullied brilliance ever since 2017. Cricket also expects no less from India, who are world-beaters on their day, with the fact being that their days last longer than the ceaseless miles Usain Bolt can jog off without much sweat.

But from Australia, a bastion of cricketing excellence, the world expects something unreal. Australians are expected to regain the stronghold they particularly enjoyed over the sport back in the heydays of 2000s and throughout the nineties.

It’s not like the one among Cricket’s top three isn’t a strong force today; but it would be lovely to see Australians become the demolishing force they once were, one that instilled a fear in the mind of the opponent.

And when you look at a Pat Cummins, you see a bright future leader who’s just waiting to explore his wings. David Warner, a Test triple centurion is still going strong. There’s Hazlewood, Zampa, Stoinis, and Lyon- a quartet of match-winners.

And then there’s Steve Smith- a batsman like no other, a man who none can ever be.

Why Smith is special

A man who’s conquered inner demons, who has bitten dust and turned dust into gold, which incidentally also happens to be the colour of a jersey he wears with pride, truly aware today of the enormous responsibility it reposes on brave men who walk out there on the cricket pitch with an aim to churn magic.

And above all, Smith is the only candidate from Australia in the titanic tussle towards winning the battle of being the world’s best batsman, to which Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson are worthy competitors and enormous challengers.

No monk or beacon of self-righteousness, Steve Smith, who turns 32 today, has already endured what many might call a rollercoaster ride. He’s churned out records and attracted brickbats at express speed akin to the famous Ferrari roller coaster at Abu Dhabi-bound Ferrari world.

Smith arrives on the world stage

No sooner than he was introduced to the world of cricket did Smith go onto prove his credentials as a talented leg spinner who possessed the guile and loop to endanger the batsman’s stumps. Warne was already history and there was vacuum for an able spinner to inherit the spot.

In those days, circa 2010, Smith would only swing the bat on an occasion or two, never afforded a space in the top or the middle order of a line-up, which was replete with talents like Clarke, Watson, Hussey and Bailey.

Yet the Steve Smith story owes its thrills to the fiery proclivity using which a one-time leg spinner who never had his sights on batting became one of the world’s most dominant batsman, and that too, in the sport’s most arduous format- Test Cricket.

Although, that wasn’t before biting maliciously into some ‘sandpaper!’

Remember 2018? Newslands, Capetown, days after which the usually supremely confident Smith, a bloke with boyish charm and excessive self-confidence lacked every ounce of it when he went behind the mic tearing up like a schoolboy smacked on the face for notoriety?

Smith broke down during the interview where accepted full responsibility for the ball tampering scandal

Being an Australian cricketer is hard enough. You not only have to rise through the ranks, but a well-oiled domestic structure proving it difficult to reach the top annals. But the challenge of breaking in and proving oneself to be a staple resource in Australian cricket becomes an exasperating exercise in the event of one becoming a captain.

So, when Smith was found guilty of ball tampering, being a leader, it was almost curtains down on a glowing career whose byline was enormity of run scoring and boundless potential.

That could’ve been the end, but it wasn’t

In some ways, Smith being around again and going strong is down to the fact that he’s much-loved and regarded as a true modern great of the game. It’s not the world being blindingly kind on a talented bloke who chose an erroneous path.

It’s down to the stunning numbers that Smith has amassed, in a sport where most envy longevity and dream to win the much-coveted Ashes series.

In four of his ten calendar years in Tests, Smith has smoked in excess of 1,000 runs.

And what truly indicates his herculean nature at run-scoring is the fact in seven of the ten years he’s wielded a bat in Test match cricket, he’s scored at an average north of 70.

That’s like a Cristiano Ronaldo scoring 4 games per outing or Sir Lewis Hamilton delivering a pole, win, and fastest lap for consecutively for, at least, half a Formula 1 season.

It’s bizarre meets brilliance. It’s the marriage of fire and ice.

But a number that should truly drive cricket critics who still question Smith’s inclusion in Australia having committed a sacrilege-like error of ball-tampering are his numbers against England and India, two of the strongest bowling attacks.

Of his 7540 Test runs, nearly 4500 have come against the game’s most daunting forces.

Moreover, he averages 72- read that again- 72 against India and 65 versus England.

The man who once hid behind his father’s arm for the world seemed a demon in front of his cricketing catastrophe has come back like a Thor on a battlefield just that his bat is the hammer.

And some of his Ashes outings are evident proof of that. For instance, the Perth double hundred, the revered 239 that saw Smith hold his nerve for over 500 minutes in the middle.

He scored 774 Ashes runs- a high flying effort resembling figures etched on a Boeing carrier- in 2019 Ashes and didn’t even need the full quota of 5 (the usual no.) Tests to do it.

In a ten-year journey, Smith has become the poster boy of Test heroism and dauntless consistency as also the bad boy of cricket whose every forthcoming inning seems an effort of atonement to wipe out the past mistakes.

There’s always something he brings to the crease- whether it’s his rather odd way of letting a delivery by, taking his stance, shuffling, and that trigger movement captivating much like watching someone wearing an umbrella over the head.

But to Australia it truly signals that the team is safe and under cover from harshness of the opponents.

Also, the man who’s fired 38 international centuries would definitely want to get better in the 50-over format where it seems his best is yet to come.

Though, for now, the man who turns 32 but still looks pup-eyed rules with the élan of a man made of steel, built on self-conviction and that voracious appetite at run-scoring that doesn’t look if it’ll be swayed by any more distractions.

Happy bday Steven Smith. 

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