Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The toss played a big part at the outset. It may sound churlish but it is not too unlikely to imagine that the boot might well have been on the other foot had the spin of the coin gone the other way. That is the tragedy of wickets in India - win the toss, bat first, bat well and it is very difficult to lose. Or win the toss - bat first, bat poorly and get a hiding. On some rare occasion, even a good score might see you losing.
This has been the story in the last 7 ODI games played in India except perhaps Kanpur which had a little for the bowlers. Anyway, once that lucky break went our way, the advantage was seized emphatically. Sachin Tendulkar sent the World media into lyrical raptures as he turned the clock back some 7-8 years to play a wonderful innings on a comeback trail. Shots that stand out are a flicked six off Fernando, the signature straight drive off the same bowler, paddle sweep of Vaas, stepping down the track to Maharoof among others.
Irfan Pathan was brilliant. There is no doubt he is a wonderful batsman but like Srinath said we need to make sure his bowling does not suffer as we look to utilize his batting prowess.
And Rahul Dravid gave a fitting riposte to people who even after all these years doubted his ability as an ODI player. A beautifully paced innings, Dravid even showed that he can shed his usual elegant style to strike some muscular blows at the end. This was the best possible start to his tenure a captain and will give him great confidence to do well in the series as a leader who can lead by example.
Dravid was once again expectedly intelligent in handling his bowling resources. Admittedly, a score of 350 meant the pressure was off him but Sangakarra and Jayasuriya had got stuck in at the start. Dravid did not take the powerplay - brought on Harbhajan - who picked Jayasuriya in his first over - then brought on Sehwag who picked Sangakarra in his first - mission accomplished, he put in the powerplay removed Sehwag even after figures of 1-1-0-1 because there were 2 right-handers in and immediately brought on the supersub Karthik. The spinners wreaked havoc thereafter and Harbhajan should be thankful to Chappell for giving him an altogether new dimension by managing to convince him about the virtues of bowling round the wicket. Today Bhajji came round from the word go, and at 1 stage had figures of 3-6 finally looking the attacking bowler we all know he can be. Unfortunately he had been doing donkey's work for a great portion of the last two years under Ganguly.
Finally a word for the debutant - Sreesanth - he has a good action, good rythm and moves the ball both ways. He also bowls a good yorker and has a surprising bouncer. I feel he has great potential and should be treated with care and understanding. He may have been expensive at the start of his spell today but that is extremely understandable. Full marks to Dravid for getting him back at the end to pick up 2 tail-end wickets. As Dileep Premachandran said "it transformed a traumatic debut into an encouraging one." It may seem an insignificant gesture at this stage - but if Sreesanth one day goes on to pick 300 wickets in either form of the game it will have made a career, a far-reaching impact on the future of Indian cricket.
Very closely fought series - with a likely result 1-1 or 2-1 to England - Kaneria will not be easy to handle.
Your views ?
Monday, October 24, 2005
While his average of 39.2 is great and slightly better than his career average the countrywise split tells a slightly worrying story.
Against Australia he averages 19.6, against England 22, and against NZ 14.67. While he averages a good 37 against Sri Lanka, 34 against Zimbabwe and 46 against Pakistan, he averages a mammoth 56 against Bangladesh, 62 against the West Indies and 100+ against the UAE.
Not trying to hint at anything here. Just putting the facts and emphasizing that he needs to put up some big scores against the big boys soon now.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
By the same measure Wasim Jaffer played a stellar role in taking West to victory over South. But we are not going to pick him in the team immediately are we ? Also VVS scored a precious 70 in the second innings. From the bowling point of view, Zaheer took 6 wickets in the second innings, Balaji took 5 overall I think - both putting in the yards - good to see - again I am sceptical about Zaheer a bit. He has done this several times over in the past. Put up a good show when left out and look less than full throttle on return to the team. VR Singh and Gagandeep also were pretty good. So all in all the pace bowling department seems to be doing quite well.
Meanwhile SA have beaten NZ by 2 wickets and 3 balls in a close opening game. Kemp did the job again and is becoming a serious player for SA and a pain for the other teams. I remember him playing some fantastic innings last season against England.
Also, Mumbai beat SL yesterday - what a great blow is that - admittedly Vaas and Murali were not playing but that is just the tonic India needed ahead of the series. Mumbai has always been a great team and Vinayak Mane, Nishit Shetty and Amol Muzumdar (one of the most unfairly treated cricketers ever) did a sterling job to take Mumbai home.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
In the South v West game, the spinners did the job for the West with Ramesh Powar once again putting his hand up for selection after Zaheer and Munaf gave the early blows. But Balaji struck back for South with 2 very early wickets.
In the *big* game meanwhile, North were bundled out for 177 - Ranadeb Bose taking 4 and Paul 3. But most importantly Sourav Ganguly has taken 2 and is batting 19 not out. So far so good for the man. Tomorrow is going to be huge. As I guess pretty much every game from now on for him until he rediscovers his touch.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
But the Lankans are arriving and having proven conclusively that they are unbeatable at home, will now look to start winning abroad. So far they have not done well abroad. Hell, the last time they toured Aus they lost 7 matches out of 8, when they toured England they lost 5 out of 6, when they toured India they lost 3 out of 4 etc. The only positive was the decent show at the WC. But an Indian side that is down in the dumps and looking to rebuild combined with their good recent run gives them a huge chance to arrest that trend.
As it turns out that same fact, having nothing to lose could work in India's favour. They will have the home advantage - although that hasn't meant much in recent ODI series. But they will have a few fresh faces and a captain with fresh ideas - the big blow is the abscence of MK and the stupid decision not to include VVS. This means that we have a team that has Sehwag and Dravid out of form, Sachin making a comeback, Rao still looking to make a mark which only leaves the mercurial Yuvraj as a relatively steady figure !!!
I think it is going to be very close. I would say a 4-3 result. Which way is hard to tell. Until recently I was willing to give the benefit to India - but just realizing the bare-looking batting line-up I am tempted to think otherwise
Increasingly it looks like it.
Here's the latest from the other side of the border.
This is great - here's more: Shoaib's county chairman is absolutely disgusted with him and we all know what SG's Lancashire mates had to say about him.
Btw I had posted my thoughts on Akhtar just recently here.
Arre !! What kind of categorization is that ? I don't want to see him in the team as of today but if he returns to form and proves he deserves to be in the side above his competitors I would be extremely happy to have him back. Being dropped out of the team is simply a matter of form and fitness. Unfortunately the channels want to bill it as a great battle between SG and the People of India.
I must add that without exception all channels have taken an unmistakeable anti-SG stand in this so called 'battle' which is clearly a figment of their imagination. They have dug up stats, brought on dummy 'experts' to assert their point and have tried to influence the public in an unprecedented manner.
What is great is that if SG scores a big hundred tomorrow these very channels will start singing paeans of the man - and completely backtrack on their own ideas - and start propagating about how SG was always a class act and he had scored 10K runs and how he was being unfairly treated as compared to other players !!
Pathetic shallow-minded entities who have no understanding or concern for the game, for the public or the players - in fact for nothing but their own petty profits and rating points
First, East vs North at Rajkot. Nothing can be bigger of course than the fact that SG will be leading East. This is one of the sternest tests for him. A good score here would put him in with a great chance of making an immediate comeback to the Indian team. But he will face stiff challenge from the North Zone bowlers - VRV Singh (one of the fastest in the country), Gagandeep Singh, Joginder Sharma and Amit Mishra who apparently did well last season but was surprisingly overlooked for the Challenger. For the North, the batting is also quite formidable with Ricky, Dhawan and Mongia being the lead performers.
In the South v West game, the big battle will be the one between Zaheer and Laxman - both overlooked for the SL series. Again a good showing here could mean a quick recall for either.But there are other people to watch out for - Utthapa (oh what an innings that was), Balaji (the forgotten man of Indian cricket), Neeraj Patel and Dheeraj Jadhav.
All in all 2 fascinating contests on the cards. This is another great benefit of dropping the senior players every now and then. The domestic circuit will get a new lease of life.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
So what does the future hold for Shane Watson ? His skipper Ponting is a big supporter. We know that if Ponting likes someone he can back him to the hilt and he was justified in the case of Andrew Symonds who set Johanesburg alight and launched off the World Cup campaign. Watson believes he can be the third bowler in this line-up - and that will greatly aid the balance of the side.
Question is - does he have it in him to get there ? - I don't think he will ever come close to matching Flintoff but he does have the potential to be a genuine bowling all-rounder in Test match cricket. I would suppose if he is given 2 full series against West Indies and South Africa we will be in a much better position to say.
As it turns out he bowled quite ordinarily in the 2 games he played and was luckily dropped from the playing X1 for the Test match. Not only is Shoaib Akhtar an ultra-egoistic megalomaniac who has no interests besides being in the limelight and harming team spirit with his attitude; but he has also failed miserably with the ball over the last 3 years. Since NZ 2003, I can't remember a single time Shoaib has bowled a decisive spell that has led his team to a win. He was really really deadly between 1999 and 2002 and now he nothing more than average. Of course, his injury record is stuff of legend. Again when was the last time he lasted an entire test series ?? And bear in mind, he is 30 - not getting any younger. He is in serious danger of leaving a legacy of being a big flop.
And now his antics have so annoyed John Wright, the World X1 coach that he has been given one nice Wright slap. Good on you, John. That's the way such guys need to be treated.
Ten days ago, he still adorned the throne of Indian cricket. Today, he is just another commoner. Regardless of the outcome of this test, he is going to have to work his way back into the side. Clearly, it will be a very different Ganguly that Mumbai will see today.
For the batsmen, this blow can be bigger - because they get only one chance. Clearly Lara, Kallis and Inzamam looked rusty and they had every right to be. Kallis would not have played competitive cricket in 6 months, Lara and Inzy in 5. Well, of course, this cannot be an excuse but it will definitely have played a part. Clearly, the ICC did not do this deliberately for the series was scheduled about a year in advance. But it turned out to be disastrous.
For the bowlers too, it was a problem. Particularly in the ODIs. Andrew Flintoff came back to his best only towards the end of the exercise.
Already, Malcolm Speed has indicated that the ICC would not want to hold the event again anytime soon. The farce that this edition was - this is an extremely natural knee-jerk reaction. But most people, it seems are preferring to hide behind that very safe formula 'It is not the same as playing for your country'.
What is sad is that the ICC is likely to use it to cover its failure in getting the timing right and resultantly destroy a concept that potentially was and still is a great one. My suggestion would be the following: hold the event immediately after the ICC Trophy. All the teams are in one place at that time - and the players will not be rusty. Maybe just 2 back-to-back ODIs and a 5-day test - add another week at the end of the event - and it could work. Or maybe even scrap the ICC Trophy if required !!
Monday, October 17, 2005
"I'm sure there will come a stage where the players would like to hear a
different voice and like to have a different direction," he added. "When that is
I'm not too sure but it is up to the players and the ECB to decide how long they
want me to carry on. I would love to carry on for a while but it is not my
decision. I'll stay for as long as they want me."
Pity Sourav Ganguly did not seem to agree. He would have been spared all the humiliations and trauma had he opted to go out gracefully after the great win over Pakistan last year. But then very few captains get it right ain't it ?
As they say it is always better to go when people are asking 'Why' than when they are asking 'Why not'
Saturday, October 15, 2005
In fact, before the Ashes Lee hadn't played a Test in over an year, because he was unable to command a place in the side. It was his great form in ODIs combined with a loss of form for Kasper and Gillespie that propelled him back in. Though he showed plenty of effort, enthusiasm and heart in England and was superb with the bat he just did not get the results with the ball.
He also seemed quite lame today. I wonder how long Australia will persist with him at the highest level. Is there a replacement waiting in the wings ? I really don't see any - and given that McGrath is in his last phase, I feel strongly the chances are bright for a rejuvenated Dizzy to make a comeback.
Now to the "Super Series". As of now, the Super Test is all but won by Australia. The optimist in me still hopes that the World X1 put in an inspired performance to salvage some pride - otherwise this is bound to be considered one of the floppiest ideas ever.
Trying to analyze the performance or the lack of it of the World X1 a couple of interesting points come up.
1. Lack of commitment does not seem to be such an issue as is made out to be. If that were the case, it would have been more pronouncedly felt in the field. If anything, this World Team has been less poor in bowling than in batting to put it mildly.
Coming back to the batting (for that has been the real bane) consider the scores of 4 of the World X1 batsmen today
1) Graeme Smith 12 (Career Avg. 55)
2) Rahul Dravid 0 (Career Avg. 58)
3) Brian Lara 5 (Career Avg. 55)
4) Inzamam 1 (Career Avg. 51)
The four of them while expected to score on an average over 200 runs scored less than 20. That is a damning stat. But looking at it from a different perspective, it is not as if they have got starts and then thrown it. (except perhaps Smith a little). The same thing happened in the ODIs where Lara Dravid and Kallis basically never got off to a start.
I do think the timing of this Super Series could be one of the reasons for the sad batting display. With the exception of India and England and to some extent Sri Lanka, all the other teams were completely cold coming into this series.
Normally all teams take some time to get going in a season and it is bound to be far more pronounced when you have a motley collection of individuals like in this case. So the lack of team feeling is in my opinion a secondary issue and not the primary one.
2. Now coming to the use of technology in umpiring decisions particularly lbws - I must say I'm not totally convinced so far. For one in most cases the umpire's intuition turned out to be correct. Which is fine, but with some decisions this might radically change the game - as was the case with Inzy's lbw appeal today (ultimately negatived). For years umpires have been giving the benefit of the doubt to the batsman on close bat-pad decisions and that's the way it should be. Problem is technology is quite inconclusive and unless we can get that straight, I do feel it is best to trust the on-field umpire's judgement and make sure only the best get the job. Also the decisions do take a fair amount of time and despite all this there are times when umpires still give a wrong decision without referring. (like happened to Mark Boucher today). Now there will always be a debate - whether to take the safer option by referring or to trust one's judgement - not an easy choice to make.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Once again we can only hope that the magic will be rediscovered.
Meanwhile Katich says he is comfortable opening the innings. Could he go on to be a long-term opener ? He definitely could. I have great faith in his intelligence as a cricketer and his tendency to play well within his limitations. However it will be a bit of a climbdown from the imposing Hayden which in itself was a climbdown from the unparalleled Mark Waugh.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Of course, it confirms what we already know - and what we generally perceive to be the most prolific scorers in World Cricket. And amazing that Sunny, Rahul and Sachin are all in there !!
What it also shows is that these are the players who have over their long career made a particular spot their own.
And most intriguing is the fact that this could actually make a fair World Team of players over the last 20 years or so. Throw in an all-rounder at 6 (Steve Waugh has his name twice) and you are virtually through. The only deficiency is a World Class spinner - now why is Warne not up there instead of Ambrose ??
It is becoming increasingly clear that Limited Overs Cricket is one boring game these days and seems to have lived its life. The odd great match like the Natwest Final this season here and there has kept the interest barely alive but that is soon likely to diminish. No amount of new rules like Supersubs and Powerplays are going to make it exciting. Add to that the stupid roof at the Telstra Dome and the whole charm out of the game is destroyed.
So to the game ... I think the main problem was not, as many suspected it would be, a lack of team spirit in the World X1 squad. They looked extremely commited on the field and took great joy in each other's successes. Where they failed was with the bat and I think the major reason for that could be simply lack of understanding of what role they are supposed to play. All the batsmen in this team with the exception of Dravid (and to some extent Kallis) are dashers for their own countries. And that is exactly the way each looked to play today. No one really got out to a great ball or anything like that.
Luckily, from Pollock's comments it seems that this team is really hurting and wants to come back with a venegeance. I hope they do. Otherwise the other 2 matches could well be as boring. About the only change I see that could be made to this side is to bring in Gayle for Sehwag - and I don't mean to single out VS in any way here but in a short series it is very difficult to give people extended run to find their form. And an important point we all seem to be missing here is VS is to some degree an overrated ODI player. He is great in Tests not so in ODIs as his records will show. So Gayle could be a handy replacement. Other than that, all it needs is to show some fight and this "team" will stand a chance of staging a comeback.
On the positive side, the bowling effort was pretty good. Vettori was outstanding. I have great respect for Vettori's bowling - quite contrary to what many people may think based on my insistence on Anil Kumble over him - but a) I insist on AK in the Test not ODIs and b) I think a spot in the World X1 should be a reward for performance and Kumble had done supremely well both recently and over his entire career. Anyway, both Vettori and Murali did a superb job and only Freddie was slightly off target. I was fairly impressed by Pollock's captaincy although he might have missed a trick by not getting the spinners on earlier (esp Murali) when Gilchrist was going great guns after the 10th over and delay the powerplay.
To the Aussies - well-played. You have demonstrated again that you are the top team in the World - contrary to what many people may say - definitely in ODIs.
Looking forward to the next battle - hopefully the night will be bright and that stars will exhibit their light this time round.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
They now have the opportunity to bring back hope and respect to Indian cricket in the eyes of the World - something sadly lost this last month
I do not buy into this theory that 'A Captain Is As Good As His Team.' At least, not in entirety. Sure, to produce results he has to have a proportionate number of resources available. But, given a team I believe captains can distinguish themselves by utilising those resources in different manners all the time trying for optimum results within their constraints. So for eg. I believe if Michael Vaughan captained India we could be much closer to being World Champions. Or if Ranatunga captained this Bangladesh side, they would be a much tougher fighting unit. Also, if Steve Waugh was captain this Ashes series (the rest of the side remaining the same) the result could have been different.
So where are the great captains ? Where are the CK Nayudus and the Lala Amarnaths the people who believed in attacking at all costs ? On a global scale where are the Emperors like Imran and Lloyd ? The wily fox Arjuna Ranatunga ? The brilliant Mark Taylor ? And the indefagtible Steve Waugh ? Please step up to fill in the void someone !!
First there was the whole Ashish Nehra episode. It is said that he was too lazy to play the Test matches and hence feigned the injury. Then instead of going to South Africa for repairs as per the advice of the coach he went to England. Then he made a cameo surprise visit to the Mumbai Flop-show for undisclosed reasons. And just to make matters more intriguing he is still not fit enough to participate in the Challenger series.
Then there is the case of Anil Kumble. There was no inkling of any sort of injury until the end of Zimbabwe; but now suddenly he is apparently advised four weeks rest from some speculative reports. What is the truth behind all this ? Are the selectors convinced that Kumble has no future in ODI cricket and Kumble otherwise ? Is this the reason why this facade of injury is going on ? Or is there some even deeper meaning attached to it ?
Most intriguing however is the injury to Sourav Ganguly who is reported to be suffering from his own version of tennis elbow. This after the whole affair in which feigning injury was a specific point - in fact the only one that was comprehensively and emphatically dismissed by the hilarious Ranbir Singh Mahendra !! But wait it gets better. In a discussion I was involved in on Prem Panicker's blog someone actually said that SG retiring in the practice match at Mutare after being hit on the arm might have been a precaution against tennis elbow !! Also, tangentially Chuckster in his blog wonders whether in fact this was all preplanned at the Mumbai flop-show where GC would have his way after all - SG not play due to 'injury' and be spared a humiliating sacking in lieu of the services he has offered !! Well well it is indeed a brain-teaser this one !!
The immediate problem I see is that if SG does not play the Challenger (as is also speculated) who will lead the seniors side ? VS and RD are not there of course !! Nor is AK. So will it be SRT who is on a comeback trail ? Or will it be the Gen-next idols Mohammd Kaif or Irfan Pathan ? Either way it promises to be one interesting choice.
The other problem is that I had braced myself up for enthusiastically supporting the India A side led by The Boss VVS Laxman. I badly wanted to see SG lose the series, lose face !! Now who will I support ??
Monday, October 03, 2005
Karthik took 5 wickets for 60 odd while both Powar and Parida took 7 for 115 odd in the match. While Karthik also scored 96 and can be an obdurate bat, Powar is a known big-hitter and good fielder - so these 2 would be of particular interest.
While on the topic of the Irani Trophy why o why is Rest of India such a weak team and is evidently going to go down comfortably ? I have a lot to say on this topic but for lack of time have to save it up for a later post.
These are troubling times for captains all over the World. And that does not quite include Inzamam's flipflops on playing in the Super Series and his miscommunication with the Board.
Of course, there is the whole GC-SG saga and SG must be feeling very much like a man cornered now.
Then older brother Ian has called for the head of the Australian captain Ricky Ponting. And now, he is after the South African and World X1 captain Graeme Smith arguing that he lacks imagination.
Of course I had already mentioned in an earlier post my thoughts on the issue. Fair to say some of the experts reinforce them.
The Australian wicket-keeper feels that Test status should not be awarded to the Super Test and I couldn't agree with him more. Doubtless, everything needs to be done to ensure that all players play the game in all sincerity, I do not think granting official Test status was the only way to achieve that . For eg. the ICC could have created a separate category for matches like these, the Tsunami Relief game, the Asia-Africa series etc.
Test Cricket should always be an international game - it is too sacrosanct to fiddle with so lightly.
Shaun Tait is going to be out of action for quite a while it seems. While it is bad luck for the young man, it could in fact prove to be ironically beneficial for him and Australian cricket in the long run. Don't mean to be churlish but I don't think he is quite there yet as far as international cricket is concerned. Young and raw, has a bit of talent but not quite the ready product. Even the most fervent Aussie fans (shattered by the disastrous demises of Gillespie and Kasprowicz and hence eagerly looking forward to Tait) could only go so far as to describe his performances in the 2 tests as 'solid'. Crucially, he is an attacking bowler who does tend to go for runs in trying to get wickets. While that in itself is no crime (in fact it is something to be lauded), Australia already have one such bowler in Brett Lee who despite what many feel has not yet reached World Class standards in terms of consistency and results. So, overall it would be better if someone more defensive and safe like Stuart Clark fills in the void for the moment while Tait polishes his skills on the domestic scene.
About Stuart Clark - the little I have heard of him seems to indicate that he is a McGrathesque bowler and has parents of Indian origin ! Pray how is that ? If anyone could care to explain ...
Also - the injury to Hogg is also not without rewards - to us fans that is - while he has been an excellent cricketer for Australia I personally find his style of cricket a bit boring and dour and would prefer to see what the youngster White has to offer !!