Daily Archives: 19 November 2007

The case for (and against) Yuvraj Singh…

The first test between India and Pakistan starts in a few days and one of the batsmen who has put up a strong case for inclusion in the Test team is Yuvraj Singh.

But, you look at his test record and there is nothing outstanding there. It reads a modest 19 matches, 29 innings, 830 runs @33.20. In his 29 outings to the crease, he has only scored 2 centuries and 3 fifties. In fact, in the last 5 matches that he has played, he averages just a shade over 19.

Not good. Not good at all.

So, why is there suddenly a case for Yuvraj to be included in the test team?

First and foremost, his form. His ODI form this year has been excellent – In the 33 innings that he has played, he averages around 46 and in the recently concluded India-Pakistan series, he has crossed 50 four times out of five. Do I even need to mention his exploits in the Twenty20 format? His ability to score at a quick clip will be useful in the Indian middle order which has the tendency to slow down the scoring rate quite drastically of late.

It is also time, India decided to prepare the next set of players to take over from Laxman, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. Any further delay in the introduction of youth into the side will be disastrous to India and the selectors must surely be aware of that.

What else has he got?

His fielding. Yuvraj Singh’s fielding  will surely infuse some new energy into the test team. I don’t think Yuvraj is good enough as a bowler in Tests, but he can probably bowl a few filler overs to give the main bowlers a break and it does add another dimension to his inclusion.

What doesn’t work in his favour?

I can probably answer that with another question – Where would you fit him? The opener slots are taken (not that Yuvraj has any interest in them) and the next two spots have been taken up by Dravid and Tendulkar. Arguably, either Ganguly or Laxman will have to make way for him. But, Ganguly’s aggregate of runs against the England was the second highest for India and the only batsman to average more than Laxman (51.25) was Dhoni (52.25). I am not counting Kumble (54.00) as a batsman 🙂 .

Will the selectors be bold enough to drop either of them for Yuvraj Singh? In spite of knowing that they have to bring in youngsters into the middle order, Indian selectors are usually very reluctant to introduce change.

Yuvraj’s detractors will also point out that he had an even better ODI season in 2005-06, when he averaged around 58 with the bat, but failed to take his ODI form into Test cricket. Most critics also question his ability to tackle quality spin bowling.

So, what do you think – Should he be included, and more importantly – Will he be included?

-Mahesh-

An Interview with Prem Panicker (Part 3)

In the first part of this three-part in-depth interview with Prem Panicker, the noted commentator on Indian cricket, we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series. In the second part of the interview, we talked about aggression, sledging, Indian cricket and more.

Prem Panicker is a respected writer on a wide rage of subjects for Rediff.

We carried out this interview with Prem Panicker to seek his views on a wide range of issues but also to strike a sense of balance with the views of Peter Lalor, a respected writer for “The Australian” newspaper. We asked both Peter Lalor and Prem Panicker the same set of questions. Our interview with Peter Lalor is available here (Part-1, Part-2, Part-3).

In this concluding, Part-3, of our interview with Prem Panicker, we talk about Australian cricket, Twenty20 and more.

Prem Panicker blogs here:

 

i3j3: Talking of Australian cricket, how do you feel Australia will cope with the absence of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Justin Langer? Will their absence make the Australian team more vulnerable?

PP: It would be naïve to imagine that any team can shrug off the exit of two such bowlers – especially considering they were still turning in match winning performances when they quit (it is not, for instance, like say a Kapil Dev, who had to be carried through the last leg of his career).

Even across just one ODI series, you could see the gap Warne and McGrath have left – their skill, both as enforcers and as bowlers who could when the going got tough could come in and reel it back – was clearly missed.

Australia will cope; it has in reserve players who would walk into the first XI in most international sides. What will serve as a litmus test of calibre is how quickly the team learns to live without two players who were at its core. Michael Clarke recently warned the public that the team would not be as totally dominant as in the past, and I think he might have got it right – there is an opportunity here for other teams, if they can rid themselves of the fear that the green and gold induces, to close a ridiculously big gap.

 

i3j3: There is daylight after Australia in the championship stakes. Is this good for the game?

PP: No – the greater the competition, the more the interest. Thing though is, Australia has nothing to do with the present situation – the onus is on the other sides to rethink the way they think of the game, the way they train, the way they play, even the way they plan for the longer term. For instance, and to my disgust, I read of Australia thinking of, and working towards, virtual reality practice and of India muffing up one more opportunity to select a good coach for its national side, on the same day.

 

i3j3: What is your take on the Twenty20 game? Is it a bit of hit and giggle? Or does it really have any capacity to (a) broaden its spectator base, (b) provide benefits to both the 50-over game as well as Test cricket in terms of strategy, control and robustness, (c) enforce and speed up innovation in all aspects of cricket.

PP: Theoretically, it has the potential to do all the things you have listed in seriatim, and more — but frankly, my experience with T20 is limited to following about half a dozen games, some of them not even fully, during the recent World Cup. You can pontificate on the basis of even less empirical evidence, but I’d prefer to wait and watch.

 

i3j3: You have been quite critical of Sree Santh. What do you think of this young and talented cricketer?

PP: Young, talented, and imbecilic, did you say?

His youth is a matter of fact and his talent is not going to be too hotly debated either – but the guy needs a swift kick where it will do most good.

He has, unfortunately, discovered the heady pleasures of playing to the gallery – but his play-acting is having a dampening effect on his performance. The trouble is if he goes on as he is now, he could lose coming and going – sooner or later his so-called “aggression” will lead him to do something that puts him beyond the pale (Of all the ridiculous things I have heard in recent times, his statement that he is testing to see how far he can go gets the biscuit); simultaneously, the focus that characterized his early days will get further eroded, to the detriment of his game.

 

i3j3: Your views on the 2007-2008 summer of international cricket in Australia? What would you be most looking forward to?

PP: The Tests. With due respect, I find the format of the triangular series too long-drawn-out.

 

i3j3: How do you rate the chances of Sri Lanka and India in the Tests?

PP: Early days, especially as both teams are to varying degrees in flux – how about you ask me this after we are done with the Pakistan Test series, at which point we might have a better idea of personnel?

 

i3j3: Would you be happy if we had another chat mid-series with you?

PP: Sure, whenever – hopefully the “question paper” won’t be quite as long, though; the last time I had to work this hard, I preferred to drop out of college!

 

 

We at i3j3Cricket are grateful to Prem Panicker for the time he took to answer the many questions we posed. Some of them were direct questions and some of them were curly. We respect Prem Panicker for his sincerity and applaud his patience.

I am sure we will all continue to read, appreciate and savour Prem Panicker’s interviews and articles in Rediff and elsewhere .

Thank you,

From All The i3j3Cricket Contributors

India lose match — win series

India lost the final match of the ODI series against Pakistan in Jaipur. The key interest for me in this game was the see how the team fared in the absence of Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. For me the other interest in this game was to see how Praveen Kumar played in his first ODI.

Overall, although India lost the match, they can take away a lot from this series. In the main, the form of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are major positives from this series. Although Robin Uthappa failed — and failed quite badly — in last nights’ game, I think his forceful presence in the death-overs is a major positive for India too.

Yuvraj Singh has been in sublime form and would be justifiably upset if he is left out of the Test team for the first Test against Pakistan, which commences on 22 November (at Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi). Harbhajan Singh has bowled quite brilliantly through the tournament too. Although I will admit readily that one should not blindly take ODI form to be a true estimate of Test-match-form, the pointers are certainly good for both Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. Both of them have made compelling cases for inclusion in the Test side.

The main positive from this series has been the stunning form of Sachin Tendulkar. Through two scores in the 90s and a few other short stays at the crease, Sachin Tendulkar appears to have hit peak form at the right time — just prior to three imporant back-to-back series; against Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. The signs are definitely good.

Praveen Kumar had a decent day at the office yesterday. Although one would be disappointed with his batting, he is definitely capable of more with the bat. He kept a cool head while bowling at the death overs and the fact that his captain had enough faith in him to ask him to bowl 3 of the last 5 overs means that he should have a reasonably long stint in India’s ODI team.

The two disappointments for India would be the indifferent form of Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik. After a brilliant showing against Australia, Murali Kartik appears to have faded somewhat in this series. One expected Sehwag to set the ground ablaze with his new found hunger and tighter technique. However, while he looked good in the Gwalior game, he threw away a brilliant opportunity in last nights’ game with a mind-explosion. Both Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik may have lost the opportunity to board the plane to Australia.

We may be tempted to blame the umpire for turning down several LBW appeals that India made that looked much closer than the one that Gautam Gambhir got. We may be tempted to blame the umpire for the shocker that Yuvraj Singh received — his subsequent dissent, justifiably earned him a visit to the Match Referees’ Office and a fine. However, the fact remains that Pakistan played smarter cricket on the day and deserve the applause.

Yesterday’s match also saw two debut performances in the Pakistan team. Both Sarfaraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, and Fawad Alam, the allrounder, came out of the game with an increase in their stock. Pakistan will possibly go into the first Test in more buoyant spirits now.

— Mohan