Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Indian Cricket and English Football

As I write this, England, the financial powerhouse of Football, are going to take on Slovenia in a do-or-die game in few hours time. A favorable result in this game would guarantee them a ... no not a world cup...but a place in last 16. With all those stars (or are they) of EPL they are struggling to make it past first hurdle in an EASY group. They were touted as a force to reckon with after Spain and Brazil. This article draws parallel between Indian Cricket team and English Football team. My only wish is these fears don't come true. We have already been flabbergasted in last two Twenty20 world cups by lesser teams of which we were supposedly masters before the advent of the Great Indian Tamasha. The only soothing fact is that the IPL is after this world cup.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Junior Senior debate in Indian Cricket

Almost a decade ago India were mauled by Australia and Pakistan in the then annual tri nation fixture in Australia. Parallel to that India U-19 team led by Mohammad Kaif won the world cup. The senior Indian team was able to win only one match in whole series. Former Pakistan keeper Moin Khan said that Indians lacked 'gutso' apart from Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja. As far as I remember that team included Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. Srinath was also in that team.

A year later these stalwarts along with some fresh blood (Harbhajan Singh) stopped Aussie juggernaut in a historic test series. Two years later they reached the finals of ODI world cup. I cited these because these examples just go to show even the best took time to settle. VVS Laxman made his debut in 1997 but became reliable as a batsman only in 2001. Harbhajan Singh came into picture in 1998. Again he became a permanent face only in 2001. Yuvraj Singh was the part of that world cup winning team in 2000. He made his debut in late 2000, became an important player only in 2002. Even Gautam Gambhir is in India colors since 2004 but could cement his place only 2 years back.

Not everyone can be as good as Sachin, Dravid or Dhoni to cement his place after one or two series. The standard of domestic cricket is so low that players find it difficult to make the cut to highest echelon. That is why I believe, we should be patient with youngsters. Of course there will be disappointments like we had with Hemang Badani and Ajit Agarkar but given the current state of domestic cricket we have to live with it. Stop vitriol against Vijays, Jadejas, Rohits, Virats, Ishants etc. Some of them will fail but we can have better players from this pool itself. Virat has improved a lot since I saw him first in 2008 IPL.

More importantly the selectors should stop tormenting these players. Choosing players based on IPL performances should be stopped. Also, a young player should be told clearly of expectations from him and reason for sidelining him. Mohammad Kaif was sidelined without any proper reason. Dinesh Karthik is not a team member but a stop gap arrangement. Whosoever gets injured from 1-7 he is called as replacement. How can a player improve if he is not played regularly? Sudeep Tyagi was made to carry drinks for so many matches and then sidelined after one failure. Ojha, Mishra and Chwla are all talented but by rotating them unnecessarily you are denting their confidence. One more thing is to choose horses for courses. While Mishra looks good for longer version of the game, Ojha is better as far as shorter version is concerned. Similarly, Tyagi, Ishant and Sreeshanth look to be test material. Don't play them in ODIs and T20s and then discard them on the basis of their performances in those formats. Similarly Nehra, Praveen RP, Dinda can be tried in shorter formats. ZAK looks good for all formats except the shortest. It is high time now that someone other than Yuvraj is tried in test team. May be Virat Kohli or Cheteshwar Pujara should be given chances.

Please stop this unnecessary junior-senior debate. The seniors were juniors themselves and had their own shortcomings during their young days and they are not going to play forever. Sensible selections based on strengths and weaknesses of players will go a long way in making India the strongest cricket nation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Saying "gutted" after India's early exit is an understatement but that is because I can't think of any other word to express my feelings. The defeat is not always unwelcome. We lost in 2007 WC in first round. But that defeat helped us improve. We found victory in Twenty20 WC 2007. We also got a deadly combo of Gambhir and Sehwag. Harbhajan was back to his old ways. RP Singh and Sreeshanth were clocking 140ks. As if this was not enough we got new talents in Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar. Rohit Sharma batted with gutso and elegance in Australia, that place for ultimate test. Less than a year had passed since our World Cup fiasco but we were right at the top.

All this was followed by the IPL 2008. An event which was thought to give impetus to Indian Cricket. It gave. It gave money. It gave Yusuf Pathan, Manpreet Gony, Swapnil Asnodkar etc. Rohit Sharma was a major success here also. Yusuf Pathan and Manpreet Gony were drafted into Indian squad. Gony lasted as much as his abilities but I am sure that Yusuf Pathan has outlived his ability. Thank God, Asnodkar failed in subsequent editions. After that our 'fast' (forgive me for using this word) bowling resources have taken a beating. The new talents (Tyagi, Mithun, Vinay) have not been tried well. On the other hand Ishant, RP,Sreeshanth and Munaf are so woefully out of form that barring Sreeshanth (due to his state team lacking quality) no one can be assured of place in the state team. Our batters could hit the ball miles on benign pitches but that illusion also gave way after yesterday's performances. They can still hit miles but only against below par domestic bowlers.

Who to blame? MS Dhoni, Gary Kirsten, Lalit Modi, Sharad Pawar, Niranjan Srinivas or Srikkanth? I don't know.

What now? I thought last year's defeat would be an eye-opener but no it wasn't. I do not have much hope this year around. I did not follow the IPL this year and I wish Pakistan wins this time around too. For full two years Pakistanis will go gaga about their performance in all dirty web fora and all those IPL following Indians will bear them. May be that would be an eye-opener because it is cricket following public which needs to open its eye now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

India vs Australia. Again.

India would most probably meet Australia in the second round of the twenty20 world cup but I am not talking of that. The news of Australia playing tests in India this winter has left me excited. This means we would not have to bear with the silly seven match ODI series. Just like the series with South Africa was riveting I believe this would be far more competitive.

The move by Indian board to have a series with Australia shows that we are concerned about the test ranking. And arranging a series with a strong team shows their positive attitude. However Australia would be a tough opponent to beat so it is a kind of double edged sword. And no its not an overkill as matches with Australia are so exciting that we can have a series every year. And yes we also visit Lanka in July. So 8 tests remain this year which is a very good thing considering players like Dravid, Laxman and Mishra who only play in tests.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ICC Twenty20 World Cup 2010 favorites

The prediction time is back again. Last time I predicted the winner correctly but had no good luck after that. This time however I am more conservative. Not following IPL means that I have a clean mind and would not be carried away by the performances in `tamasha' cricket. The warm ups have started and Indians with their infinite wisdom have decided not to play any warm up games. This will help. At least it will ensure that the expectations are not skyrocketed with a worthless win as it happened against Pakistan last time.

Most of the players are fatigued. More so Indians. But two teams stand out for me. Pakistan and Australia. Both are relatively fresh. Pakistan will sorely miss Umar Gul but the depth in their bowling attack will ensure it will be their most potent weapon. The batting relies heavily on Akmals. However watch out for Abdur Razzaq. He can be devastating in limited overs format. Afridi is the right person to captain the side given his current form. The batting looks thin but I believe that Misbah and Salman Butt would do much better this time. To me the Australians seem to be the next best team in the tournament. Their form in this format for last year or so has been fantastic. As I write the Aussies have surprisingly lost to Zimbabwe but I believe that is an aberration. A lot depends on how the pitch at Barbados plays. If it has some help for fast bowlers the Australians have the best of that lot. Otherwise they may struggle on slow wickets of the kind that were offered in recent West Indies - Zimbabwe series.

Other than these two every team looks at same level. But if I had to choose semifinal lineup I would go for Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. If the pitches in second stage will assist slow bowling, India too could be in with a chance.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comedy of errors

India and South Africa are ranked 1 & 2 respectively in test cricket and 2 & 3 respectively in ODIs. Very little separates these two, at least in the sub continent. It was no different in the first ODI between these two teams. But as they say, India may not be the best team in the world but it is the most exciting team to watch. If you had any doubts they would have been cleared after watching last match. South Africa required more than 60 runs at an asking rate of about 13. In fact it is not easy to get those runs in one over forget about getting it in 5 overs with Steyn and Parnell on the pitch. It was here that Indians decided that the match was too one-sided. The solution? Well, transform Steyn and Parnell to Gibsy and Smithy respectively and yes transform Sreeshanth and Nehra to... guess what? Yes you are right. Mashrafe Mortaza. Now we have a game on. Yahoo! The end result will be decided by who blinks first. And it has to be South Africa because Indians were sleeping till penultimate over. So, once again our meticulous planning and execution injected much needed life in the most lifeless form of cricket. Can you imagine cricket world without India?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rally round the West Indies

Are West Indians coming to the party finally? Well there have been many false dawns in last 15 years or so but this one looks genuine. Adrian Barath, Kemar Roach, Kieron Pollard and Narsingh Deonarine look to be a very good prospect for West Indies cricket's future. I am very eager to see Roach team up with Edwards and Taylor (not against India though). Add to it this line up Gayle, Shiv, Sarwan, Bravo and Benn. This team now looks decent enough to me as far as limited overs cricket is concerned. The Twenty20 world cup is in Carribean this time and I hope we have a much better organization and contest than 2007 ODI world cup. I have a lot of expectations from this West Indies side. Having only heard of the aura of Lloyd's men I want to see the passion of West Indies crowd after they put up good show as hosts on and off the ground. Best of luck West Indies.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Indian Team in New Year

Ian Chappel says that India are not a long term no.1 because they don't have the bowling firepower to take 20 wickets against top notch sides. M S Dhoni was quick to retort by saying they can prove otherwise by staying no. 1.
So how good is this Indian team? I believe an all rounder's absence is not a problem in test matches. I don't remember a genuine all rounder in both the great sides West Indies (75-90) and Australia (99-07). If there is one format where specialists thrive it is test cricket. As far as batting is concerned India have problem of plenty. Even when Dravid and Sachin were not in good form India didn't perform poorly. I believe replacing batsmen is not as difficult as replacing bowlers is. Remember Aussies had no problem replacing the likes of Waugh brothers while the struggles of Aussie bowlers after departure of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne are there to see. So it all boils down to champion bowlers as pointed out by Chappel. Yes we do not have any great bowler currently. Take it with a pinch of salt but Zaheer and Harbhajan currently are not greats even when compared to Indian greats only. However one thing which is good is that we have 4 bowlers available all the time. In 1990s we had hard time finding the third seamer to accompany Srinath and Prasad. We played ordinary bowlers like D Ganesh, David Johnson, Paras Mhambrey etc. That changed with the advent of Zaheer and Nehra. Later on we got Irfan, Sreeshanth, Munaf, RP Singh and Ishant. None of them have been consistent but at different times one or two of them have been in superb form to provide us with necessary sting to dismiss opposition. Ishant and Sreeshanth look to me as genuine world class bowlers in Test Cricket. So, my point is even if we don't have someone of the ilk of Kumble now, we still have 4 men who can combine well to give desired results. Well I agree that this requires proper selection and intelligent manoeuvring of bowlers when taking the field. Yes an auto pilot luxury is still not available to Indian Captain and Coach.