One of the biggest disappointments of the ongoing 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL) season has been the poor form of Ben Stokes. The English all-rounder was acquired for Rs 12.5 crore by Rajasthan Royals in 2018 auction.Stokes, who played for Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017, set alight last year’s tournament with his scintillating batting, crafty bowling and electric fielding, making him the obvious choice for the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) honour.England and world cricket’s premier all-rounder’s Midas touch has deserted him since joining Rajasthan, however, with the 26-year-old still looking for his first fifty in this year’s tournament, while the wickets have also dried up.But it may still not to be too late for Stokes, according to England team mate Chris Woakes.”He is a world class player,” Woakes, who is among a dozen English players in this year’s IPL, told reporters on Friday.”Probably has not played as well as he would have liked throughout the tournament but I never write him off.”Still four games left and more if they qualify. He’s a fantastic player. If you slip off your game against him, he will punish you,” the Royal Challengers Bangalore player added.Stokes did suffer a setback off the pitch when he was charged with affray following an incident in Bristol last September, costing him a place on England’s Ashes tour of Australia.The player has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in August.Hoping to help Stokes rediscover his best form, Rajasthan tried the middle-order batsman as an opener in Friday’s match against Chennai Super Kings but the all-rounder made just 11 before losing his middle stump to Harbhajan Singh.advertisementHowever, Rajasthan and England team mate Jos Buttler said the switch in order was primarily due to a hamstring issue.”(Rajasthan mentor) Shane Warne sort of said ‘why don’t you go at the top and play with some freedom and try and see if that comes off’ because he felt like he was going to find it hard in the middle with his running,” explained Buttler.Bought at a relatively modest Rs 4.4 crore, Buttler has provided better value for money for Rajasthan, the wicketkeeper-batsman hitting his fourth consecutive half-century on Friday to keep the side alive in the playoff race.Opening the innings with Stokes, Buttler went on to smash an unbeaten 95 to anchor Rajasthan’s chase in Jaipur against IPL heavyweights Chennai.Asked if it was his best Twenty20 knock, the 27-year-old said, “Definitely, especially in the IPL. I have hit my straps and it’s always special when you’re not out.”Rajasthan, currently sixth in the eight-team league, visit Mumbai Indians on Sunday.(With Reuters inputs)
Real Madrid Crisis in Catalunya: Zidane feeling the heat for first time after Madrid meltdown Ben Hayward Last updated 2 years ago 01:56 10/30/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(101) Getty Images Real Madrid Primera División Zinédine Zidane Girona v Real Madrid Girona Opinion The Frenchman won the award for coach of the year at FIFA’s The Best gala last week, but he has work to do now to get this team back on track Zinedine Zidane is facing his first crisis as Real Madrid coach. Defeat at Girona on Sunday sees Los Blancos fall eight points off the pace in La Liga and worse than the result itself was the nature of the performance. The champions have problems all over the pitch.Madrid had won their previous 13 matches away from home to set a new record in the Primera Division and all of their games on the road this season had ended in victories. Not this time, however, as promoted club Girona came from behind to seal a wonderful win in the teams’ first-ever competitive meeting.Madrid win and BTTS v Spurs 11/5 Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Real have had their issues already in 2017-18, but those had come at home via back-to-back draws against Valencia and Levante, followed by defeat to Betis and a 1-1 tie with Tottenham.Now Zidane’s side have lost their impeccable away record and they can have few complaints about Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Catalunya, even if Portu’s winner may have been fractionally offside.Isco had earlier given Madrid the lead in the first half, just 18 seconds after Girona had hit the post at the other end. The Spain midfielder was on hand to finish off a quick counter-attack when Girona goalkeeper Bono spilled Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot into his path.But Madrid were all over the place in defence, with goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a nervy presence, Nacho and Sergio Ramos all at sea after Raphael Varane went off with an injury, Marcelo a shadow of his usual self and young right-back Achraf Hakimi struggling throughout.Madrid’s midfield also lacked ideas, with Isco individualistic and too selfish at times. Further forward Ronaldo and Karim Benzema again failed to find openings and Zidane may have been better off with a 4-3-3 in this match, even though Gareth Bale was still sidelined.Two goals in quick succession from Cristhian Stuani and Portu turned this match on its head and Madrid were unable to respond. Last season this is a game Real would have won, probably with some inspiration from the bench via James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata. Those two, however, are no longer at the club.Injuries have been a problem for Los Blancos this term, but there is also too much apathy overall at the moment and too many players off form as well. And ultimately, Zidane must take responsibility for that.”If they give me ‘The Best’ award for coach, I’ll gladly accept it,” Zidane said last week ahead of the FIFA gala in London. “But I don’t think I’m the best in the world. I’m lucky to be at the best club in the world with the best players. I’m being honest – I like what I’m doing, I do it with passion and I’m getting better at it.”And on accepting the award, having picked up seven trophies already as Madrid boss including two Champions League crowns and La Liga last term, he said: “I have been here for 18 months and while I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here, I am enjoying it.”Despite his success so far, Zidane knows that things can quickly change at a club like Real. Up until now, pretty much everything has gone smoothly for the Frenchman, but he now faces a serious test to his coaching credentials, starting against Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday.