Monthly Archives: July 2007

English press on India England "gamesmanship"

India have stood up to England’s bullying – writes Simon Briggs in the Telegraph. This is what he has to say –

India used to be a deferential sort of team, and a soft touch on foreign soil. But that was before the arrival of Sourav Ganguly, the man with the thickest skin in cricket. He turned them into a more streetwise, self-confident crew, and in this series they have stood up to England’s bullying tactics and then replied in kind.

Time to clamp down on gamesmanship, writes David Hopps in The Gauardian. He writes –

England’s approach to unsettling the Indians was inappropriate, and what’s more, it failed miserably

Sreesanth living dangerously in role of pantomime villain, writes Richard Hobson in The Times. He writes –

If Sreesanth has an inner conflict between war and peace, then the dark side scored an innings victory yesterday. This Test match has passed acrimoniously, with Sreesanth a match for any of the loudmouths in the middle in the misbehaviour stakes

Hobson was also critical of the English team:

Indeed, England have become so aggressive these past weeks that it would have been no surprise had batsmen emerged yesterday wearing knuckle-dusters in place of gloves or if Pietersen had added more tattoos to his collection, with “love” scratched on the back of one hand and “hate” on the other.

-Mahesh-

More on jelly beans…

Here is an excellent — and hilarious — article by Martin Johnson on the jelly beans episode. The article, titled “England jelly japes not worth a bean“.

Simon Briggs in the same newspaper — The Telegraph — thinks that both sides must take the blame for the state of play. He chides “the gracelessness of both sides’ conduct” and goes on to suggest that Alistair Cook is possibly the most likely jelly bean offender.

Will the match referee fine Alistair Cook too?

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 4 — England turn to jelly…

Zaheer Khan’s excellent bowling put India firmly in the drivers’ seat at the end of day-4 of the 2nd England Vs India Test. He had a terrific first session in which he got Alistar Cook out with a beauty. But his best balls of the session weren’t rewarded. He bowled some peaches to Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss that went unrewarded. He said that he had been spurred by a few pink jelly beans!

zaheer.jpg

Zaheer Khan was referring to his exchange of pleasantries with Kevin Pietersen when Zaheer was batting on day-3. This had apparently been sparked by the presence of jelly beans on the pitch. Zaheer Khan flicked the offending beans away from the pitch only to find a few more on the pitch the very next ball! He apparent used that as a spur to bowl, on day-4, what was the best spell of his career so far, thereby turning the jelly-throwers into jelly themselves!

This has been a series marred by on-field pranks and verbals. I do believe Vaughan and Dravid have a responsibility to get their players to focus on the game instead. A bit of lip is perhaps good for the game. Matt Prior seems to think so anyway. But a continuous carry-on takes the sheen away from what has been a terrific contest between bat and ball. The worst offenders have been Sree Santh and Matt Prior. In my view, they should be given a hair cut, thrown into a cold shower, clipped behind their ears and asked to focus on their games instead.

But to be brutally frank about it, it was a slice of luck that brought India back into the game. Dravid took the 2nd new ball as soon as it was due. At that point, the game appeared to be slipping away from India’s control. England had squared off the deficit and were moving ahead with alacrity. Vaughan was batting well and Collingwood was steady at the other end. After having bowled Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar for a few overs to usher in the new ball, Dravid took it as soon as it was due.

And talking of Sachin Tendulkar’s bowling, it must be that Dravid sees more in his bowling than most others. Or is it a case of the captain being in awe of his illustrious team-mates’ prowess? Who knows what the reason is, but it still was baffling to see Tendulkar fling leather for a few overs before lunch when the best man on the park had bowled a stirring spell of 6 overs in which he had taken 1 wicket for 9 runs. That apart, Dravids’ handling of his bowling resources was good. His field placings were good and he handled Sree Santh reasonably well too. He egged his players constantly. This was once more evident as soon as the new ball was taken.

Instead of getting on with the game as soon as the second new ball was taken, Dravid called for a mid-pitch huddle instead! This was certainly a first! Vaughan and Collingwood looked on in bemusement! Even the umpires looked. David Gover said with dripping sarcasm, “Hello, hello! The game will have to wait. We have a meeting going on”, or words to that effect. Dravid must have pleaded for some more intensity and focus. And that’s what he got. The Indians seemed hungry and desperate and altered the course of the match!

The first over with the new ball, bowled by Zaheer Khan, went for 14 runs and the second over, bowled by Sree Santh went for quite a few too. Dravid may have been wondering about his decision to claim the new ball. He may also have been wondering if his huddle-assemble-call had had any effect at all! However, a few overs into the new ball, Zaheer Khan thudded a fast ball into Vaughan. It clipped the bottom of Vaughan’s thigh pad and ricocheted onto the stumps.

India had prized the door open. And thanks to some smart cricket, India proceeded to smash the door open.

It was appropriate, in my view, that Zaheer Khan got Vaughan’s wicket. In the morning session, just as Sidebottom had made Tendulkar dance to his tunes on day-3, Zaheer Khan had Vaughan in all sorts of trouble. Vaughan had been extremely lucky to have survived that amazing spell of intense swing bowling from Zaheer Khan. Incidentally, Zaheer Khan is the 4th highest wicket taker in the list of left-arm-seamers. He is in illustrious company — Wasim Akram, Chaminda Vaas and Alan Davidson are the others. Zaheer Khan had bowled to Vaughan like a champ. Just as Tendulkar congratulated Sidebottom on day-3 after that left armer had completed his spell, Vaughan too seemed appreciative on more than one occasion!

Zaheer Khan was clearly the best bowler on view. He bowled with purpose and venom. While one could say that he was lucky with the Vaughan wicket and the Andrew Strauss wicket — a lazy, post-lunch waft — the deliveries that got Alistair Cook and Ian Bell was brutes. And the manner in which he set up Collingwoods’ wicket was smart.

I don’t believe Zaheer Khan was supported well. R. P. Singh was the only other India bowler who, in my view, bowled well. He is, in my view, a smart young bowler with maturity that defies his 22 years. Micheal Atherton claimed that the two left arm seamers, together, bowled the best spell of left-arm swing bowling that he had ever seen, apart from the spells bowled by the great Wasim Akram. I am quoting almost verbatim. David Gower’s response to that statement was, “High praise indeed.”

Although Kumble’s figures, at 3 wickets fro 104 runs, read reasonably well, he did have a poor day at the office. He did not pose too many threats and he did not ask too many questions.

But the worst culprit was Sree Santh. He started steadily but was mostly erratic. He nearly felled Pietersen with a terrible beamer. The fact that Pietersen got out a few balls later may have meant that Sree Santh had rattled him with the beamer. It just showed that Sree Santh wasn’t on top of his game. He once bumped into Michael Vaughan on his trudge back to his bowling mark. It may not have been a deliberate shoulder-contact. Nevertheless he has been fined for this transgression. Fair enough. He should concentrate on his game more.

Overall, Sree Santh had another ordinary day at the office. He bowled some good spells. But there was some tripe chucked in there for good measure too. On a day when Zaheer Khan was bowling probably the spell of his career so far, what one needed was a steadying support at the other end. Sree Santh definitely did not provide this support. He was erratic at worst and enigmatic at best. In amongst his beamers and over-stepped-by-2-feet no-balls, he even managed to deliver a ball from about a foot behind the bowling crease! This young lad needs to learn to channel his energies and his undoubted skills more effectively.

His reaction to being denied Collingwoods’ wicket was shocking. Collingwood had just gloved a Sree Santh ball to Dhoni behind the stumps. This was Howell’s chance to get in on the getting-it-wrong act. Sree Santh reacted by going around the wicket and bowling two deliberate no-ball bouncers. In both, his front foot had over-stepped by about 2 feet! That could be nothing other than intentional and deliberate!

Dravid immediately removed him from the attack next over and brought on Ganguly instead. Good call.

The contrast with R. P. Singh was stark. Singh had just scored a Pietersen’s snick to Dhoni and was celebrating with the slips by the time he turned back to see Simon Taufel deny him his glory. The snick was so obvious Blind Freddie would have given it out. Taufel’s nightmare series was merely continuing. Singh, meanwhile, merely trudged back to the top of his run and proceeded to bowl what I thought was the ball of the series so far. The next ball was a viscious inswinger that swung at terrific pace from about a foot outside off to catch Pietersen plumb in front.

Singh produced a similar delivery later on to dismiss Matt Prior.

Aaah! MAtt Prior! I think this goof is another one that needs to spend more time in the nets and less time practicing his sledges. He gives the impression that he takes the verbal/aggression side of his game a bit too seriously. If he took his batting as seriously as the sharpening of his mental game, he’d probably be a better player for it. When he got in, he was understandably, given the verbal make over by the Indians — and in particular from Sree Santh, his professional counterpart in the Indian team. Instead of getting on with his game, Prior reacted to the sledges. He air-kissed, winked, smiled and said something himself. It wasn’t surprising that he was out soon and sent packing.

Despite the wickets of Cook, Strauss and Pietersen, in my view, England had taken the 1st two sessions of the day and my session-by-session scorecard read 5-4 when we got to the second new ball.

Vaughan had played delectably. His balance and his poise were amazing. His front foot drives and his cover drives were poetry. His reaction to the verbals — and the shoulder-to-shoulder from Sree Santh — were lessons in how to cop it — Matt Prior should take note. The England captain was on top of his game. He had played a captains’ knock with little support from the rest of the bats. Along the way, Vaughan had also survived a first ball scare from Kumble. Kumble had started his spell with a fast-low top-spinner that thudded onto Vaughan’s pads. I am not sure why that was given not out! The nightmare on umpire street merely continued! But Vaughan put all of that behind him and built a wonderful innings.

Alistair Cook has a balance problem that has been rudely exposed by the Indian seamers. He has been found out to the inswinger thudding into his pads and on 4 times out of 4 in this series, he has been out in the same manner. A few years ago, Justin Langer had a similar exaggerated head-lean-to-the-left to compensate for the ball sliding down his leg side. Agarkar had exposed this weakness in his batting. Cook is going through a similar phase and needs to address this weakness. Strauss had lent support to Vaughan but his lazy post-lunch waft at a wide ball was a stupid lapse in concentration, especially from one who is vice-captain of the team! Pietersen came and went. Only Collingwood was able to lend support to Vaughan. The two of them had a good partnership going. England were motoring at that stage. And that’s when, with the second new ball, the game turned on its head. Vaughan was out and Ian Bell came into play.

The Indians had been pre-warned that Bell had received a viscious knock to his head in the nets. Zaheer Khan greeted Bell with a bouncer. He then bowled a beauty to trap Bell adjacent. R.P.Singh produced a peach to get rid of Prior and Collingwood was snapped up by Karthik in 1st slip. This was a smart catch take inches off the ground. Kumble wiped off the tail, India were left with 73 to make. They had won the last session decisively and should go on to win the Test match.

The session-score reads 6-4 and that is an apt reflection of India’s dominance of this match.

Test 2 Day 4 – What’s in store for India?

India is in a good position after Day 3 –  there is no doubt about that. It could have been better, but that is another story.

So, how could the day pan out? There are obviously many scenarios, but here is one from an England supporter’s point of view –

The weather prediction has been good and we can expect to see 90 overs being bowled today. The humidity will be low and the swing will not be as pronounced as it was on day 1. If England play out the entire day and score at 3.3 runs per over, they can get to add around 300 runs by the end the day with a lead of close to 60 runs. This is of course still not enough – We need to keep wickets intact and bat out the entire morning session tomorrow to ensure that we do not lose. The opening partnership will be very crucial, but Peitersen is a key player – if he scores quick, he can take the game away from India. If we set India a target over 150, we stand a very good chance on a fifth day pitch…

And one from an Indian supporter’s point of view –

The English are playing to save the match, whereas India are playing to win it. They will come out with a defensive mind set, while India will attack. We may not be able to get the kind of swing we got on day 1, but the English have Kumble to reckon with on a 4th day pitch.

England need at least 500 runs in the second innings to think about beating India. Even if they make 300 today, they will have to play the entire morning session and score around 130 runs to be on the safe side. This is not going to happen. Bottom line is that India is in an unassailable position – they cannot lose the game…

 Personally, I think it is just going to be a great day of cricket. It doesn’t matter how many sessions India have won so far (Mohan had the score at India 5, England 2), but how many they are going to win from now on.

-Mahesh-

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 3 — England claw back…

On an intriguing day of Test cricket, England had their first good session of the ongoing Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge.

However, things did not go Englands’ way to start off. India had a solid first session on day-3 and did exactly what the doctor ordered — to see off the new ball and keep the scoreboard ticking. Ganguly looked assured and played with hunger. He was often seen egging his more illustrious partner on whenever Tendulkar played and missed to Sidebottom. The fire and hunger seemed to back in Ganguly. So also the swagger. He had even hooked Tremlett for a huge six over squre leg! And what’s more, to rub salt into the bowlers’ wounds, he made Tremlett wait at the top of his bowling mark as he turned sideways to admire the shot on the grounds’ TV screen! He was doing a Ganguly as only Ganguly can! This was a session that was India’s all the way. The forecast would have been ominous for England at lunch time. The scoreboard read 338/3. India had made 82 runs in 28 overs, had seen off the new ball and were playing Panesar with aplomb. Tendulkar was on 87 and Ganguly was on 53. Tendulkar was looking good for a century and even though Ganguly was 47 runs away from a three-figure mark, it seemed almost inevitable that he’d cross the three-figure mark too — he was playing as well as I have seen him play in a long time.

The first session of day-3 was clearly Indias’. Our session-by-session score card would have read 5-0 to India after 6 sessions of the match had been played.

At lunch time, England would have been looking for inspiration from somewhere. Maybe even an extra pair of legs! Maybe a fresh body? And that they did find. Suddenly, in the post-lunch session, it appeared as if England were playing with 12 players!

They clawed their way back into the match and even recruited an Australian to help them along in their journey. Tendulkar and Ganguly were sent packing by the Antipodean and England managed to get Dhoni out with their normal complement of players. Session 2 of day-3 had belonged to England.

Simon Taufel had a bad day at the office and unfortunately, the next time one of our Indian media pundits (or couch potato fans) adjust their spectacles, settle themselves comfortably into their chair/couch, dig the record book to say “it has been X innings since Ganguly/Tendulkar scored a century“, or “the last time Tendulkar/Ganguly scored a century was against a minnow“, the fact that the two players were robbed of certain centuries will have been forgotten. The record books merely state “SR Tendulkar lbw b Collingwood 91” and “SC Ganguly c Prior b Anderson 79“. And that is all there is to it. And that is all the scoreboard can say. You accept the good with the bad and move on. As Ganguly said phlegmatically, in his post-match, “You have to live with it“.

Just as Cook was not out, but given out in Englands’ first innings, the Indian team has to live with these two shockers from the normally good Antipodean.

And we should not really be making a big deal out of these screw-ups. We have to accept the good with the bad and move on. That’s exactly what Tendulkar did, and after a brief mind-fuse, Ganguly seemed to have accepted it too.

However, the worrying thing for Taufel would be his form. He has made some good decisions in this series so far. Of that there is no doubt. But he did send (if I am not mistaken) Dravid and Pietersen packing in the first Test. His handling of Cook, Tendulkar and Ganguly in this current Test could be the onset of a pattern. Just as players need to look at their form and their match preparedness, perhaps it is time for Taufel to stand back to take stock?

Jonathan Agnew, in his BBC blog, says that these two decisions ultimately “did not affect India’s position unduly“. Firstly, it is irrelevant whether or not it did. Secondly, I think it could well affect India’s position. Time will tell. However, I predict — perhaps foolishly — that there may well be a few more twists left in this match! More of that later.

England used their luck as a platform to claw their way into the match. Some will even say that they created their slice of luck — and that would be fair enough in my books! They stuck to their task manfully. Apart from Anderson who had suddenly started to look like the Anderson of old, all the other bowlers stuck to their task. Sidebottom and Panesar were particularly impressive. Their fielding never waned. Their players continued to chirp and chatter. One such monologue from Pietersen had perhaps crossed the line. It certainly caused Zaheer Khan to advance towards the slips cordon, threatening to introduce Pietersen’s face to the bat makers’ label. Perhaps Pietersen had asked about Zaheer Khan’s bat contract! As Andrew Miller says on Cricinfo, England need to talk less and bat more.

But then they did claw their way back into the game. Session-3 of day-3 also belonged to England, in my books. Although they did let Kumble get some runs and, in the process, develop a 50-run partnership with Laxman, they did polish off the India tail. They then batted sensibly and positively for the remaining 16 overs to end the day at 43 for no loss. England was helped by some poor bowling by Sreesanth. He seemed to be all over the place. He seemed to have lost his balance, his rhythm and his composure. He seemed horribly undercooked. Nasser Hussain, in his TV commentary, commented that Sreesanth did not bowl a single ball of pace in the morning nets! He bowled leg-spin instead! While Sreesanth appeared to be falling apart, Hussain commented, “I have no sympathy for the lad really.” Sreesanth’s final over of the day lasted nearly 7 minutes as he stuttered and spluttered his way to completion in an embarassing manner. It didn’t help either that Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh seemed to be intent on bouncing out Strauss and Cook. But Sreesanth was the major disappointment for me. He would, I think, need an extended session in the nets with Venkatesh Prasad. If he doesn’t get his act together — and quickly — we could well see Romesh Powar as an extra spinner in the team for the 3rd and final The Oval Test match.

The match is delicately poised. My session-by-session score card reads, India 5, England 2. India is clearly in front. And they will be looking to Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan to deliver them the goods. They’d need a solid bowling performance on a somewhat unhelpful pitch. The first session of day-4 could again hold the key. India should, I believe, adopt a batten-down-the-hatches-at-one-end policy while they attack from the other.

England have another 240 to get India to bat again. If the England openers build a good foundation, like the Indian openers did, then a Pietersen cameo can help wipe off the lead. From there on, it could be anyones’ match, in my view. England have their work cut out. But India have not done enough to ensure they do not bat again. As I said earlier, I don’t think the chapter on this Test match can be written, completed and set off to the sub-editors’ desk. The pitch is still playing reasonably well. Day-3 may have been the best day for batting, but I did not see any signs that would indicate that the pitch would deteriorate dramatically on day-4. The odd ball is keeping low, which would lead me to conclude that day-5 could be extremely tricky on this pitch. Which is why I don’t agree with Jonathan Agnew. Another 60-70 runs would have meant that India cannot lose this match. Although India is clearly in the drivers’ seat, if England have an exceptional day-4, it could lead to an extremely interesting day-5 of this game. The weather forecast is for two good days.

All I can say is “bring it on”.

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 2 — India consolidate

India probably had two objectives at the start of Day-2: (a) to bowl out England for less than 200 runs, (b) to get a good start. Both objectives were met. The first, thanks to Zaheer Khan and Kumble. The second, thanks mainly to the wonderful start that Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer provided India.

It was interesting that Dravid started the day with the use of a heavy roller. Clearly he expects the pitch to break up as the game progresses. Kumble should then come into the game much more compellingly.

India batted with positive intent when Jaffer and Karthik commenced. It was most refreshing to see the way Karthik batted. He played a gutsy innings. He also seemed to have got over the perhaps impetuous reaction to sledging that he showed in the 1st Test. He played with purpose and energy. Jaffer was solid at the other end. But once again, once Jaffar got to his half-century, he appeared to go into his shell. Having said that, the ball that got him out was a brute of a delivery from Tremlett.

The rest of the batsmen probably paid too much respect to Monty Panesar. Panesar is no doubt a good bowler. However, if they had played him with a bit more positive intent, my feeling is that they’d have ended the day on a slightly better note. The wicket of Dravid, towards the end of the days’ play, may offer England a sligtly open door.

India must ensure that the door stays shut and that the foot remains on the pedal — to mix two metaphors! And that must be what the doctor orders for the 1st session of Day-4.

India’s intention must be to bat only once in this game. And that would mean a lead of at least 250 runs, if not more. India, at 254 for 3, is 54 runs ahead. So, a further 200 runs — at least — are required. Given the solid platform that Karthik and Jaffar have provided, this should be possible. But as they say, funnier things have happened in cricket!

At this stage of the match, after the teams have played out 5 sessions, I’d say that India leads the session-by-session score at 4-0, with one session — the last session of Day-2 — being an even one (in my view), given the late wicket of Dravid.

–Mohan

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 1 — Dravids’ Captaincy

Apart from a brief spell of about 20 minutes or so prior to the tea break, I thought India bowled well to wrest the 1st day honours in the 2nd Test against England.

Mahesh has already provided a comment on the days’ play.

I’ll focus here on Dravids’ captaincy. There were a few moves by Dravid that stood out for me:

(a) The choice to have a bowl.

This was a brave decision. A good one. Although Vaughan also indicated that he’d have a bowl had he won the toss, this was a brave decision, for, a repeat of the Lords’ 1st hour would have caused Indian fickle fans and media to nail Dravid to the cross. For backing his bowlers to extract max juice from the pitch, Dravid gets my kudos. Ganguly may have had a somewhat curious role in prompting this decision; a role that the match referee may want to look at more closely (according to Nasser Hussain).

(b) Dravids’ choice to bring on R. P. Singh to Kevin Pietersen.

R. P. Singh was initially pasted by Kevin Pietersen for a few fours and was removed from the attack. Zaheer Khan was brought in. Zaheer had just bowled a terrific over to Pietersen in which the English batsman had been beaten a few times and got rapped on the pads in what looked reasonably adjacent. Yet, Dravid swapped him for R. P. Singh; a move that paid immediate dividends. Singh had Pietersen with a beauty that swung in. Throughout the day, I thought Dravid used his bowlers really well.

(c) Dravids’ decision to keep Ganguly on when Cook was batting.

This was, in my view the best move of the lot. Ganguly had just bowled 1 over before the tea break. After the tea break Kumble bowled the first over. It appeared to me that Kumble wasn’t happy from the end that he was bowling from. Ganguly was brought in from the other end in a move that I thought was intended mainly to swap Kumbles’ end. But then Dravid must have seen something in Cooks’ batting that prompted him to keep Ganguly in the attack for 7 overs on the trot. Cook was playing with an exaggerated movement to get bat in front of pad to cover the swing into the pads from his off. Clearly Cook did not want a repeat of his Lords’ dismissal to Ganguly. Even for a tall lad, this was an over correection, I thought. Simultaneously, Dravid placed a strange field on the legside for Cook facing Ganguly where a forward shortleg and a shortleg were virtually in a straight line to the batsman. All of these may have perpetuated in Cook getting out LBW to Ganguly again. Sam Kumar may whinge about whether or not this was a correct decision by Simon Taufel. It was not. But the scoreboard reads “Cook lbw Ganguly 43”. Ganguly had bowled a terrific spell. He had done his job.

(d) His field placings throughout the day were smart, in my view.

(e) His decision to put the brakes on post-Tea.

After his decision to bowl first, the bowlers had delivered, but for a brief spell prior to tea when R. P. Singh — in particular — appeared to lose the plot. Zaheer Khan too gave away 14 runs in a wayward over just prior to tea. Dravid reigned it in. Instead of going on the attack after tea, the team decided to play the patience game instead. They bowled to a plan and stuck to line and length instead. The over-attacking bowlers were set aside. Zaheer Khan was set a field in which he had to bowl a tight line and length. Runs were squeezed out.

We had a spell, instead, from Kumble (1 over), Ganguly and Zaheer Khan. They bowled tightly and to well-set fields. They cut out the runs — in the first 15 overs after the tea-break, only 20 runs were scored. The result was a lose shot from Collingwood and Cooks’ tentativeness. Good leadership stemming from smart situation awareness, I thought.

There may be others too, but I thought I’d highlight these few points.

The hard work has commenced. The bowlers did well. The team did well — despite a dropped catch by Tendulkar. The bowlers need to now finish off the job. The batsmen need to play positively and put the runs on the board. With this brilliant start, India should see this as a wonderful platform from which to build strongly.

— Mohan