Monthly Archives: December 2007

So who will play?

And so the Boxing Day Test match is now a day and a half away. Thanks to finaicial considerations and the (non)efforts of the BCCI, India came to Australia with only one pre-Test preparation match. And in this one tour match, only 48 overs were possible! So, despite the spin from the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, a badly-prepared Team India take on the might of the Australians in 2 days’ time. Their bowlers haven’t had a bowl in match conditions and the captain doesn’t even know how one of his bowlers, Pankaj Singh, bowls! While the Indian team can not be blamed for the weather — that is the hand that is dealt — the team must look disdainfully at the senior management that runs cricket in India and exclaim “What the ….?“. As with anything in Indian cricket, if the team does well in Australia, it will be despite the BCCI, which, in my view, has done everything it can to deny Team India a fair go at what is regarded as one of the toughest frontiers in World cricket!

Australia is a tough frontier to crack not because of hostile conditions. Most Indian players would perhaps like playing in Australia where they are away from the pressures and crowds that they are faced with in India and perhaps even in England. However, it is hostile because of the in-your-face cricket that the Australians play especially when they are at home. Moreover, the conditions, particulary in Brisbane and Perth are almost unlike anywhere else in the world. But like Australian quick, Stuart Clark says in The Age, India have a wonderful opportunity to make a good start in the series by playing the first three Tests of this series in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, respectively. Agreed India started its last tour well by drawing the first Test in Brisbane. However, weather did play a large part in that game and that helped India draw the match. No doubt, an inspiring century from a certain Sourav Ganguly helped in that match too. However, the bounce of the Gabba track was largely nullified by the weather on that tour.

On this tour, India have a wonderful opportunity by playing its first three games in tracks that could suit India’s game. According to Tony Ware, the chief groundsman at the MCG, the pitch is likely to be a slow turner rather than a green-top that seams around.

So, despite the BCCI, a few things are pointing India’s way after all!

Ian Chappell has said that the best route for India to take in this series would be to try and secure a draw in Melbourne. I tend to agree. This will then open up opportunities in Sydney and Adelaide.

One concern I had in the lead up was that India had not really batted under severe pressure in any of the Test matches in the lead up to Boxing Day. It is quite often the case that backs-to-the-wall batting efforts are required in Australia against the Australians. In my view, it was because of the early inroads and dents created by the likes of Glen McGrath and Brett Lee that a bowler like Shane Warne could show his wily wares to the later-order batsmen. A 50-4 situation is quite possible for many touring teams in Australia. Apart from Kumar Sangakkara, none of the other Sri Lankans were able to stage strong fightbacks in their recently concluded tour. However, that likely-scenario was provided in the Bangalore Test against Pakistan, where India batted out of a 61 for 4 situation to record a healthy score. India can expect similar backs-to-the-wall fights in Australia!

So, who will play in the Boxing Day Test then?

Of the 16 players, we can expect that Pankaj Singh and Harbhajan Singh will sit out the match! That leaves 14 players to chose from! Despite his good/gritty knocks in England, I suspect that Dinesh Karthik will sit out the match too. The singnal was clear when he was not played in the tour match against Victoria! That leaves 13 players.

The choice is clearly between Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag and two bowlers from R. P. Singh, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan.

Although I would like India to open with Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag, I suspect India will go with Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid, with Yuvraj Singh playing at #6.

Of the pace options, I think Ishant Sharma is certain to play. He is the only right-arm quick in the filtered list of 13 players and bowled brilliantly with the second new ball against Pakistan in Bangalore. He is a hit-the-deck-hard type of bowler and could be a handful in Australia, provided he gets his bearings right. Moreover, with a view to the Perth Test where he just has to play, it would be good to blood him here in Melbourne — I suspect that he might make way for Harbhajan Singh in the Sydney and Adelaide Test matches!

So, that leaves us with a choice of either R. P. Singh or Irfan Pathan for the last remaining spot. I’d like R. P. Singh to play. However, I believe Irfan Pathan will play more because he has played in these shores before.

So the probable team that could walk out to the park on Boxing Day could be:

01. Wasim Jaffer
02. Rahul Dravid
03. V. V. S. Laxman
04. Sachin Tendulkar
05. Sourav Ganguly
06. Yuvraj Singh
07. M. S. Dhoni
08. Irfan Pathan
09. Anil Kumble
10. Zaheer Khan
11. Ishant Sharma

It is interesting to note that, in this line-up, the first 9 batsmen have a Test century to their name!

The toss could be interesting. In my view this could be a good toss to lose for Anil Kumble!

— Mohan

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Law of (batting) averages…

The test series starts on the 26th of December and I was checking out the difference between the two teams. What better way to do than looking at the batting averages.

Here are the batting averages of the Australian team:

Name Career Against India
Ricky Ponting 59.42 in 112 tests 52.20 in 15 tests
Adam Gilchrist 49.27 in 92 tests 29.95 in 14 tests
Michael Clarke 46.70 in 29 tests 57.14 in 4 tests
Matthew Hayden 52.56 in 91 tests 62.20 in 11 tests
Michael Hussey 86.18 in 18 tests
Phil Jaques 69 in 4 tests
Andrew Symonds 32.68 in 15 tests

 

Just going by their career averages, the batsmen should yield around 395 runs and of course there is always the tail who can chip away with some useful runs(around 55 based on their average). So, if everyone play to their average, the total score per innings should be around 450.

(Going by their averages against India in recent years from S Rajesh’s column in CricInfo, Australia would end up scoring around 430)

Here is the batting average for the Indian team:

Name Career Against Australia
Wasim Jaffer 38.45 in 25 tests
Rahul Dravid 55.97 in 115 tests 51.03 in 18 tests
Saurav Ganguly 43.17 in 99 tests 32.46 in 16 tests
VVS Laxman 44.10 in 86 tests 52.03 in 16 tests
Sachin Tendulkar 55.06 in 142 tests 53.11 in 21 tests
MS Dhoni 38.76 in 22 tests
Yuvraj Singh 37.07 in 20 tests 15.66 in 2 tests

 

If this is the batting line up that goes against Australia, and if they play to their averages they would end up getting 312 runs. The average of the Indian tail (that includes Irfan Pathan with an average of 30), should be able to contribute another 67 runs. So, India could end up with a score at around 380. That is about 70 runs lower than the batting average of the Aussies!

(Based on recent scores against Australia, this figure would be around 365)

We all know that Australia is stronger than India (actually they are the strongest team in World cricket at the moment) , and the stats probably go on to prove that in one way.

But when the test match starts on Wednesday, statistics won’t count for much – it will be the performance on the field on that day that will matter the most.

Let’s just hope India put on their best performance…and hope it is good enough to beat the Aussies.

-Mahesh-

Team India kick off tour…

The wait is over. The Indians kicked off their most anticipated series of the year in Melbourne today with a three day match against Victoria.

It has been a roller coaster ride for India this year. When they started the year, they were on the verge of winning a test (and series) against South Africa, but threw it away in the end. It was a disappointing start, but with the World cup starting in a couple of months, good wins at home against West Indies and Sri Lanka boosted their confidence. But the World cup turned out to be a nightmare for India when they got knocked out of the opening round. The causality list after the WC debacle included stars like Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh and coach Greg Chappell.

The team badly hurting from the World cup loss then toured Bangladesh to win the ODI and test series before they went to Ireland to play a series against South Africa and Ireland. India won the series against South Africa 2-1 and were confident of doing well against England in the following series. After a shaky start to the England series, they eventually ended up dominating and winning it. They followed that with a ODI series loss (England 4- India 3).

Then it was T20 World cup time. When they went into the Twenty20 World cup, the expectations were not that high. Dhoni was named captain in a team that did not consist of seasoned campaigners like Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Zaheer Khan. Yet, Team India took everyone by surprise by winning the World cup beating Pakistan in an exciting final.

They were still on a high when they played Australia in a ODI series at home. Australia brought the team back to reality by winning the series and although the results read Australia 4 and India 2, it did not truly reflect the gap between the two teams.

Without much gap or rest, the Pakistan series then followed. They won both the one day and test series on dead pitches to finish the year with 3 wins and 1 loss in 9 tests. Of the tests that ended in a draw, India had the upper hand in most games (the sole exception being the game played at Lord’s)

If you put things into perspective, India have done reasonably well in tests this year and extremely well in the Twenty 20 games. Their ODI record has not been that good (20 wins/15 losses out of 37 games and their early knock out from the World cup), although they are ranked 4th in both forms of the games.

Australia is currently the toughest tour in any cricket team’s calendar and it would be interesting to see how they come out of it. The last test match of the year starts on Boxing day (26th Dec), and all eyes will be on the Indian team to see how they go. This match could set the tone for the rest of the series…and on behalf of the i3j3 contributors, would like to send best wishes to the team to perform well…

Chak De, India! Show us what you’ve got!

-Mahesh-

BCCI to send delegates for Australian tour

The BCCI has decided that the members of the selection committee need not go on tour with team. But they have said that officials of the 26 cricket associations will go as ‘delegates’ to Australia. I was reminded of a conversation in a Tamizh play from the late sixties by ‘Cho’ Ramaswamy.

Indian Prime Minister: I have decided to make an official trip and visit America.

Press reporter: What is the need at the moment?

PM: Naan mattum America paarkka vendaama??? (Should I also not see America?)

— Sanjay

Less than ideal preparation

(Warning: Rant content rating – High)

The Indian team has reason to be happy – they’ve just won a test series against Pakistan in home soil after quite a few years. Sure, they deserve a pat on the back and all that – but the fact remains that this was a boring series and was a less than ideal preparation for the Australian series.

The real measure of a team these days comes from playing Australia in Australia – and how do we prepare for such an important tour?

  • By laying and playing on the flattest and dullest of pitches that we’ve come to witness in recent times
  • By packing the cricket calendar with so many games that the gap between the last game of the the previous series and the first tour game of the next is just over a week (a side effect of having the calendar packed with cricket is the number of injuries it causes – but that is another story)
  • We play just ONE tour game – a three day match against Victoria to get acclimatised to the conditions in Australia
  • By appointing a coach way too late.

It is all fine and dandy that the India top order scored plenty of fifties, hundreds and even double hundreds, but the conditions have been far from trying. To start with, the pitches were flat and batsman friendly. India are flat pitch bullies and when the bounce is low and the ball comes nicely on to the bat, they are unstoppable. To add to that, the opposition bowling barring Shoaib Akthar in the first test, has looked pedestrian (not that the pitch helped their cause).

…and when the Indians come to Australia – they are going to be in for a big surprise. Shock! Horror!! The ball bounces well over the knee roll and the bowlers are bowling fast and are accurate. And don’t forget that it is not just the batsmen, but also the Indian bowlers who need to get used to these conditions.

This is one of the reasons that teams coming to a place like Australia need to get here 3 weeks before the start of the series and play at least two tour games. But I know how the board thinks – “What? Tour games do not bring in any money. We could easily play a couple of one day games instead and earn more money for the cricket boards. So, why play them? Plus being top players who get paid top $$$ they should automatically adjust.” – This is probably the kind of attitude that has let visiting teams down. They should realize that it affects the quality of cricket played. It is unlikely that India will win the series in Australia, and most Indian fans know it. But what Indian fans like to see is a good fight – and the cricket board needs to prepare them for it.

One additional thing is the late (or non-) appointment of the coach. You can carry on arguing that India won the T20 WC and the test series in England and the one against Pakistan without a coach, and that we don’t really need one. But the fact of the matter is that modern cricket needs coaches and for a tough tour like Australia, they will struggle without one. (Kirsten will apparently join the team after the first two matches. IMHO, it is better that he stays away as he will be more of a distraction joining them in the middle of a tour.)

IF India do end up doing well in Australia, it will be in spite of the way the board prepares them, not because…

-Mahesh-

Team India for Australian Test Series :: Virender Sehwag in!

In a surprise move, Virender Sehwag has been drafted in to the Indian Test team for the 4-Test tour of Australia!

Sehwag wasn’t in the initial list of 24-probables. However, he got the call ahead of Gautam Gambhir who has been advised three weeks rest with a sore shoulder. The Indian fan cannot be blamed for being a tad cynical of these mysterious injuries that do have a habit of troubling Indian players when tough selectorial decisions have to be made! And here we have yet another instance of a mysterious injury rearing its ugly head again!

Ian Chappell did write a few days back that the Indian selectors erred in not picking Sehwag in the initial list of 24 probables. Were the selectors swayed by his outpourings? Were they honest outpourings or was it a red-herring? One never knows. Many on this blogsite too felt that Sehwag ought to have been included. However, this move to induct him from outside the list of 24 makes a bit of a mockery of the whole selection process. In particular, Aakash Chopra would be right to feel a bit miffed at the craziness of the selection process! Having said that, I do think that Sehwag’s choice is a smart decision. He has performed well against Australia and his aggression at the top will work well for India. One slight problem is that he hasn’t been setting the Ranji world alight with his bat in recent times.

The 16-member squad also includes Pankaj Singh, the young Rajasthan pacer. This is again, in my view, a smart move. He has bowled impressively in the U-19 squad and has started his Ranji season well this year. Pankaj Singh ejects Munaf Patel from the team. Patel has been advised to play more domestic cricket.

If nothing else, Pankaj Singh’s pick can be seen as a smart move because the unhealthy ghost of Ajit Agarkar was hovering around in the list of probables 🙂

Ishant Sharma probably picks himself after a decent showing in the 3rd Test against Pakistan. However, as I said in my post yesterday, a day after bagging the world record for the maximum number of byes in a Test innings, Dinesh Kartik can consider himself a tad lucky to be on the plane, although it is probably the right decision in my view.

Team India (probably in batting order for the 1st Test):
Wasim Jaffer
Virender Sehwag / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman / Yuvraj Singh
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk)
Anil Kumble (capt)
Irfan Pathan / Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
Ishant Sharma / RP Singh / Pankaj Singh

A good selection effort in my opinion especially when considered in the background of the recent form that V. V. S. Laxman an Sourav Ganguly have shown. Sourav Ganguly, in my view, is in the form of his life. Although I have always been an unabashed Ganguly-fan, I can say — with a degree of objectivity — that I haven’t seen him bat as effectively, doggedly and in as determined a manner as I have seen in the last 6 months or so. Of course, all of this can come to naught in the bouncy pitches of Australia. However, his defence has tightened. He doesn’t hang his bat out to dry outside off as often as he used to. And more than ever before, he has developed a dogged mental edge to his game.

The team appears to be right for Australia.

  • The right batsmen are there.
  • Ishant Sharma is peaking at the right time.
  • A rookie pacer like Pankaj Singh is better than a break-down specialist (Munaf Patel) especially when the break-dance specialist is injured! Pankaj Singh will learn a lot from this tour even if he doesn’t get a game.
  • Ajit Agarkar is not there!
  • Virender Sehwag’s omission from the initial 24 was befuddling. He just had to go. He is.
  • The team has only 2 spinners — the second spinner would be mostly irrelevant on this tour apart from, perhaps, Sydney.
  • The captain is a good one.

Anil Kumble appears to be captaining the team well, although I will point out that he delayed the declaration in todays’ 3rd Test against Pakistan by about 10 overs. A ruthless captain would not have waited for a teammate — Dinesh Karthik in this case — to score a 50 in Test cricket! However, he has shown enough inventiveness and aggression to convince me that his “better late than never” quip on being chosen as Team India captain is a truism of sorts!

However, there is no time for the team to settle and for that, once again, the BCCI should take a bow. Team India has to play its Test XI in the 2-day tour match – the only practice game before the Melbourne Test match!

— Mohan

India done in by umpires, groundsmen and bowlers…

I am not one that normally complains too much about umpiring decisions. “Take it on the chin” should be the mantra.

However, after a shocking day in the office for Simon Taufel and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rudy Koertzen, I feel compelled to write. When an umpire of Simon Taufel’s standing and capability starts makes a series of shocking errors, it is quite likely that calls for technology to be used would become more strident.

In yesterday’s game, it is fair to say that the Indian bowlers bowled erratically. On a pitch that was unresponsive — apart from some balls that kept alarmingly low — the Indian bowlers ceded the advantage by being a tad erratic. The spin was slow and was mostly unresponsive to spin. So, one cannot blame the bowlers too much. However, one could expect the Australians to throttle the batsmen with line-and-length bowling, thereby getting the batsmen to make errors. One did not see the Indian bowlers adopt a similar approach. However, having said that, one could mount an argument that Younus Khan and Mohammed Yousuf were ejected in an “Australian manner”. The former, an attacking batsman, was throttled for runs by Harbhajan Singh (bowling around the wicket) and played a horrible reverse sweep. The latter, a dour batsman, was eked out by a sledge — from Anil Kumble no less! One doesn’t know what was said, but words were exchanged and two balls later, Mohammed Yousuf was on his way!

That apart, I felt that the main bowlers tried too much on a pitch that did not allow them that luxury. Ironically, it was Sourav Ganguly that showed how a wicket could be taken on a pitch like this. He bowed stump to stump, giving nothing away. In the end, Salman Butt poked at a delivery and was caught behind. The rest of the bowlers had an ordinary day at the office on a pitch that seemed alarmingly like the Kolkatta graveyard that was prepared for the 2nd Test.

I feel that two groundsmen have, together, done Indian cricket a great disservice just prior to an important tour against Australia. However, being a part of a cricketing system that lacks the capacity to look beyond the immediate future, the groundsmen would perhaps expect a hefty bonus from the BCC!

Apropos, a bad-day-at-the-office, apart from the Indian bowlers and the groundsman, Dinesh Karthik would want to forget his shocker of an appearance! Parthiv Patel shouldn’t be blamed for checking yesterday if his passport is in order. I can’t see Dinesh Karthik on the plane to Australia.

The umpires had shockers yesterday. There were at least 7 LBW appeals that the umpires could have gone India’s way. In one terrific spell of bowling, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan created plenty of problems for Misbah Ul-Huq and Faisal Iqbal with the new ball. Misgah Ul-Huq is plain lucky to be there. He was plumb in front on at least 6 occasions. Faisal Iqbal was also let off once. Poor Ishant Sharma was at the receiving end of about 4 of these bad decisions. Sharma kept bringing the ball back in at pace to the right handers and troubled the batsmen in this spell of bowling. If the selectors had been there to see this spell, they may have well inked him in the team-sheet for Australia. Irfan Pathan suffered at the hands of Rudi Koertsen. Two overs from the close, Anil Kumble was at the receiving end of yet another shocker from Simon Taufel. One can only hope that these two gentlemen get up on the right side of the bed on day-4.

— Mohan