Monthly Archives: July 2007

Bowlers deliver

Dravid won the toss and put England in to bat. My immediate reaction was that of surprise. The ground reports shown on TV said that the outfield was very soggy and the bowlers would struggle with the run up and delivery, plus the ball would become soft very quickly. On the other hand, the humid conditions with a hint of breeze meant it would favor the swing bowlers well.

Whether Dravid had more faith in his bowlers or less faith in his batsmen, he decided to bowl first and the bowlers did deliver.

The job is only half done. It will be the turn of the batsmen to deliver tomorrow. The conditions that were so favorable to the Indians will continue tomorrow for the English bowlers to exploit and it will be up to the Indian batsmen to ensure a lead of at least 100-150 runs.

But first there is the small matter of removing the last three English wickets. The worst thing that could happen (apart from the Indian batsmen failing, of course),  is for the Indians to let the English tail take the score beyond 200.

(There has been a lot of criticism on Dravid’s captaincy in the previous game. But a captain is only as good as his team. If the captain plans something, and the rest of the team do not play according to it, the captain usually gets blamed. If the Indian bowlers had bowled poorly today, everyone would have criticized Dravid for the decision to bowl. But now that the bowlers have delivered, it seems to be a brilliant one!)

-Mahesh-

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India A vs Zimbabwe Select

While the attention of Indian cricket fans is on the England India series, the India A team has been playing Zimbabwe Select in two 4-day matches. After the first two days of the 1st test, India A is sitting pretty as expected.

Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara, all the batsmen got going, but none of them managed to score a hundred. Uthappa scored 88, Parthiv Patel 67, Kaif 63, Rohit Sharma 66, Badrinath 62 and Piyush Chawla 58. Irfan Pathan would have been disappointed with his duck. He later conceded 36 runs of just 6 overs without taking any wickets when Zimbabwe batted. Makes me wonder whether we’ve seen the last of Irfan in the national (senior) squad.

Zimbabwe are currently 129/4 in reply to India’s 489.  Here is the link to the scorecard.

-Mahesh-

Matt Prior pits Karthik against Dhoni against Yuvraj…

Matt Prior was having a field day sledging the Indians in the recently concluded 1st Test. He continually chirped “Dhoni won’t have played that shot mate” when Karthik was batting. He clearly got to Karthik who reacted by complaining to the umpire. Karthik was subsequently calmed down by Ganguly. Prior then kept up with “Yuvraj is batting excellently in the nets mate” when Dhoni was out there in the middle. Clever.

Michael Vaughan wasn’t far behind either. He gave Sourav Ganguly a serve after Ganguly turned down an easy run on the penultimate ball of Day-4. He also gave Sree Santh the verbals for taking his time to get to the crease.

Indeed, many of the England players kept a constant chirp going against the Indians. Fair enough. I don’t particularly like it, but recognise that it is a part of the modern game. Everyone does it. It is just a question of who does it well and who to.

It also has the opposite effect on some players. Buchanan in his pre-tour notes would often ask Australian players not to sledge Dravid and Tendulkar because it toughened their resolve even more. Miandad is said to have engaged the fielding team in banter and would use that to pep himself up.

But it is all part of the modern game.

So, in a bid to assist Team India, what should the Indians be saying when they are out there?

Here are a few sledges that I could think of. Please add to this list. We can then provide a compilation for the team to use!

To Kevin Pietersen:

  • Heard you are totally fatigued mate.
  • Got over the brain fatigue you were talking of?
  • Want to take another holiday in the South of France to recover from your fatigue?
  • Still having problems with bouncers these days?
  • Are you really committed to England or would you rather be playing for South Africa?
  • But for the reservation system, you’d be playing for South Africa won’t you? Why play in such miserable weather all year round?

To Michael Vaughan:

  • You did use the term “Fredalo” in The Guardian interview did you not?
  • Flintoff was a better captain than you mate. If only he wasn’t injured, he’d be captaining the side. You know that don’t you?
  • Flintoff’s knee is getting better. He’ll be back in the side soon.
  • You are in the team only because you can bowl when bad light threatens to halt play… and even that is crap.

To Matt Prior:

  • Even Geriant Jones won’t have dropped as many catches as you did mate.
  • If you could ‘keep as well as you can talk, you’d have been in the team before Geriant Jones.
  • You need a hair cut or a real job!

Any suggestions?

— Mohan

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

England Vs India — Test 1: India’s chances and take-homes…

The last day of the 1st Test in the ongoing England V India series promises to be a cliff-hanger. Both teams will think that they can win. David Lloyd is confident that England will win. Ravi Shastri thinks that England have their nose in front but believes India can win if they go into the last day in a positive frame of mind. Shastri believes that Dinesh Karthik is the key!

Like David Lloyd, I think we are in for an excellent last day’s cricket.

The weather could play spoil sport though. The forecast for St Johns’ Wood is for rain with a high of 17 deg C and a low of 14 deg C.

If we get a full days’ play, there should be a result in this game. I don’t think India can win. With Dravid and Tendulkar back in the pavillion and with Jaffer, India’s 1st innings hero, back in the hut, I believe the task will be huge for Karthik, Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni. India may salvage a draw if the weather helps out too.

I would be most happy to be proven wrong though.

Jaffer’s was a really soft dismissal. He was playing well — albeit with the IBRADM (India Batsmen’s Recently Afflicted Defensive Mindset) — and Karthik was playing with positive intent. A lapse in concentration combined with laziness cost Jaffer his wicket. Dravid was unlucky to be given out as the ball pitched outside off, but these things happen in cricket. But the worst dismissal of the day, from an India point of view, was Tendulkars’. He should have stayed on till the end of days’ play and he should have been looking to score runs. If he had been looking for runs, he would have played that ball with his bat! Instead IBRADM meant that there was a defensive malaise about his game. I believe it cost him his wicket.

It is an uphill task for Karthik, Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni. India needs a further 243 runs to win. This is not going to be easy on a 5th day wicket. I say this even though Karthik is playing well and Ganguly is playing positively. Panesar is bowling well and the other England pace bowlers are bowling well. I can’t see any of them having a bad day at the office. So, I don’t believe India will make it. Laxman is in a strange no-mans’ land. Dhoni is out of sorts. So, unless either Karthik or Ganguly score a big hundred, I’ll be looking to the weather Gods!

But there have been some good take-homes from this gig for India:

  • Karthik appears to improve with each dig. Yes, he did get out in the first innings and he dropped a sitter to let off Strauss. But the lad appears to want to be there. He seems to look at each opportunity as a gift and wants to make the most of it. His batting in the second innings has been a treat to watch.
  • R. P. Singh has been a terrific positive too. In only his 5th Test match, this young 21-year-old player from Uttar Pradesh has shown tenacity and guile. He has taken his first 5-fer and I suspect that, provided he does not travel down injury-lane, there will be more of these before he hangs up his boots. He has 22 wickets from 5 Tests at an average of 26.90! So these are early days yet, but to get on the honours board at Lords’ at such an early stage of his career will give him much confidence.

All in all, it promises to be a fascinating day-5.

— Mohan