Sunday, December 6, 2009

India is no.1 in test cricket

So, finally India is no. 1 in the ICC test ranking. Any Indian cricket fan would be proud of this achievement. It all started after India beat mighty Aussies (the best team I have ever seen play till date) 2-1 at home. That was the time when under Sourav Ganguly we started our journey to become a powerhouse. I remember the problems plaguing the team then.

Anil Kumble was ineffective outside sub continent. He changed that in 2003-04 Australia tour. India always lacked genuine pace attack to rattle opposition on green tops. They have not found a great seam bowler yet but likes of Ishant Sharma, Sreeshanth, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel did well after Srinath retired. Not all of them have been consistently delivered performance in last decade. Perhaps only Zaheer Khan is consistent. But we always had one or the other pacer coming in and doing well. Add to it the performances of Irfan Pathan, R P Singh and L Balaji. Our opening woes were partially ended by Virendra Sehwag in 2002 while opening became our strength with resurgence of Gautam Gambhir. Adam Gilchrist's advent meant that a wicket keeper had to bat as well as a middle order batsman if not better. That problem was taken care by M S Dhoni in 2005. Batsmen struggled in 90's to do well outside the sub continent except for Sachin Tendulkar. Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman in their unique way of batting ensured that Indian team became TEAM INDIA from ONE-MAN-ARMY.

Much has been done but much more remains. With India playing only two tests in next 10 months this stay at top wont be long. It would be interesting to see how India copes with retirements of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. Signing off on positive note I believe that it is much easier to replace batting greats rather than bowling greats.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I have always looked to Challengers trophy with a lot of hope. Every time I expect to see some new player emerging out of shadows of biggies already there. I have not been disappointed in last 10 years. Be it Ashish Nehra or Piyush Chawla who came to limelight by bowling out Sachin Tendulkar or even M S Dhoni. Its importance may have diminished with the advent of the IPL as domestic players get a chance in that tournament to rub their shoulders with senior international players. However, not every player is capable of doing well in the shortest format of the game. I believe a similar tournament with four day games is also necessary to give more exposure and recognition to those who are doing well in longer format. I know it is very difficult to squeeze that in given the tight schedule of Indian team but if we want ourselves to be a world beating like Aussies and West Indians of yore we need to do this urgently.

This is because we don't have a competitive domestic tournament of the likes of those in Australia. So younger players will get their chance only if we either overhaul the system or arrange such tournaments. Overhauling seems very difficult given the political clout of state associations but these and similar arrangements can be done. We should also have frequent tours of India A and Under-19 teams to countries outside the sub continent so that players are not found wanting on their first tour abroad. Imagine someone who has played on docile pitches of sub continent throughout his career and then faces the fury of genuine fast bowlers on bouncy wickets. How can we expect him to perform well if he is not a prodigy? Not everyone can be a Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid. Same is the case with Indian pace bowlers. they have to drudge on dust bowls before they make their mark. My opinion of Prasad was of a mediocre bowler before he burst into prominence in England in 1996. He even bagged 'CEAT cricketer of the year' award in that season. Without improvement in domestic cricket management we can not be consistent performers in international arena. Some champions can give us a temporary no. 1 spot but continuous replenishment is assured only by strong bench strength. We don't have a dearth of talent, we just need to polish them well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Disappointments galore

So Indians have crashed out of yet another ICC event without making it to knock out round. It is very disappointing especially because they have been doing very well for past two years or so. Agreed they were missing 3 key players but that should not be used as an excuse for this. They could have easily won against Pakistan had Harbhajan, R P and Ishant given even their average performance. While Harbhajan had an ordinary series, other bowlers, namely Ishant and R P, have been struggling since June.

The next series is against Australia and due to nature of wickets in India we perhaps are not that dependent on pacers but still we require 3 pacers due to powerplays and ball change rules. Sreeshanth and Munaf showed a lot of promise in recently conclude Irani trophy but one match wont make a season. Sreeshanth to me has always been a top class bowler in longer version but i doubt he would be able to contain runs in limited overs format. However, Munaf should be given chance ahead of R P and Ishant. He ahas improved his batting of late and his fielding is slightly better than what it used to be few years back. Given the batting skills of Yusuf Pathan why not replace him with Nayar or Irfan Pathan and hope they are able to bowl few overs of gentle pace. Winning a series against this resurgent Australian team would give a lot of confidence to Indians and let us hope that our young pacers find form in this series.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Loss to Pakistan

Perhaps I am going overboard in analyzing Indian team's performance so early. However I can't stop myself from writing after what happened yesterday. It would be too harsh to single out anybody for yesterday's debacle because cricket is a team game. But I think bowling was really pedestrian yesterday. Harbhajan had an off day or may be he performed to the level his previous performances suggest. I have noticed over the years that Pakistanis play Harbhajan very well. In fact they play off spinners very well. So, when India's best bowler failed, disaster was in the offing. R P Singh and Ishant Sharma bowled a very poor line and length. May be the figures don't suggest this but I am talking of not only this match but others also where Indians have failed to adapt according to situation. Pakistan should have been restricted to 260 after we had them on mat at 65/3. Yusuf Pathan continues to struggle in this format and I believe it is the high time we give Abhishek Nayar a chance. Kohli should be given some more chances as it would be harsh on him to judge by one performance. I believe one should play bowler who can perform well and not have notions that 3 pacers and 1 spinner is the norm. I believe Amit Mishra can perform much better than Ishant or R P on any pitch going by their current form.

All is not lost yet. India had some positives from the game and it felt nice to see Gambhir and Raina doing well after all that piffle about short pitch stuff. Indians have always raised their game to new levels when playing against Australia in the past and I wish this team comes out with flying colors tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Champions Trophy favorites

The ODIs will surely get some limelight when the Champions trophy begins next week. The ICC tournaments have now become more democratic or may be more 'open' as I think democratic is not the correct word to be used. You cannot say, "Australia will win" and be assured that you will be proved right. Though Australia are currently very close to South Africa, the table toppers in ODIs, they are far behind them as far as performances go. Still, they have mauled a wretched English team (Aussies lead 6-0 at the time of writing). As far as my predictions are concerned, they go like this :

1) India: Dont go by their recent failures in the ICC twenty20. The youth brigade is very capable of turning tables in this form of game. Add to the lot the experience of seniors and the team becomes formidable. Bowling and fielding look weak link but in my opinion both RP and Praveen along with Nehra will prove to be too hot to handle.

2) South Africa: You may call them 'chokers' but the only ICC event they have won is the Champions Trophy. They have the best combination of fielding, batting and bowling units. J P Duminy may turn out to be more dangerous in this form of the game.

3) Sri Lanka: A lot depends on how their batsmen handle the pace and bounce of South Africa. But with their bowling and fielding they look sure to pull out few surprises. Getting to Semis should be easy considering they have only England and NZ to beat.

4) Australia: They are difficult to write off. Especially given the current form of Lee, Ponting, Clarke, White and Fergusson. But it remains to be seen whether they can replicate this form against stronger sides.

5)Pakistan: They have tough group and but knowing the fact that they always raise their game a notch or two against arch rivals India I believe they have a slim chance of making it to the semi finals.

I may sound harsh but I believe England and West Indies are just making numbers and New Zealand have an outside chance of making it to last four

Monday, September 14, 2009

India Sri Lanka Final

As expected India are up against Sri Lanka in the final of Compaq Cup. What was unexpected is the debacle of India against some quality bowling by Lankans. This is the second batting collapse in last two tournaments. what is disappointing for Indian fans is the fact that all the top four batsmen had starts and they frittered it away. The pitch was difficult under lights but after being set they could have carried on to have at least a face saving loss.

Today is the final and I want to see India victorious in the finals in Sri Lanka after a long time. At least I don't remember any recent victory of India in Sri Lanka in any tournament involving more than two teams. Despite the loss I still believe India is a better team than Sri Lanka and some good bowling up front backed by some spine in batting may see India through. I hope Dhoni gets lucky today with toss.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dravid is back

So Rahul Dravid has finally staged a comeback and the trail will be at least 5 matches long. Dravid fans are excited as expected. Well, I am also a Dravid fan and believe he is the greatest test batsman I have ever seen playing in last two decades. Yes, I have seen Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting bat. But this time around, the decision to bring Dravid back appears to be a knee-jerk reaction on account of supposed failure of youth brigade against short stuff. I don't think there is a need to press panic button right now. Even Aussies used the short stuff in 2008-09 tri-series against India. Those who saw that series would remember how well Gambhir and Sharma handled that stuff. I agree Raina appears to have some problem against short stuff but its not alarming. Ganguly looked far more uncomfortable playing short deliveries than Raina and he went on to score over 10k runs.
But now that Dravid is back and is expected to provide some freedom to Dhoni, he should be in team for some considerable time rather than a one-off appearance provided his form is not a handicap for balance of the team. In fact he is the fittest of Big Three (others being Tendulkar and Laxman).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Buchanan questions Tendulkar in Twenty20

It seems one of the ways in which you can attain instant recognition for a book you have authored is by creating a controversy by belittling a well known personality. To me Mr. Buchanan has resorted to that only. He says he has just voiced his opinion on some players but not disclosed why he chose those players only.

If Sachin Tendulkar is a misfit in twenty20 cricket what about Saurav Ganguly on whom Mr. B has heaped a lot of praise. I don't think I need to present the statistics because it is obvious to any rational cricket fan that Tendulkar is a much better player than Ganguly in twenty20. If he commented on Ganguly he should have mentioned his dismal performance in twenty20 format. What is pretty clear from the two editions of the IPL is that Mr. B is a misfit for this format of game. But still I should not say that because cricket is a team game and ostracizing a coach or a player for loss is not fair. VVS Laxman looked a misfit for the Deccan Chargers in both the editions of the IPL but he gave a scintillating performance for Lancashire last fortnight. Who knows Laxman turns out to be a star performer in the next edition of the IPL.

Getting cheap popularity by devalueing a popular figure doesn'y suits someone of Mr. B's stature. Please dont read a book that is full of hatred for one player. I would not have used the word hatred had Mr. B been consistent in criticizing players for he might have set some standards and Tendulkar might be below those. Obviously this is not the case and therefore I request you not to read this book by a garish former coach.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bring on the Ashes

It has been long since we had a riveting test series. As far as I remember the last such series was held in March this year between Australia and South Africa. Now the oldest rivalry resumes this Wednesday when England take on Australia in the first Ashes test starting surprisingly in Cardiff. Maybe England are buoyed by weakest Australian spin attack in two decades. The warm up games should encourage England as both the bowling and batting spearheads of Australia were found wanting in those games. Phil Hughes who is the youngest player to score a hundred in each of the two innings of a test struggled against the short stuff from Steve Harmisson. But having seen him play against South Africans this year, I believe he can play short stuff well. May be Harmy was too good that day. Mitchell Johnson also struggled in the first innings and hemorrhaged runs with little reward. However, Mitchell now is a much better bowler than he was a year ago. He now swings the ball both ways and is not limited to reliance on pace and bounce.

However, Australia had some positives in Mr. Cricket and Brett Lee finding form and Marcus North finally showing his batting skills on this tour. The opening combination of Katich and Hughes is very good and with the exception of spin department where Hauritz has looked woefully out of depth Australia are strong in all departments. Despite a slow pitch expected at Cardiff they may play 4 seamers encouraged by Brett Lee's reverse swinging abilities. Their batting has become stronger with Hussey finding form.

England are no less than Australia in their opening combination. Both Strauss and Cook are going through purple patch and Ravi Bopara seems intent on securing his place as number three. Kevin Pieterson at number 4 is England's best batsman. But then the trouble starts. Bell has not fulfilled the promise he showed on his arrival. I am amazed why England don't have a better batsman than Paul Collingwood. He is so good in ODIs but looks out of sorts against quality attack in this version of the game. England bowling has looked good this summer and with success of England Lions bowlers in warm up game we can expect similar performance from other bowlers. England are pretty strong in the spin department and Swann may prove too hot to handle.

I am looking forward to this series because even though lesser men are playing from both teams compared to 2005, this series promises to be as exciting as 2005 one.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

India win finally

India beat West Indies by 20 runs yesterday. Not a big deal normally but matters a lot when this team has lost three twenty20 games in a row and clearly demoralised by both the defeats as well as Indian media. But this victory must have relieved some of the pressure. I believe the close contest will only help India as winning close matches gives you more confidence and when faced again with that situation you don't panic.

However, the positive coming out of this match is batting performance of Dinesh Kartik. I rate him very highly as a batsman but he was struggling with both bat and gloves lately. This knock should help him exorcize the demons of his failure in last two years. It is also a befitting reply to those who had written him off. Someone who has performed well in test matches as an opener in England and South Africa must have some solidity in technique but in India people have tendency to kick out someone who is down and eulogise someone who performs well. Most recent example is the way they are baying for blood of Jadeja and Rohit Sharma. I am sure these two guys will prove them wrong as Kartik has done.

Friday, June 26, 2009

India in West Indies

India are in the West Indies to play a 4 ODI series. I don't know why the BCCI scheduled just a 4 match tourney, but then many decisions of the BCCI are beyond my comprehension. However, this event gives a chance to a cricket crazy nation to see whether the debacle of Dhoni boys' in England was just an aberration or the team is in decline.

West Indies don't seem to be a formidable opposition esp. in absence of Fidel Edwards, but those who watched last ODI series India played in Carribean would vouch for the fact that West Indies can be very menacing in their home condition. India have looked a very good side in ODIs in last season triumphing over Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand in style. This time bowling looks more potent with RP Singh, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar in pace department and Harbhajan in spin. Also, to assist these players we have more-than-just-decent part-timers in Yusuf, Jadeja and Rohit Sharma.

It is going to be interesting to see how Murali Vijay and Badrinath perform. Vijay has looked solid as a batsman and should make most of the opportunity he has got in absence of Tendulkar and Sehwag. Badrinath has one more chance to prove he is worthy successor to legends of Indian Cricket in not just limited over format but also in the test cricket.

Around a week's break must have rejuvenated Indian players and now the run-a-ball innings of Dhoni and Jadeja could prove to be very useful in this format. There are not much expectations from this Indian team and it will only help them. For me, India are the favorites to win this series provided they are still not carrying niggles.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Twenty20 World Cup final

So, it is Pakistan vs Sri Lanka in the finals of the Twenty20 World Cup. I never thought Sri Lanka will make it to the final perhaps influenced by poor performance of Mendis in the IPL and under estimat8ng Dilshan's performance in the same tournament. Due to really poor display by India, Australia and New Zealand my predictions for this cup have gone awry. However, not many would have predicted Pakistan in finals and I chose them as my favorites in the tournament. So, all is not lost in my predictions and that gives me inclination to predict in future tornaments.

Coming to the final. If there is any player who can nullify the threat posed by Murali & Mendis, it is Younis Khan. Along with Misbah he can score runs at a decent pace against these two. However, Pakistan's best chance rests with dismissing Dilshan cheaply. He has been mainstay of Lankan batting. The Lankans rely heavily on him, Sanath, Sanga and Jayawerdene in their batting. It will be an interesting final as we witness yet another South Asian title clash. Congrats to Pakistan for making it to both the finals.

Monday, June 15, 2009


So the dreaded thing has happened. With all the hype and glitterati of the IPL, very few of us would have thought India will not reach semi finals. But then the only test playing nation Indians have defeated is Bangladesh. Yes, they are still better than 2007  World Cup squad. But they lost to West Indies (without a significant contribution from Gayle) and England. England is the same team which was branded "chokers", a group of snobbish players and a team lacking talent after their loss against Netherland. Now the same team whose players play insipid county cricket "bounced" us out of the tournament as the Cricinfo reports. At the beginning of this tournament i had no hopes from England but they have left Indian team in hopeless situation.

With all the glitz and glamour of the IPL Mr. Modi and co. wanted us to realise what good the IPL has done to India. May be the IPL has made life easier for an ordinary domestic cricketer but scheduling it so close to an ICC event was bound to leave players jaded. Remember all these Indian players were subjected to intense pressure in their respective teams for about 40 days. A bit of pressure is good but to have 14 twenty20 games within a span of 40 days is just too much. I never thought anyone in India will celebrate dismissal of Tendulkar by Warne. But commercialism did that too. Team bonding? What is that man? Now they want 2 IPLs a year and add to it the Champions League. Where is the time for test cricket or for that matter any form of international cricket?

India is fast turning into England of World Soccer. All hype and no value.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Future of Symonds

So Mr. Symonds has done it again. Just when everyone was debating his omission from Ashes squad, he made it clear what could have been on Aussie selectors' mind. After a sterling performance in the recently concluded IPL, both with the bat and the ball, his fans were expecting similar exploits in Twenty20 world cup. Today Cricinfo reports that Symonds' retirement seems imminent. It would be a huge loss for International Cricket if this happens. I am not a fan of Symonds in longest version of the game but for limited versions he is right there at the top. Australia will surely miss his services as an all-rounder. With Symonds gone Aussies only have two Davids (Warner and Hussey) as destructive hard-hitters. However, Australians give utmost importance to discipline and the way they played after loss of Warne in 2003 World Cup is enough proof to believe they will be a dangerous opposition to contend with.

Friday, May 29, 2009

IPL2 Final and memories of 1992

Recent victory of Deccan Chargers in IPL2 brought memories of 1992 World Cup final. The similarities are many. Chargers were fourth team in the semi-finalists of IPL2. So were Pakistan. Deccan were put in driver's seat by two in two of Symonds while Wasim did this trick for Pakistan. With me the analogy does not ends here. Pakistan managed to sneak into semi-finals by an improbable victory against New Zealand through exploits of young Inzy and got a favorable decision in their favor by victory of Australia over West Indies. Similarly, Deccan achieved an incredible victory over Knight Riders through genius of young blood Rohit Sharma and nervousness of Mortaza. They were also helped in their cause by Punjab failing to chase even at less than run-a-ball. These knock-out stages can shatter the rosy dreams of the best team in tournament. This is what happened to New Zealand in 1992 and now Delhi Daredevils must be more than just 'disappointed'. 

Once one of my teachers said "Life is not fair". Very true, indeed  

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ICC World Twenty20 favorites

I am bored with the IPL though not with Twenty20 and hence waiting for World Cup of which India is the first winner. However, this time it is going to be very difficult for India to retain the trophy. I have not read any preview about this tournament thanks to the IPL tamasha. So, I take risk and go public with my favorites in this tournament.Link

1. Pakistan Surprised! Yes Pakistanis are good at surprising their fans and critics alike. However I rate them as my favorites after watching them play in UAE against Aussies. They have wonderful attack in Akhtar, Gul, Tanvir, Ajmal and Afridi. Shoaib Malik gives them extra options. Afridi is in form of his life as far as bowling is concerned while Tanvir is very good in T20 and Gul was superb against Oz. In batting they have unlikely hero in Akmal who is is in sublime form while Misbah remains the danger man for oppositions. Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik provide impetus while Younis Khan provides stability. My only concern is that Younis doesn't get very slow in starting as he does in ODIs. In this format there is very little time to settle.

2. South Africa This is an all star squad but i keep them on number two due to their 'choking' abilities. Smithy, Gibbsy, AB, JP, Albie Morkel and Boucher form backbone of a very strong batting line-up. While Steyn, Botha, Abdulla, Morne form a strong bowling unit with options in Peterson, Kallis and van der Merwe.

3. India They too have a bunch of seven dangerous hard-hitters in Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Yuvi, Dhoni, Pathan and Jadeja. However, their bowling attack looks thin on paper. Zaheer doesn't seem to bowl as well in T20 as he does in other forms. Ishant and Praveen look clueless when under attack. RP Singh though looks good and with his experience of English conditions could prove to be India's trump card. Both Harbhajan and Ojha look good. Their biggest concern will be form of Viru and Gauti.

4. Australia Two years back every tournament had this team as favorite. Not now. Though they have lost sting of Haydos and Gilly, they still have in their ranks Symonds, Hussey brothers, Warner and Watson who can score runs pretty quickly. Along with Punter, Clarke and Haddin they form a pretty strong batting line-up. However, their bowling attack looks weak at least to me. I am not sure Johnson, Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Hauritz will bowl as well as they did in other formats recently.

5. New Zealand They don't have menacing stars except for perhaps McCullum but the way they combine as a team they can scare low rung teams and can on their day upset 'big four'. Ryder, McCullum and Taylor can provide the fireworks so much needed in this format while Mills and Oram along with miserly bespectacled skipper Vettori can stem the flow of runs against any team. Others though look ordinary.

6. West Indies Gayle, Sarwan, Shiv, Ramdin and Bravo can get runs for them and at quick pace but the rest will struggle in English conditions. Similarly bowling relies too much on Fiddy and Taylor. With Taylor not looking in best of forms it is going to be tough days ahead for them in this tournament.

7. Sri Lanka Their bowling remains their strength with Malinga, Murli, Tushara and Maharoof along with Mendis (if he plays). However, their batting looks iffy with only Sangakkara and Dilshan looking threatening although Jayasuriya and Jayawardhane can also do some serious damage. The last two have not been consistent and the injury lay-off of Jayawerdene is not going to help.

Others in contention are England and Bangladesh. To be honest I have more hopes from Bangladesh.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The IPL predictions

Cricinfo recently carried the preview of IPL teams. So, now i have a fair idea of who are the players to watch out for in this edition. They pick Superkings, Indians, daredevils and royals for the top 4. However, any prediction at this moment is fraught with dangers. At least history suggests so. If someone had told you that Kings XI will make it to semi-final without Yuvraj performing well you would have not paid heed but that is what happened. We were all surprised by the performances of Shaun Marsh, Sreeshanth, VRV and Piyush Chawla. I think i will make prediction only after each team plays at least 3-4 matches. Any prediction should take into account that this edition is on South African pitches and the best way to do that is to watch the initial matches.

However, I hope no one gets injured this time in the IPL to miss national duty like it happened last year to Haydos, Sreeshanth, Tendulkar and others.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joy for Afghanistan in cricket

The Afghans have done it. They have beaten favorites Ireland in World Cup Qualifiers after barely managing to get into Super-8. This victory just goes on to show how good this team is. Ireland did well in last World Cup beating Pakistan and Bangladesh who are test playing nations. The Afghans are new entrants to cricket. Most of the players started playing in refugee camps in Pakistan and it seems they have picked some mental strength from Pakistanis.
It still remains very difficult for Afghans to qualify for the world cup considering that their victories in qualifying phase were against Bermuda and Denmark who are already out of tournament so Afghans do not carry any points from previous stage. But at least they have given themselves a chance. Don't forget Aussies won in 1999 without carrying any points from previous round in super six.