Monthly Archives: November 2007

Indian summer starts early in Oz

The Lankans have come and gone.  Apart from Sangakara, they didn’t offer much resistance and the cricket fans in Australia are bored. To keep them happy, the media is already running stories on the upcoming India Australia series. Here are links to a few articles in no specific order –


Kirsten, the new coach?

Gary Kirsten has been offered the job to coach Team India. The duration of his tenure is likely to be 2 years, and that is unlikely to extend based on what he has said –

Although I’ve always wanted to coach a team at some point, I always said I wouldn’t do it when (son) Joshua was at big school. He’s only four now so that gives me two years

Niranjan Shah, the board secretary had earlier said that there were 22 applicants for the coach’s job and that no candidate from outside the applicant list would be picked. While talking to the press, Kirsten has said that BCCI had approached him for the job and it was not the other way round – which makes me wonder if he was originally in the list of 22 candidates. Wouldn’t come as a surprise if he wasn’t. Notable candidates in the list include Martin Crowe and Kepler Wessels.

Although Kirsten is still mulling over the decision, reports indicate that he is very likely to say Yes. BCCI must have learnt something from the Fordgate episode, as this time around the interview selection process was done without much hype – although the announcement of the selection could have been made after Kirsten had accepted the offer.

I have to admit that I am not too thrilled with Kirsten as a coach – probably because I am not too sure of what he can bring to the team. I would have gone with someone like Martin Crowe. But hey, the coach selection panel know better, right?

I do, however, hope Kirsten turns out to be a good coach. Here are the positives that I can see in Kirsten –

  • He has good test experience having played over 100 tests
  • Has a bit of coaching experience and he is an overseas coach
  • Being a young coach  (he is only 40 years of age), he would have modern ideas
  • His personality [I could be completely wrong here] seems to be more in the mould of John Wright than Greg Chappell

Whatever the case, I hope people who’ve been offered the job don’t watch the television documentary “Guru Greg” – that is bound to put them off from taking up the job…


India win first test

India scored the remaining 32 runs need for victory against Pakistan within the first hour this morning taking a 1-0 lead in the 3 test series. It was an all round team effort for India. Apart from Karthik who scored just 10 runs, pretty much everyone else contributed with the bat in a low scoring match. Jaffar scored a half century in the second innings to go with his 32 in the first innings. Dravid had scores of 38 and 34. Tendulkar got a second innings 56 and he along with Ganguly were partially responsible for making the winning target look small. The strike rate at which Ganguly scored also helped reduce the target quickly. Laxman and Dhoni both scored half centuries in the first innings and ensured that India were still in the game.

For the bowlers, Kumble led with 7 wickets and Zaheer grabbed 4 for the match. Harbhajan took 3 wickets while Ganguly surprisingly ended up with the same number of wickets (not to mention the vital breakthroughs at the right moment). Munaf bowled well in the first innings, but had to settle for just one wicket.

There were several positives from the games –

  • A lot of times in the past, India have looked to just one or two players to get them out of trouble or to put them in a winning position. But in this instance, it was a team effort and that should be lauded.
  • Captaincy of Kumble – He brings his own unique style to the captaincy and I think I like his style 🙂 – Who else would give Ganguly the new ball in the middle of an over, eh? 😉
  • 3 seamers in Indian pitches always seem a luxury, but Ganguly filled the third seamer role quite well – he bowled 21 overs and even took 3 wickets in the process. He was also quite economical, allowing the pressure to build up.

Are there areas for improvement? Plenty, actually –

  • India struggled to keep the winning momentum going through out the match. They would gain the upper hand on the match only to hand it straight back to Pakistan. Actually, it seemed as if both teams were competing with each other to hand the game to the other team. It was a far closer game than the result suggests – if Pakistan hadn’t self-destructed and lost the crucial morning session on the fourth day, the game could have gone either way. Don’t expect teams like Australia to do such favours.
  • India also struggled to get the Pakistani tail out quickly in the first innings. Although they made amends in the second innings, this is an area they need to look into.
  • The Indian tail didn’t learn any lessons from Sami and as soon as Kumble got out, they seemed to be in a hurry to follow the captain back to the Pavilion.
  • Karthik just had a bad game. He should be looking to Eden Gardens to make amends
  • There were some good catches (Laxman, Karthik), but there were dropped ones too (Harbhajan, Jaffar). Again, it is something they should strive to improve

And the team for the next match? Barring any sudden injury to the current XI, I don’t see any changes happening. Sreesanth and RP Singh are still not fit and won’t be playing at Kolkatta. There have been and there will be more calls to include Yuvraj Singh in the playing XI – but as CricInfo pointed out, Yuvraj will have to wait.

As far as Pakistan are concerned, the only bowler who looked threatening was Shoaib Akthar. Sohail Tanvir bowled one good spell, but that was it. Asif was sorely missed and his bowling could have made a huge difference to Pakistan. In the batting department, Misbah-ul-Haq was the lone saving grace. Pakistan are over dependent on Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan – and it showed in this game too.

There are still two more games to go in the series and India can’t get complacent after winning just one. Hopefully India will go into the second game as a confident team, but not an over confident one.


A world of bent elbows and javelin throws

India should consider obtaining the services of Fazal Ansari, triple national javelin champion, to equip themselves to playing a certain fast bowler representing another nation within the sub-continent. Of course, it would be preferable that Mr. Ansari uses a cricket ball as opposed to hurling a pointed spear at the Indian batsmen. I have watched two of the concurrent series (India v Pak and Aus v Sri Lanka) with great interest and cannot but avoid raising this issue of unconventional delivering of the red cherry at batsmen. It not only looks disturbingly ugly but seems unfair to see a tamil speaking sri lankan, a “blonde-wannabe” srilankan, an australian pop star, and now a “spoilt brat” pakistani do everything but demonstrate the beautiful art of bowling.

Their more than just unconventional style of delivery seems to take away the beauty of watching cricket in its purest form, especially, when you get to see some fabulous swing bowling from Zaheer Khan, wonderful leg spin of Danish Kaneria, or almost perfect line and length bowling by Stuart Clark. It just does not seem correct!!

 Any takers?


Day 4 – Advantage India

In a game where both teams seemed bent on surrendering the advantage back to the opposition, Pakistan did just that on the fourth day morning. They started the day at 212 for 5 with both Misbah and Kamran Akmal looking good, but handed the game back to India by being all out for 247. Of course credit should be given to Zaheer Khan for his wonderful spell in the morning. But Misbah and Sami committed Hara-kiri, giving their wickets to Ganguly, who surprisingly took the new ball in the middle of his over and got Misbah-ul-Haq’s wicket of the first ball. Sami, who had played patiently while Misbah was still at the crease then tried an all-mighty slog to give Ganguly his second wicket.

Kumble then decided to bowl the next over with the new ball and even before people could wonder why Zaheer wasn’t bowling, Kaneria ran himself out. Within a space of about 4 balls, Pakistan went from 243/7 to 247 all out, setting India a target of 203.

Shoaib Akthar was the main threat to India’s batting and he snared all three Indian wickets. Karthik failed in the match for the second time, but Jaffar and Dravid first steadied the innings and when they got out, it was the turn of Tendulkar and Ganguly to build another partnership. At stumps, India need another 32 runs to win and should be able to get it, unless something extremely out of the ordinary happens.

The highlight of fourth day’s play was Saurav Ganguly. If Laxman had silenced his critics in India’s first innings, it was the turn of Ganguly to do it today. He first took two wickets and then struck a fluent 48 of just 61 balls. Hopefully, he and Tendulkar will stay at the crease on day 5 to see India through to victory.


Day 3 – Surrendering the advantage

After day 3, the match is still evenly poised. It could be anyone’s game from here and the first session of play on day 4 could tilt the balance either way. Whatever the case, this match is bound to present a result and the losing team will look back at the game and wonder what could have been.

Each team seems to be keen on letting the other team back into the game. In the first innings, India had Pakistan on the ropes at 83-5 on day one, only to let them get back into the game and finish at 231. In India’s first innings, Pakistan had them at 93-5, but then let them claw the way back to finish at 276.

In their second innings, Pakistan started well and at one stage were 114 for the loss of just one wicket, and as it has happened so often in the game, surrendered the advantage to be 161 for 5. It was then India’s chance to let them off the hook again – Misbah-Ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal have added another 51 runs since and it remains to be seen whether there is another twist on the fourth day morning.


Day 2 – Match evenly poised

Some would say that India have the upper hand in the match with India well in sight of  a first innings lead and with four wickets remaining. But in my opinion the match is quite evenly poised. Remember, India will have to bat last in this match and that will act against them.

A lot of things seem to be happening against the run of play. The first one was Misbah-ul-Haq’s dismissal. What a bizarre dismissal it was? He jumped up in the air to avoid the throw and although he was above the crease, he wasn’t grounded. Even Inzi, the uncrowned king of run outs (such as these ones: 1, 2) – or does that title belong to Steve Waugh? , would have been proud of this one 😉

And then there was Tendulkar’s run out. To start with, there was no second run. And as Tendulkar turned around, he slipped. In spite of that he kept going. By the time he decided to turn back, it was too late. Tendulkar is usually a good judge of runs but this must rank as one of his worst judgements.

But the key dismissal that went against the run of play was Rahul Dravid. He looked solid as ever, but got bowled by a gem from Tanvir. From being 71 for 1, India ended up at 93 for 5 in the space of about 6 overs! It was left to Laxman to once again mount another rear guard effort (this time in the company of Dhoni) to keep India in the game, but it remains to be seen how much of a lead India get to. IMHO, India need a lead of at least one hundred runs – which is unlikely, but not impossible at this stage. It all depends on captain Kumble and VVS Laxman.


Century on (Ranji Trophy) Debut

Abhinav Mukund, the 17 year old TN player who has been featured on this website before, has scored a century on Ranji Trophy debut against Karnataka. Many congratulations to him. S. Badrinath continues his sublime form as well. TN is starting to put up a fight in the tournament, finally.

– Srikanth

Let off the hook…

Feb 16,  1999. Eden Gardens, Calcutta. Pakistan win the toss and choose to bat first. Third over – the first wicket falls. Fourth over – the second one falls and the procession continues till the 9th over when Pakistan are reeling at 26 for 6. Moin Khan then fights back in the company of Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram to put up a half decent total of 185. Pakistan later go on to win the match by 46 runs.

Jan 29, 2006. National Stadium, Karachi. India win the toss and put Pakistan in to bat. Ball No.4 – Wicket No. 1, Ball No. 5 – Wicket No. 2, Ball No. 6 – Wicket No. 3. Irfan gets a first over hatrick and Pakistan are 0 for 3. By the eleventh over Pakistan are reeling at 39 for 6, but Kamran Akmal, with some help from Abul Razzaq and Shoaib Akthar fight back and Pakistan end up scoring 245 in the first innings. They eventually end up winning the match by 341 runs!

Nov 22, 2007. Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi. Pakistan win the toss and elect to bat first. Not quite the sensational start as the previously mentioned games, but still Pakistan are in deep trouble at 83 for 5.  Misbah-ul-Haq leads the fightback this time and at stumps Pakistan are  210 for 8….let off the hook again. What happens to the result this time remains to be seen.


The Pessimist warns you!

The Pessimist was approached for his comments on the eve of the 1st Test against Pakistan to begin at the Kotla tomorrow. Here are his early warnings.

  • India play under a new captain and it will not be easy for everyone to adjust.
  • The openers are under a lot of pressure to perform. For instance Karthik has not done well in the two early Ranji games he played. Jaffer is suspect with his slow footwork and Shoaib Akthar will test that out.
  • The middle order though strong on paper has not set the world alight in recent times.
  • The fast bowling department with a suspicious Munaf Patel is not very encouraging.
  • Harbhajan comes back after his ODI performances but can he get wickets again at the test match level?
  • This is an ageing side and the fielding will be tested thoroughly. Watch out for a few drops in slips early on, some desperate dives to prevent boundaries and some lethargic running between the wickets.
  • Finally the team will miss the enthusiasm and bubble of youth.

The Optimist when asked declined to give a comment.

— Sanjay