Monthly Archives: November 2007

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

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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.

-Mahesh-

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

The story since the last Kotla game..

The last time India played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, they beat Sri Lanka by a huge margin. Tendulkar scored a century and Kumble took a 10 for in the match. Irfan Pathan was the frontline fast bowler for India. He also opened the innings and scored a career best 93. Dhoni had just made his debut in the previous match and although Sehwag didn’t play the game, he was still a central figure in Indian cricket.

That was close to 2 years ago. Since then, a lot of things have happened. Pathan lost his in-swing, his pace and then his place in the team. Sehwag too lost his form and was dropped. Although Pathan has made a comeback into the ODI team, Sehwag is still not a permanent fixture.

Tendulkar went without scoring a hundred in the next 10 games and finally broke the streak with 2 centuries against Bangladesh. He has been averaging only 36.87 since the hundred at Delhi and if we take out his scores in the series against Bangladesh, he averages just 28.68.

Saurav Ganguly was dropped too and Yuvraj Singh (who had a 100+ partnership with Dhoni in the second innings) has been in and out of the team. Laxman’s position has also been in doubt during this period in spite of his 40+ average.

The one player who has had a consistent  presence in the Indian middle order has been Rahul Dravid – the wall,  although he has since given up his captaincy. He has been averaging 53+ during this time which is only slightly lower than his career average of 56.50. The other positive thing for India is that they have found two good openers in Jaffar and Karthik (or have they?).

In the bowling department, Kumble has been consistent as ever, although Harbhajan Singh dropped out of the team owing to poor form. This may well be Harbhajan’s comeback Test.

The fast bowling department has improved by leaps and bounds with Zaheer Khan finding his rhythm and the emergence of RP Singh and Sreesanth (although, the two may not play tomorrow owing to injury).

Now, that’s the story so far. What should we be looking out for in this test and this series? Here is my list –

  • How the openers perform: Sehwag has been kept out of the team in spite of a 90+ average against Pakistan. If any of the openers fail twice in a row, I would expect Sehwag to be back in the team, although a lot of people would argue that he shouldn’t open the innings anymore.
  • Performance of Laxman and  Ganguly: I am pretty sure these two players are on notice in spite of some decent scores in England. Unless they perform in this series, it would pretty much be the end of their careers.
  • Kumble as a captain: It would be interesting to see how he goes about captaining the team. I would also like to see he reacts now when someone misfields 🙂
  • Dravid and Tendulkar: I expect both these players to score well. Dravid in particular has a point to prove after he was dropped from the ODI squad. I also hope that Tendulkar’s true turn to form will happen in the ground where he scored his last “real” hundred.
  • Bhajji’s bowling: Harbhajan has bowled well in the ODI series. But that is completely different to Test match bowling. Pawar has had some excellent performances in the Ranji Trophy tournament and unless Harbhajan delivers, it is either Murali Karthik or Pawar boarding the plane to Melbourne in December.

What about the team for tomorrow? Kumble has hinted that Yuvraj may not play. With RP Singh and Sreesanth injured, India may turn to Munaf Patel (who has been called in as cover) to open the bowling with Zaheer Khan. I think this may be the team that plays tomorrow –

Dinesh Karthik, Jaffar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly, Dhoni, Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Patel

And for a bit of trivia before I finish up:

  • India has a six-match winning streak at the Kotla
  • It is a lucky ground for the captain, Kumble having taken 48 wickets @15.45. He also has his best figures of 10/74(!) in this ground playing against Pakistan.

-Mahesh-

Guru Greg

ABC TV in Australia is set to screen their “observational documentary” Guru Greg. The program goes to air 8:35pm Thursday, 22 Nov 2007 and should be a compelling watch. Since I will be travelling at that time, I’d hope that one of the other i3j3Cricket contributors will review the program and even perhaps post a link to online scripts or YouTube excerpts of the documentary.

It was reportedly filmed with the co-operation of Greg Chappell, and his wife Judy and according to the ABC program promo “provides a rare insight into one of the world’s wealthiest and most important sporting teams“.

The documentary charts the “reign” of Greg Chappell which commenced with his controversial selection at the start, his immediate impact, and the tragic end.

— Mohan

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