Monthly Archives: February 2008

Should Dhoni give up his gloves?

Should Dhoni give up his gloves – at least in the ODI format? Dhoni is such an important batsman for India and his batting in the last few one day games has been so matured – he has curbed his natural attacking instinct and played very very sensibly. His scores in the tri-nation tournament has been – 37, 88*, 17*, 31, 37 and 50*. May not sound like a lot, but he rescued India against SL in the rain affected game, played a supporting role with Rohit Sharma against Australia and if he had not been run out against Australia, India could have well won the game. He proved his worth again today with another measured innings that basically won the game for India after they messed up the run chase yet another time. Who would have thought that someone like Dhoni can score a fifty without a single boundary!

Now, a bit about the game.

India got the team right, I think. Bringing in Praveen Kumar instead of Sreesanth was a good move. Sreesanth is a strike bowler, and a better bowler than Praveen Kumar. But Kumar brings in his batting into the equation and without Sehwag, the extra depth in the batting is always a good thing. It is another thing that Kumar didn’t do much with the bat today. Having said that, I am sure India will bring Sreesanth back for other games in the tournament.

The five bowler formula works well for India and it once again kept the score to a very gettable target. The Indian batting continued to be a bit wobbly. Thankfully, Yuvraj Singh found his form and rescued the team with an excellent 76 of 70 balls, when the scoring rate was slow and India was struggling a bit. Even after Yuvraj got out, India seemed to be cruising with a very good partnership between Dhoni and Pathan. With less than 25 runs to win, Pathan went for a wild swish to lose his stump and  brought Sri Lanka back into the game. In the end it was a tense finish and only a cool head from Dhoni won the game for India. Based on the current standing in the Points table (Australia 17, India 12 and Sri Lanka 6), it is very unlikely (not impossible, though) that Sri Lanka will make it to the finals.

Dhoni’s batting is vital to India’s success and  should we be protecting him? He has been struggling a bit with his fitness of late and after keeping wickets and captaining the team for 50 overs, he has been cramping when he is batting.

We can always argue that guys like Gilchrist keep wickets and also open the innings. For SL, Sangakarra comes in at one drop and he is their best batsman (as he proved that once again today). So, why should Dhoni give up his gloves in the one day format to focus on his batting? The answer to that question is, as I said earlier – his fitness.

There is always Karthik who can keep wickets and come in place of Uthappa and this does not have to be a permanent change. Once he gets fully fit again, there can be rethink of this issue.

Your thoughts?

-Mahesh-

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Is India becoming a bowling team?

In recent years, India have been a batting team. With the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag and Yuvraj performing well, India’s strength has always been its batting (at least on paper).

Now, as the change of guard is happening, we have the likes of Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel breaking into the team and bowling quite well, while the batting is starting to look a bit wobbly.

Consider today’s ODI against Australia. The Indian team of 3-4 years ago would have easily got the 204 runs needed to win, but we were bowled out for a paltry 152 today. But then again, the Indian team of 3-4 years ago would have probably conceded a lot more runs. India’s bowlers did their job well today – it was the batsmen that let her down. It is a pattern that is starting to emerge of late. In fact most of India’s overseas test wins of late have come on the back of good bowling performances – the batsmen have just been playing good supporting roles.

So, I wonder if India is slowly changing from a team where its strength has been its batting to one whose strength is its bowling. The bowling is still underrated, though and a lot of people were questioning its ability to cope against Australia in Australia before the series began. The bowlers proved them wrong and performed brilliantly – but they were let down by some poor batting in Melbourne and a second  innings collapse in Sydney.

So, is India becoming more of a bowling team? And is that a good thing??
My answer would be Yes to both…

-Mahesh-

How about some quizzing? – I3J3 Quiz #1

Here is a shot at the first of hopefully many cricket quizzes to follow. Based on the responses, I hope to continue this for a while. I will post the answers two days after every quiz.. How about that? Let’s get cracking!

1. During the recently concluded test series, the Indian pace trio of Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and RP Singh took the help of a “doctor” during the perth test match. Name the “doctor” in question.

2. Which cricketer is known as “Lagaan Bhai” as he hails from Bharuch and resembles characters from the Aamir Khan starrer, “Lagaan”?

3. Anil Kumble, at the end of the recent Sydney test, said, “There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not”. These lines were originally said by whom and when?

4. Connect Stuart Broad, Tilak Raj, Dan Van Bunge, and Malcolm Nash

5. What was unique about the second game of the Zimbabwe – England one day international series in 1996/7, which Zimbabwe won by 7 runs?

– Srikanth

Permutations and Combinations

The tri series tournament (What a long one at that?) is exactly at the half way mark now  and the current standings  in the points table is as follows –

Team Points
Australia 12
India 8
Sri Lanka 6

 

Australia is in the driver seat and probably need just another win (against any team) to book a place in the finals. So, what about India and Sri Lanka? Here are some permutations and combinations –

1. In the worst case scenario for India, they lose all four games –  in which case they pack up and leave.

2. If India win one against SL and lose all other games, they will end up with 12 points. SL will still  have to beat Australia in at least one game to reach the finals.

3. If India win one against SL and one against Australia, they will end up with 16 points, SL on 10 points and Australia 16. Sri Lanka will have to beat Australia in both their games to be in the finals.

4. If India win one against Australia but lose all other games, India will end up with 12 points, Sri Lanka 14 and Australia 16. Irrespective of Sri Lanka’s other results, they would qualify for the finals.

5. If India win both their games against Australia, India would move on to 16 points. Irrespective of the results of the other games, India would then qualify to the Finals.

6. If India win both games against Sri Lanka, India will automatically qualify as they would move to 16 points and the second finalists place will be a fight between Australia and Sri Lanka

In short, Sri Lanka’s loss to Australia today has strengthened India’s position. Sri Lanka needs to win at least 3 games to be in with a chance and that is a tough ask. On the other hand even a single win for India against them could secure them a place in the finals.

-Mahesh-

Who’s Who in the IPL Zoo…

The IPL Twenty20 tournament in India is hotting up. Large sums of money are being bandied about and the frenzy shows no signs of abating!

The tournament itself will see 8 franchises (teams) playing home-and-away games against each other. The whole shindig is expected to start on the 18th of April and will last 44 days, featuring a total of 59 matches (56 home-and-away matches, 2 semi-finals and a final) to be played in 12 Indian cities.

To the best of my knowledge, there appears to be no website for the IPL.

So what’s on offer? What are the teams? Who’s Who in the Zoo? I thought I’d take a look at what the possibilities might be as things take shape over the next two weeks or so.

Before we go further, let us pause for a minute and consider the fact that even before a comprehensive blueprint was available for the IPL, the 10-year team-franchises alone have netted the BCCI a staggering $US1.749 billion. Teams will then need to spend more on players, a coache, physio, a management team, etc.

Players that Franchises can chose from:

The most interesting foundational aspect of the tournament, in my view, is the rule that says that each IPL franchise has to include at least four Under-21 players from India! Given that each IPL team will be coached by a strong team of internationally recognised coaches, and given that each team will have a certain clutch of legends of the game, the experience for these U21 players will be invaluable. Players like Virat Kohli (from Delhi), Pradeep Sangwan (from Delhi), Tanmay Srivatsa (from UP) and Abhinav Mukund (from TN) would think that their Christmases or Diwalis came early this year! The 32 U21 players (4 in each team) will be offered a fixed salary of 20 lakhs ($50,000) per year/tournament.

In addition, franchises can only chose a maximum of 4 overseas players in any match. The BCCI has signed up a total of 80 players already. This includes 49 overseas players and all the BCCI- contracted players. In addition, the BCCI will add a few non-contracted players (reported to be around 20 players) to the mix, yielding a total of 100 players to chose from. If we add to this (I think) the 32 Under-21 players, each team would then have approximately 16 players in its books. Certainly sounds good.

Iconic players and personnel:

Some allocations of “iconic players” have been pre-ordained.
– Sachin Tendulkar will play for the Mumbai franchise.
– Sourav Ganguly will play for the Kolkata franchise.
– Rahul Dravid will play for the Bangalore franchise.
– Yuvraj Singh will play for the Mohali franchise.
– M. S. Dhoni is slated to play for the Jaipur franchise.

Each franchise will, in addition, need to appoint a captain, a management team including a CEO and Team Manager, a coach, a physical trainer, a physiotherapist, etc.

This brings an ironic smile to my face. The BCCI, one knows, does not have a management team, a Board, a CEO, struggled for nearly 9 months to find a Team India coach and has just learned that the Team India physio, John Gloster, is quitting after the current India series in Australia!

Ho hum!

So what is happening in each of the teams then?

Team owners and costs:

  • Mumbai Team:
    Owner(s): Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani (Indian billionaire)
    Cost: $US111.9 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Unknown
    Manager:
    Coach: John Buchanan (likely)
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players: Sachin Tendulkar
    Team catchment area:

  • Bangalore Team:
    Owner(s): United Breweries Ltd, Vijay Mallya (Indian billionaire)
    Cost: $US111.6 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Charu Sharma
    Manager:
    Coach: Venkatesh Prasad, Team India bowling coach (likely)
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players: Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Anil Kumble
    Team catchment area: Karnataka, Goa and Services

  • Hyderabad Team:
    Owner(s): Deccan Chronicle
    Cost: $US107.01 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Unknown
    Manager:
    Coach:
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

  • Chennai Team:
    Owner(s): India Cements
    Cost: $US91.0 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Unknown
    Manager:
    Coach: Robin Singh, Team India fielding coach (likely)
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

  • Delhi Team:
    Owner(s): GMR Holdings
    Cost: $US84.0 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO:
    Manager: T. A. Sekhar, Sunil Valson
    Coach: Greg Shipperd, current coach of Victoria, Australia (likely)
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

  • Mohali Team:
    Owner(s): Priety Zinta (Bollywood Actress), Ness Wadia (Wadia Group)
    Cost: $US76.0 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Unknown
    Manager:
    Coach: Tom Moody (likely)
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

  • Kolkata Team:
    Owner(s):Red Chillies Entertainment, Shah Rukh Khan (Bollywood Actor), Juhi Chawla (Actress) and Jay Mehta.
    Cost: $US75.09 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Unknown
    Manager:
    Coach:
    Physio:
    Event organisation:
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

  • Jaipur Team:
    Owners: Emerging Media and Lachlan Murdoch.
    Cost: $67.0 million
    Name: Undecided
    CEO: Fraser Castellilno
    Manager:
    Coach: Greg Chappell (most likely)
    Physio: Ian Fraser (likely)
    Event organisation: Wizcraft (likely)
    Likely Players:
    Team catchment area:

Not all details are fully available. As they become available, we will try and populate the above table and see where this heads too.

While it appears somewhat of a mish-mash, especially with the dilly-dallying by the Australians, if this party comes off, it could be a coup for the BCCI as well as Team India.

This is going to be, one feels, a long and arduous party in India. There appears to be a lot of abundant hype and hoopla about. Hopefully, some good will come out of all of this. It remains to be seen though.

— Mohan

Two big matches coming up for India…

India plays a double-header in Adelaide. On Sunday 17 Feb, India takes on Australia and on Tuesday 19, India play Sri Lanka. These two games plus the Friday (Australia v Sri Lanka) game in Perth should decide the final line-up in this CB one-day series.

After India lost to Sri Lanka in a rain-marred ODI in Canberra, this ODI competition has been thrown wide open. The three teams are pretty much even in terms of the leader-board.

As I have said in a previous post, India’s team balance is lacking just a bit in my view. I do think that the 4-bowler policy is a flawed one. The positive for India is that they have got this far in the tournament even though Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa haven’t really done much! The form of Sachin Tendulkar, M. S. Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir has been good and solid.

Virender Sehwag is due a few runs and so also Robin Uthappa — who hasn’t really had much of a hit in the middle.

Yuvraj Singh’s form has been woeful all summer. There has been some suggestion, even on this blogsite, that Yuvraj Singh is letting the team down with his fielding too. The inside story on that one, confirmed by this report here, is that he is not fielding at his customary point/cover position because the team does not wish to risk his dodgy knee! I do feel that the best way out for him is to play with an unfettered mind. As Ian Chappell said, the worst thing that any batsman would want when he is going through a form-slump is to have to go in the middle having to build an innings with the score on 38 for 3. With that in mind, and keeping in mind the undoubted benefits of an in-form Yuvraj Singh, I do wish the team takes the opportunity of sending him 1-down, especially if the score is (say) 95-1 off 15 overs! He can then play with a freedom that a form-reversal badly needs!

From the point of view of “balance”, an option would be to “rest” Robin Uthappa and take Praveen Kumar instead. However, I do not believe the team would risk such a move. So we seem to be stuck with having Uthappa batting at either #6 or #7.

Either way, there are a few cracking matches coming up for the cricket fan.

U19 World Cup

The start of the U19 World Cup is just around the corner. The teams are in the midst of practice matches. India won both its practice games so far (against New Zealand and England). The team that has gone is a strong one and contains some players that may well make it big in the future. Names like Virat Kohli (captain and middle-order bat from Delhu), Pradeep Sangwan (young fast bowler tyro from Delhi), Iqbal Abdullah (left arm spinner from Mumbai), Tanmay Srivatsa (the 18yo left-hand bat from UP) and Abhinav Mukund (left-handed opener from Tamil Nadu) are names that we should hear for a long time in Indian cricket.

Keep an eye out on that tournament too, as it unfolds…

Mohan