Daily Archives: 1 January 2008

What do you need to do to win in Oz?

The first test is over and India lost badly. It would be fair to say that the batsmen lost the game for India. Even if India had been given another turn to bat, they would have still lost. There was still another day left (over 100 overs) and over 300 runs to make. There was no way they would have even come close!

The Australian victory did not come out of the blue for most Indian fans – it was probably the expected result. Doesn’t mean I am not disappointed. I am. Is there no way to stop the Australian juggernaut? Actually it is possible, but to beat Australia in Australia, you need to do several things right and doing these things starts well before the actual tour starts. This is where the Indians have missed a trick or two.

So, what needs to be done? A lot of these things seem like no-brainers, and yet we’ve missed out on quite a few of them –

  • Preparation: Touring teams need to get accustomed to bowling and batting in the Australian pitches, the conditions, the Kookaburra  ball, etc. To do this, they need to arrive early and at least play a couple of tour games. The Indians have basically missed out on this crucial aspect and they are going to pay. (Also read Peter Roebuck’s excellent column titled – Late arrival has cost India dearly)
  • Selection: Selecting the team for the tour and for the individual matches is important. The team selection to Australia was probably the best India could have picked, but they missed out on picking a good opening partner for Jaffar. The last time India toured Australia, Chopra was a great foil for Sehwag and although Chopra didn’t cross fifty even in one innings, there were two 100+ partnerships and two 50+ partnerships. This time around, although Sehwag was in the team, he wasn’t expected to play – not in the first test anyway. (This may change for the Sydney game). I also think that picking Harbhajan Singh for the MCG test was a bad move.
  • Take 20 wickets: It is not rocket science. Unless you get the opposition out twice you are not going to win matches. The Indian bowling was seen as being incapable of doing this and was being talked about as the weakest link in the team. But it was not the bowling that let India down in Melbourne. I thought that they performed fairly well for an under prepared team.
  • Bat out sessions: To win (or even draw) matches against Australia, you need to bat out at least 5 sessions in the first innings. This doesn’t assure you of anything, but at least by occupying the crease, you give the opposition a much lower chance of winning easily.
  • Bat aggressively: Batting out sessions alone is not enough –  you have to score at a good clip, which is anything around or over 3.5 runs an over. As soon as you get into an ultra defensive mind set while batting (like what Dravid did in the first test at the MCG), you allow the opposition to get aggressive with the field placing and the bowlers get their confidence. One of the main reasons India dominated the series the last time they were in Australia was because their run rate was around 3.5 runs an over. Even Rahul Dravid scored at around 3 an over. If you can’t score boundaries, try rotating the strike by taking singles.
  • Think partnerships: Rather than working towards individual scores, India should plan on building partnerships. The opening partnership should be the most important one, but India need to have good partnerships through out the innings to get to a good score. Even the tail should collectively be given a specific target to achieve.

There are also several other areas for improvement, such as fielding and running between the wickets – but this cannot be achieved overnight. India should also consider doing the following –

  • Open the batting with Sehwag (replacing Yuvraj Singh in the eleven)
  • Laxman coming in at No. 3
  • Dravid (who is not in the best form of his life at the moment) should come in at No. 6

If there is any team in World cricket that is capable of beating Australia in Australia at the current moment, I think it is India. All they need to do is play to their potential…and put the pressure back on Australia.

-Mahesh-

Happy 2008!

We at i3j3Cricket take this opportunity to wish all of you a successful, happy, prosperous, safe and cricket-filled 2008! i3j3Cricket itself is almost a year old. It has been a year of fun, with this being the 548th post from the contributors.

Hope India fares better in cricket in 2008 than it did in 2007.

The year 2007 could best be described as a “mixed year” for Indian cricket.

The year started with a disgraceful loss in South Africa at Newlands (Cape Town). The India cricket fan will not want to relive the sinking feeling as India lost on what could best be described as a very Indian pitch! After India started well in that series, by claiming the first Test match, the team fell away and were blown over by the South Africans. There were recriminations and fall outs from that trip and a new-look India took on the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home in two ODI series. India did well in both of these and many matches were won.

This was then followed by a disastrous World Cup in which India bombed out in the first round itself! After much finger-pointing and leaked SMS’s, Greg Chappell quit as coach of the team. But for his own pride, Rahul Dravid, the captain at the time may also have stepped down.

But he hung on to lead the team to victory against Bangladesh in Tests and ODIs. He then led the team to Ireland where they beat South Africa in an ODI series.

And then there was victory against England in a 3-Test series. Although the team could have gone for victory in the last Test match of that series (at The Oval) to stamp their mark on the series, India played defensively and left England with a 1-0 away win. One felt that the team was good, but not good enough to be great.

India still hadn’t found a coach and suddenly, they lost their captain too! When least expected, Rahul Dravid stepped down saying he wanted to concentrate more on his cricket. It was a simple statement; one that was almost believable too! However, the essays that existed between the lines suggested that he was mentally fatigued with the cricket-system in India; the constant and over-hyped media attention, the constant meddling by former cricketers, and the unplanned, seat-of-the-pants operations of the BCCI had left him disillusioned. Team India was threatening to fall apart without a coach and now, a captain!

A new look youthful Team India under new captain, M. S. Dhoni, took India to victory in the innaugural Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa. There was much celebration in India and moolah was being flung around at any player that could catch it. Many a photo opportunity was presented to ex-cricketers, hangers-on and politicians. Not a single opportunity went abegging! Amidst all this hoopla, there was still a minor matter of a coach for Team India. The coach-search committee gave us much mirth on i3j3Cricket by continuing to sit on their fingers, thereby deepening the ring-marks on their backsides!

The National Cricket Academy, meanwhile, had a new Director (Ravi Shastri) and a new head coach (Dav Whatmore).

India lost to Australia in the seven-match ODI series; a series that was marred by impish and puerile behaviour by several players from both teams. Sadly, the press on both sides aped the on-field behaviour and what we got was a feeling that non-cricket matters dominated cricket more than the all-round, on-field excellence of the Australians! India defeated Australia in the solitary Twenty20 match that closed off the series, thereby suggesting that their World Championship was no flash in the pan.

Pakistan arrived soon after and lost the ODI series. The Test series was a long-drawn affair that was marked by bad pitches and slow batting! After losing the first Test, Pakistan’s gritty batting saw them draw the remaining two matches on flat, slow pitches.

This was hardly the ideal preparation for a tough Australian summer that lay ahead. India arrived in Australia horribly under-cooked and under-prepared and proceeded to get thrashed in the first Test of an arduous 4-Test series.

And so India had ended the year as she had begun it — with an embarassing defeat. In between these depressing bookends, there were important victories against England and Pakistan. There were some impressive strides made too. Players like Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar hit sublime form during the year. Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh demonstrated much-improved bowling skills. Anil Kumble, the new Team India Test captain, continued to motor on and inched towards his 600th Test victim! In Gary Kirsten, India had finally unearthed a coach who would take over the running of the team from March 2008.

And so ended the year. We should hope for a better and more consistent year from the Indians. It is not going to be an easy year. The calendar is packed solid!

  • Immediately after the conclusion of India’s tour of Australia (in Feb 2008), South Africa are in India for 3 Tests and a clutch of ODIs. The series against South Africa progresses to April 2008.
  • Soon after that series concludes India leave for Zimbabwe to play 2 Tests and 3 ODIs.
  • Soon after their return, India leave for Sri Lanka to play 3 Tests and 5 ODIs in July-August 2008.
  • September sees the ICC Champions Trophy being played in England.
  • In October 2008, Australia visit India for 4 Tests!
  • In November, England visit India for 4 Tests and 7 ODIs.
  • In December, India leave for Pakistan to play 3 Tests and 5 ODIs.

Happy viewing and reading.

— i3j3Cricket