Monthly Archives: November 2007

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.


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?


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

Odd spot: Burglar escapes thanks to India Pak ODI

Slightly old news, but the first I heard about it was in CricInfo commentary 🙂

A man wanted in burglary cases, G. Kishan, escaped during daytime on Sunday from Uppal police station while the constables were reportedly watching the cricket match between India and Pakistan on television

News courtesy of The Hindu


The India ODI team for the 2011 World Cup…

If Team India’s Vision is to win the 2011 World Cup — to be played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — the selectors had better develop a strategic plan now. From their recent actions, I am somewhat convinced that they are operating from the seat of their pants — as has been the case with Indian selection committees from the day cricket was first played in India!

The selectors need to agree to the vision and commit to it. The questions then should be around how to best get to achieving that final state with the optimal resources and personnel in such a way that the competition can be beaten. The selectors need to understand and agree to the current situation, identify the gaps and then agree to a process for getting to that desired end state.

Then the forthcoming (many) ODI series could be testing grounds — a large experimental laboratory — for testing out hypothesis, narrowing the gaps and refining the approaches to the ultimate vision.

The focus should be on the big picture rather than on immediate results, although I would agree that given the nature of the key stakeholders that are involved — the BCCI, the Indian cricket fan and the Indian cricket media — one cannot endure a string of poor results in the name of refining the pathway to ultimate success. The BCCI, the Indian fan and the Indian cricket media vociferously demand immediate results and this is something that cannot be ignored.

The current situation is that India is placed 4th on the ODI table behind Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan not too far away from India. In reality, India will have difficulty beating Australia and South Africa — unless, of course, it is a big must-win situation for South Africa! It is conceivable that India would beat New Zealand every now and then. And on an average day at the office, when the good teams will find something extra to lift itself, the Indian fan can quite easily expect India to cave in to Sri Lanka, England or Pakistan. So, in some sense, the 4th position that is accorded to India is probably an exaggeration of sorts. In my books, the Team India position is somewhere between 2 and 7 with the exact resting position totally dependent on the side of the bed that the team collectively woke up from! And that is probably one aspect that differentiates good teams from great. One can expect, to the point of boredom perhaps, that Australia would win every game it plays unless the opposition plays a blinder. In order for India to get to that state, there needs to be an investment and commitment to excellence.

The main problem, however, is that India should work towards putting together a set of players that would have the ability to beat Australia. If there is daylight between Australia and the second-placed ODI team (South Africa) there is a veritable chasm between Australia and 4th-placed India.

And for this, the team needs the right resources as well as attitude (intensity, situational awareness, grit, will, passion and ambition). My hypothesis/submission here is that the basic capability exists in India. Talent is not really the issue. This hypothesis was recently supported by Greg Chappell. The bench-strength exists. This needs to be moulded and shaped in the right environment and with the right support for the team to get to where it needs to get to. For, if we cannot accept this hypothesis, then we may as well accept the alternate hypothesis, give up and adopt a “we will be like this only” mindset!

There are a few gaps that need to be addressed immediately.

Are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly going to play in the 2011 World Cup? The selectors would need to know the answer to this question very soon. If the answer is in the negative — and one does not need to be a betting man to know that it will be in the negative — the selectors would need to develop a process and a pathway for phasing out these stalwarts and replacing them with personnel of near-equivalent capability. This process must commence now and not with a year to spare to WC 2011. Finding understudies for players like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly – players with immense capability and experience — is hard enough. It would be sheer madness to try and secure a like-for-like replacement with a year to go! And for that same reason a cut-and-run approach now will not work either. The phasing out must be gradual and systematic and must be developed via a cogent rotation system so that their immense experience is not lost on the younger players that come through.

Apart from this, some of the key gaps in the current ODI setup are in terms of fielding, intensity and team-balance.

The fielding will improve with the new personnel that are being drafted in. If we take the new recruits that are coming through the system, most of them field competently, if not brilliantly. None of them will perhaps be an instant Andrew Symonds or a Michael Clarke (let us also not forget that the Australian system does also produce an occasional Stuart Clark or a Stuart MacGill)! Recent examples of fielding brilliance that give one hope in this regard include Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, et al. The recently concluded Challenger Cup, which was devoid of any of the regular Team India players, saw some incredibly athletic fielding levels and fielding intensity. So there is hope after all. And when these players are provided with adequate support and tuning, one can be confident that the players will pull together.

Intensity and situational awareness are attributes that are not embedded and ingrained. These come with a winning mindset and a culture that has an accent on continuous improvement. They also come from match fitness and experience. Provided the selectors are able to pull together a cogent set of 20-25 players that they are able to invest in, these attributes will come through in a learned manner. I did see a ray of hope in the Twenty20 Championship. There were times with Team India did appear down and out. However, the team retained its intensity as well as a sense of situational awareness and pulled through. However, to extrapolate that level of intensity and maintain it over a longer period of time – the 50-over game and Test matches — is of course, harder for teams like India for whom such attributes are not culturally ingrained. This is and will continue to be a challenge for Team India, but with the talent that exists and with proper nurturing, this is possible – and let us not forget that India herself is changing and with it, her people too. There is hope.

And finally, team-balance… From this point of view, today’s game at Jaipur against Pakistan is an important step in a fruitful direction. There are no silver-bullets when it comes to team-balance; no panaceas. However, what the better teams have shown and what the Twenty20 Championship has shown too is that any team that is loaded with too many bowlers or too many batsmen will suffer. The modern game requires players that are good at batting, bowling and fielding. A batsman should be exceptionally good in two departments (batting and fielding) to be able to occupy a pure-batting spot; similarly with bowlers too. In todays’ game, Praveen Kumar makes his debut. And this is the direction in which ODI Team India must head. In my view, players like Praveen Kumar (not necessarily him in particular), Rajat Bhatia, Yusuf Pathan, Joginder Sharma, et al would be the way to go. And of course, Irfan Pathan is already there. Just as India builds bench-strength in the batting-only department and the bowling-only department, India should also develop a bench-strength in the all rounders department. There will never be a Kapil Dev, but India does need to head in that direction and invest in these types of players.

— Mohan

Leaks and Gags…

The BCCI may have placed a gag-order on its selectors, but unofficial leaks and defies of the ban continue.

In this ‘leak’, a highly-placed team-source indicates that Sourav Ganguly, R. P. Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh will sit out the last match in Jaipur, to be replaced (respectively) by Rohit Sharma, Sree Santh, Praveen Kumar and Murali Kartik. Sachin Tendulkar will play — perhaps the team wants him to break the century-jinx too?

In a separate and bold move, Dilip Vengsarkar, Chairman of Selectors, has decided to confront the gag-order on his writing. This report suggests that he continued to write his newspaper column, “Cover Drive“, last week in a Marathi language newspaper. The BCCI have sought an explanation from him.

Niranjan Shah, meanwhile, has no gag order placed on him!

— Mohan

No Rahul Dravid yet…

Yesterday, India wrapped up the ODI series against Pakistan with one match to go in the 5-match series.

Yesterday Rahul Dravid, who was asked by Dilip Vengsarkar (Chairman of Selectors for Team India) to find “fitness and form” by playing in the Ranji Trophy, hit another century for Karnataka. Rahul Dravid hit 121 off 180 balls against Himachal Pradesh.

Yesterday, the selectors selected the ODI team for the last, dead-rubber ODI against Pakistan. They have retained the same team that played last nights’ game.

There is no place for Dravid in the ODI Team India yet.

As I said in my earlier post, given it is a dead-rubber game, I’d like to see India play the following team (in batting order) for that game on Sunday:

Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, R. P. Singh

— Mohan

India win ODI series…

India won the fourth match of the ODI series against Pakistan at Gwalior and sealed the ongoing series against Pakistan 3-1 with one match still to go.

The chief architect of this win was Sachin Tendulkar, who hit a masterful 97 — out for the 6th time in the last 21 innings in the 90s. Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni too played sensibly to get India home. This was yet another match in which India didn’t really appear to lose control of the game at any point in time. Much like India’s previous wins by India in this series at Guwahati and at Kanpur, India appeared to be in the drivers’ seat right through the match; if the teams’ hands were not on the wheel itself, the closeness of hand to wheel was reasonably conspicuous.

Every time Pakistan threatened to take the game away from India, either a wicket would fall (when Pakistan batted) or a series of big shots (when India batted) would bring the game back into Indias’ control. In that sense it was a bit of an Australian-performance by India! For example, just when Shoaib Mallik and Younis Khan were threatening to take the game away from India, Zaheer Khan clean bowled Mallik to redress the equation. When Shahid Afridi bowled a few tight overs to cramp Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, suddenly from nowhere, Sehwag belted out a huge six to unconstrain the batsmen. The next over from Afridi saw Tendulkar launch into three sublime 4s!

Tendulkar batted quite wonderfully. Many a commentary talks of the “Tendulkar of old”. This is an unfortunate and, in my view, somewhat senseless trend to compare Tendulkar-of-today with the Tendulkar-of-old or the Bradman-of-old. There seems to be this native and implicit (sometimes frustratingly explicit) expectation that suddenly Tendulkar will start to play like the 1998-vintage Tendulkar. In my view, however, the 1998-Tendulkar was what it was… the 1998-Tendulkar. I am convinced that we will not see the “Tendulkar of old” that L. Sivaramakrishnan and Arun Lal continue to talk about in their game-commentary. It enables me to fully enjoy, appreciate, cherish and value the “Tendulkar of today”. And yesterday’s exhibition was close to perfection by Tendulkar. On a pitch where most batsmen struggled, Tendulkar wrote his own script. He played with nonchalance and confidence — Dileep Premachandran, in his CricInfo article, talks of Tendulkar playing with “confidence of old”, which is perhaps the right way to describe his batting last night.

At one point in time the TV commentary team — another topic for another day — talked about a window of opportunity for Pakistan and possible panic in the Indian dressing room when Sehwag and Tendulkar got out within a few overs of each other. M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were doing battle in the middle. But then Robin Uthappa — India’s new finish-man — and Irfan Pathan were still there in the pavillion! There seemed to be plenty of gas left in this vehicle. In any case, Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh played with calm comfort to steer India home again, as they did in Guwahati!

I do strongly believe that India must use the dead-rubber game at Jaipur on Sunday to plan for the months ahead. I believe it would be appropriate for the team to rest Sourav Ganguly for that game. The lack of a 5th bowler could have hurt India if it were playing a stronger team last night. The time is right, in my view to blood Praveen Kumar. Moreover, with a view to the long season coming up for Team India, Zaheer Khan — who, incidentally, bowled with great control in last nights’ game — could be rested too.

I’d like to see India play the following team (in batting order) for that game on Sunday:

Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, R. P. Singh

— Mohan