Daily Archives: 2 July 2007

First steps on a long road to recovery…

Team India took a few strong steps on its road to recovery after her exit from the World Cup 2007 Tournament left her many fans in a state shock and disbelief.

India first beat Ireland and then, South Africa. The 2-1 win over South Africa must give the team hope, resolve and confidence. The matches were played in Ireland in conditions that would have probably suited South Africa’s game more than it did, India’s. Moreover, India were without some of their key players for all three games. And let’s not forget that South Africa is currently the #2 ranked ODI team in the world — to India’s sixth.

But the road to recovery is long and it is arduous. Sterner tests await — first against Pakistan and then against England.

Moreover, I believe that this tour has not answered as many questions as it ought to have.

In the main, the one un-answered issue is around team-balance. There seems to me to be some confusion on whether or not the team goes in with 4-bowlers or 5-bowlers. At the risk of sounding like a boring parrot, I think that this is where the lack of an all-rounder option hurts the team. If only Irfan Pathan was in better form/fitness. If only Dinesh Mongia was more consistent (or had someone in the team-think-tank whose trust he had). If only.

This dilly-dallying can hurt the team and its long-term chances badly.

It seems to me that the team has almost decided on Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar as its main two bowlers. The team will chose between R. P. Singh and Sree Sreesanth for the 3rd seamer. While this is fine, in theory, this reliance on Agarkar is somewhat frightening to me. One just can’t predict which of the Agarkars will turn up on match day! The sooner Team India makes up its mind on this, the better things will be, in my view! The back-up bowling strength looks strong — even considering Ishant Sharma’s not-too-bright start. With Ishant Sharma, Ranadeb Bose, Munaf Patel and Rakesh Patel waiting in the wings, one could suggest that there is reasonable bench strength. Moreover, in Piyush Chawla and Romesh Powar, India has two steady spin bowlers. They will be tested severely in the game against Pakistan though. One mad over to Afridi or Pietersen may be enough to wreck either of these two spinners! It will be good to see how they fare in that game. Neverthelsee, signs are there that the bowling is pulling things together. They need to bowl in the right areas and with far greater discipline. Hopefully the appointment of Venkatesh Prasad is helping here.

It seems to me that the team has reverted to the old-firm of Tendulkar-Ganguly at the top. While that is fine in theory, I’d need to see the middle-order play with more fire and grit than it had in the past when Tendulkar and Ganguly fell cheaply and early. The last match yielded some signs that, with Dravid coming in at #4 and with a more responsible Yuvraj and a dependable Karthik to follow, there are promising signs for the future. For this reliance, Yuvraj’s role is extremely vital. He has to be the clinical finisher that Michael Bevan was; the finisher that Mike Hussey is! But there are signs of the batting holding together. However, one swallow does not make a summer. Time will tell whether reverting to the Ganguly-Tendulkar old-firm is a good move. If Tendulkar and Ganguly open, it is in my view necessary for Dravid to come in at #4 to hold things together in the face of a mini-collapse. This then makes the role of the #3 quite crucial. And this is where, I think, the team needs to invest.

And this brings into question Gautam Gambhir’s role! I am not sure if his role has been either decided or clarified. He seems to me to be caught in a shall-I-attack or shall-I-defend frame mind. And this results in a rabbit-caught-in-headlights type situation. Not the best situation for anyone to be in.

Oh! How we yearn for a fit and strong Irfan Pathan at #3! The advantage of a person like Pathan at #3 is that, along with the 4 other bowlers (8, 9, 10 and 11) he will make the bowling complement. Moreover, he has the ability to hit out — if the start has been brisk — or buckle down with tight defense — in the event of a disaster start.

And mind you, we haven’t talked yet of a fit and fighting Virender Sehwag!

Sigh! If wishes were horses, pigs would fly!

Mohan

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South Africa loses decider – The Pessimist’s report

The Optimist is having a hangover after the celebrations last night, so here is a report from the Pessimst on how South Africa lost the match and India did not win it.

  • India was lucky to win a second toss in a row and bowl first on a wicket that eased up later in the innings.
  • Kallis made the mistake of playing the rusty Steyn in this crucial match. Definitely Philander, Langevelt or the spinner Tshabalala would have been a better choice.
  • South Africa had the worst possible day in the field in a long long time. How many catches went down. How many run out chances missed. How many fumbles in the field.
  • JP Duminy was out LBW to a ball pitched outside the leg stump. Aleem Dar also had a horrible day.
  • Yuvraj Singh again alternated between scratchy batting and good shots. Any of his scratches could have got him out.
  • Dravid after 15 years of experience forgot to ground his bat and got himself run out. Shows how Indian batsmen are still not sound on their fundamentals.
  • Kallis also erred in not bringing himself on earlier when the Indians were struggling. He should have kept Ntini for the end.
  • In the final result South Africa managed to lose a match that they really should have won.

– Sanjay

Fantastic Victory!

The men in blue are back in business. India seems to have pulled off another splendid victory ( I say this because I was unfortunately unable to watch the game and only followed it on cricinfo). It truly was a team effort from the looks of it. Whimsical Agarkar’s performance turned in India’s favor today. Ganguly’s seam bowling certainly paid off in these conditions. The only comment that one could make about Dravid’s captaincy may have been that he underbowled Tendulkar, otherwise, he seems to have handled the shortened version well.

Tendulkar’s early departure prompted cricinfo’s “commentators” to make a strange comment about “Tendulkar finally failing in the series” (which prompted me to dash off a nasty email to them). Ganguly’s failure at the top seems a bit concerning while Dravid fought through a difficult phase in the game. I am extremely pleased at the Yuvraj has turned out in the series and with Karthik batting at seven, the Indian batting looks formidable. The ability to switch between a Gambir/Uthappa or a fifth bowler option gives India an enviable advantage.

While I am not particularly looking forward to one off game against Pakistan (I have a queasy feeling about Pakistani cricket in general, one never knows when it is real and when it is not), I can’t wait for the English tour to begin…

P.S: I am looking forward to the Optimist v Pessimist discussion from Sanjay on this game….

– Srikanth