Daily Archives: 24 July 2007

Going forward

Both Vish and Mohan have put forward their thoughts on what India need to do going into the next match. I think they’ve both made fine points. I however do not think that the team will change. Barring a sudden injury, I do not see the team change at all. Yuvraj will still carry the drinks and the opening pair of Jaffar and Karthik will continue. RP Singh has impressed and will keep out Bose and Ishant for the next game.

Vish and Mohan also suggested that Tendulkar should come lower down the order. I agree. Towards the end of their careers, a lot of great players have come lower down the order than what they used to in their prime – there is no real shame in it and it does not mean you are lesser of a batsman. I hope the team management and Tendulkar realize this. But again, I feel this will not happen.

As was pointed out in the two posts, there were plenty of positives that India can take from the game. But IMHO, the biggest positive would be the fact that they did not lose. England would be really disappointed that they could not win, while India would be elated that they did not lose. This may sound funny but I think by not losing (after being so close), India actually will be in a better state of mind than England going into the second test!

Mohan also spoke about the need for a big score or two from the middle order. Sure, a big score would help, but I feel that India should be thinking partnerships. Aussies have done this with great success over the years and the Indian galacticos would do well to learn from this.

If I was unsure that India could win in England before the first test, I am now somehow more confident that they can – in spite of almost losing the game. The main reason is the bowling. If they have been able to bowl out an in form English batting line up twice for less than 300 (that too after bowling the initial sessions badly) I think they have a chance.

Can’t wait for the second test to start !

-Mahesh-

Egg turns to Hour Glass

Cricinfo’s Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan, in an excellent analysis at the end of Day-4 of the recently concluded 1st Test between England and India, indicated that India went into the Test with an egg-shaped strength graph but came out of it with the strength graph looking strangely like an hour-glass.

And so, we have a strange situation of it being an egg (or a gilli — of gilli-danda fame) turning into an hour glass.

Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan’s thesis is that India went into the Test match with its much vaunted middle-order as its key, underpinning strength. What we got at the end of the game was a situation whereby the players that we expected relatively lesser stuff from stood up, put their hands up and asked to be counted.

Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, R. P. Singh, Zaheer Khan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sree Santh came out of it with their heads held high. The personnel that were expected to slaughter the greenhorns in the opposition had surrendered meekly — twice in one game.

It is so true. Tim de Lisle talks about this as Goliaths being in awe of Davids!

I suspect that it is a case of IBRADM too. Somehow, the Indian middle order needs to get out of its slumber and deliver the goods. Far too often in recent memory, the middle order has surrendered the initiative through purposeless and listless batting.

Sure Englands’ bowlers bowled well. But these are champion batsmen that we are talking about. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman have scored nearly 30,000 Test runs between them! They are not wet behind the ears! Surely they can do better. Surely they can turn their 30s into 60s and their 60s into hundreds!

The bowlers have shown that they can pull things together — I say this inspite of the horror start to proceedings in both innings. Zaheer Khan bowled well in patches. Sreesanth seemed to have great difficulty bowling to left handers. Kumble was not as penetrative and did not ask as many questions as he normally does. Inspite of these deficiencies, the bowling stuck to the task. I thought Dravid marshalled his bowling resources brilliantly. I have hope that this department will improve in the 2nd and 3rd Tests. If the bowling improves — and they will, I believe — then, what is needed is a rethinking of the batting strategy.

India cannot go into the 2nd Test with a “everything will be right” attitude with respect to the batting. Something has got to change. There has to be fresh thinking. There has got to be fresh blood. There has got to be a shake-up.

I know that my suggestion may not be palatable to some, but one of the following has got to happen:

(a) One of Ganguly or V. V. S. Laxman will have to step down and make way for Yuvraj Singh. From what I saw of Ganguly, I observed a willingness for the fight. I saw the fire still burning. He wanted to be in the fight and he also delivered India an important breakthrough with his bowling. I did not see the willingness for a fight in Laxman. He is no Michael Hussey at #6. And so, I would suggest that Laxman sits out this next match.

(b) If (a) doesn not happen — for whatever reason — then at the very least, Sachin Tendulkar needs to swap his position with V. V. S. Laxman.

For India to go into the next match with the same middle order would be — in my view — a folly. In this 1st Test, against a weak attack, India got out of jail. Surely, India can do better than that!

India will go into the 2nd Test in a positive frame of mind. It is certainly better going into the 2nd Test with a scoreline that reads 0-0 rather than 0-1. The bowlers bowled the opposition out twice for under 300. India’s 2nd innings score equalled Englands’ score in the 2nd dig. One could say that but for the crazy first hour, India may have done better. However, the fact remains that the egg-shaped graph failed India — twice. And that is a trend that has existed for quite some time now.

This is the right time to start infusing new blood into the team; new blood that will bring with it personnel who want to fight in a real Test of their mettle. This is, I believe, the opportunity to commence the process of ringing in the changes.

Dinesh Karthik shows that he wants to be there. He wants to fight. Every outing is treated by him as a gift — and potentially his last outing! We need more of his tribe in the team.

It is time for Indian cricket to start its own changing of the guards. The time is now…

— Mohan

Heck, we can still beat England!

Thank the Rain Gods
The first Test is over, while most of the fans were disappointed to see the sixth wicket fall with over 50 overs remaining and resigned to the fate of another Lord’s defeat, I had started my rain dance and heartfelt prayers to Varuna. The rains came, and yes, India were lucky to get out of jail; and to be fair England deserved to win. But life isn’t always fair and that’s that.

But still, there were positives
While a lot will be written about the positives and negatives of this match (Mohan Krishnamoorthy already has some incisive comments after Day 4), Dravid can take heart for the fact that 3 of his youngsters put their hands up to be counted – RP Singh, Karthik and Dhoni.

What was most impressive was that our inexperienced pace attack helped to dismiss England twice for under 300.

The middle order of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman didn’t have a spectacular outing but there were periods where they looked in control, even if not on top of the bowling.

The English bowling
Apart from Monty, India haven’t faced much of the English pacers in the Test arena. Sidebottom is a much-improved bowler compared to his disastrous debut in 2001. The Indian line up except for Ganguly is all right handed and it is not easy to face a lefty who consistently swings it in. I am certain the Indians would have learnt their lesson and play him just a fraction late and mostly on the front foot (tip by Jeff Boycott on BBC) at Nottingham.

The real surprise package was James Anderson who bowled exceptionally well. The Indians need to come up with something to tackle him at Trent Bridge. For starters – a positive attitude will be of great help.

The Laxman question
India is likely to go in with the same eleven and so will England. Laxman is likely to get the nod again ahead of Yuvraj.

Laxman is a class act but needs time to settle down before he can let loose his array of strokes. This often means he will be a slow starter. Another problem is that if Dhoni gets out early, in my opinion Laxman doesn’t have the ability to shepherd the tail. He can be slow to adapt to the changing situation of the game.

I believe (much to the chagrin of Tendulkar fans and fellow bloggers), Tendulkar and Laxman should swap places. Tendulkar has the ability to shift gears as well as rotate the strike better than Laxman. For once, let us be bold and try something different.

Heck, we can still beat England. Just win the toss, put 400+ on the board and get Pietersen cheaply 😀

– Vish