Daily Archives: 20 March 2007

News in brief: Tuesday 20 March 2007


Team and approach for the Sri Lanka match…

After having accounted for the usual suspects in the Indian team-sheet, the first name that will go into my Team India book for the all-important Sri Lanka game this weekend would be that of Harbhajan Singh. With as many as five left-handers in the Sri Lanka team — Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Russell Arnold, Upul Tharanga, Chaminda Vaas — an off-spinner would be handy to have. Furthermore, I’d get Virender Sehwag to further fine-tune his bowling. I’d play Harbhajan Singh instead of Kumble for the Sri Lanka game.

The only other consideration would be that of Robin Uthappa.

There are two options here: (a) Play Robin Uthappa and have him open with Sourav Ganguly, (b) Play Irfan Pathan and have him come in at #3 with Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly opening.

My preference would be for option (a).

I thought for a minute about replacing Agarkar with Sreesanth. Agarkar has come out as Shockarkar in the first two games. However, this is too important a game to try out a nuance.

In that event, the team would read:
Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

An alternative team sheet would exchange Pathan for Uthappa and would read:
Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

My preference is for the former option.

Either way, the seniors are going to have to stand up and be counted. Despite the post-Bermuda-victory chest-beats that I am reading (even on CricInfo) I believe the Indian team has to tighten up its act in several departments.

  • Virender Sehwag is totally there yet. He played and missed several times at the start of his innings. His game will need to be much more tighter for India to come good.
  • Uthappa should tighten up his off-side game too.
  • Ganguly should rotate the strike much more than he has in the first two games.
  • Agarkar sould stop thinking he is either Shockarkar or Agar-hoga-to-kar.
  • The team should really watch the running between wickets. By my reckoning, the team lost nearly 20 runs through lazy running.
  • There were far too many wides and no-balls.
  • The fielding… oh well…

On the positive side, Yuvraj Singh is timing the ball incredibly well. I haven’t seen any Indian player hit the ball as cleanly as Yuvraj has in the game against Bermuda. Sachin Tendulkar is playing brilliantly too. Agreed, he is not the Tendulkar of old. But this is a more mature, sensible Tendulkar who is playing well within himself. Dhoni will feel good about the stint he had. He was timing the ball well too. Ganguly’s game is much tighter and it looks like he wants to stay and make his innings count. Dravid is Dravid.

— Mohan

The mindset was right

India’s triumph over Bermuda was emphatic, but the more encouraging aspect of the win was the team’s mindset. They looked like they were fully focused on the job at hand and went about it without fuss. The Net Run Rate side of things looks a lot better now.

I mentioned in my earlier post (Go for Broke India) that the Indians needed to approach the game with an uncluttered mind and that is what they did. Even if this was a win against the least fancied of teams, they could take away many positives.

Two things are clear:

  1. Virender Sehwag justified his place in the side and definitely needs to be picked for the Sri Lanka game. Many have clamoured for his removal, but Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell kept faith. In my opinion he was not picked in the team because he is the current ‘blue eyed boy’ of the think tank. Actually, far from it. If anyone can identify a cricketing skill and match winning ability, it is Chappell. I for one don’t doubt his integrity and Dravid’s judgement in reading players. That is why Sehwag is in despite his failures and Pathan is not.
  2. Harbajan should come back to the team for Kumble in the next game. I feel Kumble is less effective against the lefties and if you look at the Sri Lankan line up, you have Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakarra, Tharanga, Russell Arnold and Chaminda Vaas. Even against the game against Bermuda, he was unconvincing against Hemp and Minors.

It is pity that Pathan is still not in the scheme of things yet. He is a potential match winner with both bat and ball and his presence will get the balance right. Many will argue that he should have played against Bermuda instead of Agarkar, but even if he had a half-decent game, he is not a certainty for Sri Lanka. One can only hope he discovers his bowling mojo soon.


Saddened by this…

The Hindu has published a photo of Dhoni’s house being attacked in the wake of Indias’ loss to Bangladesh. This is a sad reflection of passionate fans assuming the right to invade the privacy of a players’ home just because the national team lost a cricket game!

As I have said before, Indian fans are known for their passionate support. I know that Indian fans go to ridiculous extents to support the team. We heard of a fan building a cricket Ganesha temple that continues to draw huge crowds. A fan is looking at selling/donating his kidney to fund his trip to the West Indies to see the World Cup!

Such is the passion for the game in India.

I find this simultaneously wonderous as well as frightening. It is in fact this very aspect that makes the life of a die-hard Indian fan, most difficult.

But there ought to be a modicum of decency here. We have to learn to respect the fundamental right of individuals; a right to their privacy; a right to protect their home and their security. Unfortunately, Indian cricket fans have not learned to treat this as a game. To most fans, cricket is more than a game!

Indian fans teeter between “chop his head off” and “create a statue for this legend” — sometimes all it takes is one game for the pendulum to swing from one extreme to another without even a contemplation of a resting point along the journey! We don’t seem to have a balance (forget even a resting point) for this wildly swinging, erratic pendulum.

This is a truly sad reflection of a society that is bursting to be recognised a modern and a civilised one…

— Mohan

A few observations :: India V Bermuda (1st innings)

At the end of the first innings, a few quick observations to augment what Mahesh has already said:

  • India batted well against a weak bowling attack. But the job still has to be done.
  • Sehwag played-and-missed initially, but he then settled down brilliantly even though Ganguly at the other end was scratchy with his timing and placement.
  • Ganguly eventually played quite magnificently.
  • Both Sehwag and Ganguly should have stayed on to finish off the work that they had done. Dravid signalled what appeared to be a “blessing” when Sehwag got to his century. My impression was that he was signalling, “Stay. Your work is not yet done.”
  • India recorded the highest total in World Cup history — the previous highest was the 398 that Sri Lanka got against Kenya.
  • India’s total of 413 for 5 was also the 5th highest ODI total.
  • Tendulkar recorded the 5th fastest World Cup 50 (I think).
  • Yuvraj Singh got 83 off 46 balls. Had he got his century off 50 balls say — which is something I was hoping — he would have scored the fastest century in World Cups and perhaps the 5th fastest 100 in ODIs. But that wasn’t to happen.

However, the big danger for India is that rain and Duckworth-Lewis could spoil the party…

— Mohan

Good solid performance

When Leverock thudded to the ground with a stunner of a catch, the earth shook on impact and then… Virender Sehwag walked in. The immediate thought that came to my mind was that it was bad decision. I thought Mahendra Dhoni should have come in. Sehwag started tentatively poking his bat at the ball outside off. But he settled in and thankfully proved me wrong. Sehwag then restored the faith of his captain with a wonderful century. When Sehwag got to his hundred, I wasn’t sure who was more relieved — Dravid or Sehwag. Sehwag eventually fell trying to go the aerial route on the penultimate ball of powerplay. So powerful was Sehwag’s hitting that the final powerplay wasn’t taken until the 26th over.

Sourav Ganguly on the other end was finding it hard to pick the gaps unless he went over the top. He eventually perished, out stumped trying to hit another six. This was another gritty knock from Saurav Ganguly — it wasn’t as elegant as the Saurav Ganguly of old, but what he missed in elegance was compensated by grit.

Dhoni performed a quick cameo — 29 of 24 with one six. I had expected Sachin Tendulkar to walk in after Ganguly was out, but in came Yuvraj Singh, which was a very bold move.  

I agree the bowling wasn’t that strong, but India had to get a big score — it had to be as close to 400 as possible to give them a realistic chance of qualifying to the Super8s and Yuvraj Singh ensured that.  Yuvraj Singh completed his 50 with his fourth 6 — all hit over mid wicket. But he wasn’t done yet. He hit three more sixes and when he got out the score was 391. His valuable contribution was 83 of 46 balls. It contained 7 sixes and 3 fours.

If Yuvraj Singh’s batting was outstanding, then it is hard to find a superlative for Sachin Tendulkar’s. He batted at a clip faster than Yuvraj Singh and got to his 50 of just 26 deliveries and finished with 57*. Rahul Dravid hit the last ball of the innings for yet another six and India finished at 413 in its fifty overs.

Only one half of the job has been done. The target for India now would be to get Bermuda out for less than 150.